5 Basic Tips for Personalizing Your Gender Presentation

It’s easy to say “be yourself,” but when you’re genderqueer, it’s much easier to actually do it if you look yourself. In a world where fashion trends, advice, and expectations are very specifically for men or women, having confidence in your gender presentation when you walk out the front door can be tricky if you fall somewhere in between. I identify as a woman, but I have a masculine edge sometimes, so I like to express that in my gender presentation when I feel it. I’d be the first to advocate for the importance of “beauty on the inside,” but I know how good it feels to leave the house when I’m looking exactly how I’m feeling—like me.

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For those of us who tend to feel like a little bit man and a little bit woman, regardless of your biological sex, here are five basic  tips for how to make your gender presentation very specific to you, without necessarily having to choose between men’s and women’s fashion. This is where we take the masculine and feminine fashion stereotypes and twist them around for our own purposes.

1. Get creative with clothing combinations! Certainly there are the obviously masculine and feminine clothing pieces, such as neck-ties and skirts, but your style can be subtler than that.

  • First, pay attention to the fit of your clothes: a tighter fit tends to appear a bit more feminine, where a looser fit tends to appear more masculine. Try choosing a combination of loose and tight clothing for one outfit! Ex: skinny jeans and a baggy T-shirt.
  • Secondly, varying necklines can have a big impact: lower is more feminine, higher is more masculine. Wearing a button down collared shirt and a sweater with a low neckline is a great example of a femme-butch combination.
  • Third, think about how simple or complicated your outfit will be. Sometimes if you’re going for a more masculine look, less is more. On the other hand, a lot of layers can appear more feminine.
  • Last but not least, don’t forget about the power of colors! Will they be muted or vibrant? Coordinated or clashing? Dark or light? Follow your instincts and don’t listen to anybody else’s do’s and don’ts. This is your show.

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2. Experiment with different body hair! It will always grow back, so you’ve got nothing to lose. One haircut can go a hairylong way, and changing your body hair is a great way to continue your self-expression beneath the layers of clothes. You would be amazed at how powerful a transformation it can be! For example, I recently decided to keep shaving my legs but not my armpits for a more androgynous nude look. If you have the hormones for a beard, try out different lengths and styles. People are very accustomed to seeing smooth skin on ladies and hair on men, so switching it up is a very empowering visual and can feel totally awesome.

3. Respect and pay attention to your body! It’s important that your style and presentation is harmonious with the body you have. After all, you’re trying to feel more comfortable, not less, and you don’t want to be squeezed into something that’s too small, or swimming in and tripping on something that’s too big. If you want to hide your breasts, try wearing looser tops and layers rather than taping them to your chest. Put on some flashy pants to attract attention. Wear a scarf. If you want to hide the bulge in your pants but still keep them tight, try wearing a longer shirt! Choosing parts of your body to hide or accentuate is a much healthier choice than attempting to change, squish, or force your body to do something it can’t. 

4. Accessorize for personality and practicality! Accessories are NOT all feminine. Take advantage of this opportunity to go sparse or extravagant with extras, depending on what you want to express. The trick to using accessories to your nailsringgenderqueer advantage is mixing and mis-matching: Wear a masculine wrist-watch along with a scarf and a pair of heels; wear a bunch of big, manly rings and paint your fingernails. Notably, what’s on your feet counts for something as well. I am finally beginning to understand and embrace the power that shoes have to tell a story about your outfit. A pair of heels can make a masculine outfit more girly; a pair of converse sneakers can make a dress look boyish. Hell, wearing the same worn out shoes every day can be part of your look and that says something about you too. Again, sometimes less is more. …And sometimes not!

5. Remember: every day can be different! What you express can change based on your mood, day by day, so don’t feel pressure to pick a style and stick with it. You might feel like wearing something that leans more masculine on Tuesday and then decide to be a little more feminine on Wednesday and that’s part of personalizing your gender presentation. People will quickly begin to expect from you what you expect from yourself.

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Possibly most importantly, don’t forget to smile! There’s nothing that shows your true self more than your smile, because it is yours and yours alone. Not only that, but if your smile is genuine, it will draw attention away from what you look like and your gender will be the last thing on anyone’s mind.

I acknowledge that I’m no authority on fashion, so see Qwear and dapperQ for a larger variety of specific androgynous fashion advice. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of resources for women’s fashion for men, but hopefully that will change soon!

What are some of your favorite androgynous or genderqueer looks? Share your stories and ideas below!

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