Clothes. We use clothes to express ourselves. There is also reason to believe that what we wear and, whether or not we feel comfortable in what we wear contributes to our overall mood, expression, and mental health. Scientists call this phenomenon ‘enclothed cognition’. On average, it takes someone about 7 seconds to form an impression of another person. One of the factors that contribute to these impressions is what we are wearing. I believe that we should feel comfortable in our clothes and that ‘clothes are just clothes, we add the labels ourselves’. That is why I created K.T. Clothing Co., Ireland’s first gender-neutral clothing brand, a few years back.
Gender Neutral is defined as being suitable for, applicable to, or common to both male and female genders. I am a firm believer that gender is a spectrum, we all lie somewhere on it, so there should be clothes there to accommodate you without feeling like ‘well I like this item of clothing, but I am a woman and it is listed as menswear so I cannot wear it’ and vice versa. It seems to me that ‘we are evolving but our ideas of gender are not’ to put it like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Our attitudes to clothing are so important. I’ll admit mine was negative for a long time. I felt uncomfortable in what was ‘normal’ for people my age and gender. That was the sole reason I created K.T. Clothing Co., to allow people to have some sort of comfort in their clothing. The unexpected thing for me was the confidence that it gave me to wear what I want. I believe that the clothes we are wearing are just clothes. Like literally pieces of fabric sewn together, that’s it. But you see we add the unnecessary Boy’s/Girl’s/Men’s/Women’s labels ourselves. It is the labels that impose the stereotypes and the stereotypes that are dangerous. Have you ever been in a clothes shop and in your head been like ‘wow, that’s lovely, but I can’t wear it without feeling judged?’. Regardless of our identities or our sexualities: clothes are important to the way we feel about ourselves and how comfortable we are with ourselves. For a long time, I felt uncomfortable with what I thought was expected of me (i.e Dresses, skirts, make-up) and for another time I felt I had to conform to plaid because of who I am. If only I had known where I’d be and what I’d be doing today!
There are times when we as people wish to express our identities through our clothes. We’ve all heard the old stereotype, I’m sure: all lesbians wear flannels! There are so many other examples but just to stay with that one for the moment. Yes, lesbians wear flannels, women wear flannels, men wear flannels, non-binary people wear flannels, trans people wear flannels, and people wear flannels. All lesbians don’t look the same. Cammie Scott is different to Lea DeLaria who is different to Lily Tomlin who is different to Ellen DeGeneres….and the list goes on! The same is true for all of the many different identities in our diverse and electric community. We dress a certain way to make ourselves feel comfortable with ourselves, LGBTQ+ or straight, male or female, or gender non-conforming. Some of us do accept and adopt the stereotype, which is 100% fine, we just need to have respect for each other. No one is ever going to like or feel they suit every piece of clothing they see, that is unrealistic, but if we can support each other and respect each other, surely we are doing something right.
Need some support?
BELONGTO: Support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in Ireland.
ShoutOut.ie: A great organisation providing support and advice to the LGBT+ community.
TENI: Supports and seeks to improve the conditions, rights, and equality of trans people and their families in Ireland.
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