I came out as genderqueer 11 months ago.
I started a new job 6 months ago. I haven't talked about it much, but I put in a lot of angst over how I'd present at interviews while I was between employment. The one thing you do not want to look like at an interview is a weirdo. I elected to grit my teeth and go for the suit with tie because I can do that, and a few other reasons I'm not entirely proud of. It worked though, I got a job with a nice raise over what I used to make, and it seems the kind of place where I might have actual advancement potential! I haven't had that in.. 11 years. Cool.
However, new job means a new chance to make first impressions and it was time to do it right. Also, this job has a written dress-code (professional, not just office-casual) which required a major wardrobe upgrade from me. I'd been living in t-shirt-casual land for 11 years, my office-casual wardrobe was w-a-y out of date and heavily pruned after two cross-country moves. I needed an update, so what would I get?
There was less angst this time
Before I get too far, I want to just lay something out. First, have a gender binary.
Well, more of a continuum with an unlabeled axis. Right where the Y-axis crosses the gender continuum is the neuter, none-of-the-above and androgynous options. The middle is hard to live in since society really wants you to pick a side, people get weird when you say your preferred pronoun is 'they', but you can present that way a lot easier.
So, Y-axis. Today this will be the Clothing Presentation Spectrum (office variant)!
This runs from jog-bra + running-shorts to ballgown. Or for the men, running-shorts to tuxedo. Most offices require something in between these two extremes,Â though some offices have Fitness Centers attached which is why 'sport' is even on the chart at all. Now that I have a nice chart, some definitions. The masculine/feminine spectrum measures how strongly an outfit is gendered. jog-bra + running-shorts is strongly gendered. Old-tshirt + running shorts is weakly gendered, though the running-short style is likely significantly gendered (it's pernicious that way) but subtle.
Nifty! But what am I getting at?
In my experience, based on personal observation and not anything scientific, the various classes of clothing are inherrently gendered. Neuter doesn't exist everywhere, and at some levels achieving it takes a LOT of work and plants you firmly into '
There is no neuter option for full formal. It just doesn't exist. The whole thing is explicitly strongly gendered, and for someone uncomfortable with the extremes (like me) it's best to steer clear of them. I could do full formal if I had to, but it would require something significant like getting married. When I did try I aimed at 'professional' and hoped it was good enough, and when it wasn't I gritted my teeth and went there. Would I have been happier on the other side of the vast gulf? At the time, no. I had issues.
Like a lot kids entering the Real World for the first time, I resolved to avoid a tie-wearing job as long as possible. When I was interviewing for my first job out of college I did it in a dress shirt and tie, eschewing the suit. When I got it, my first job had a dress-code of sorts and I followed it.
Nice, neat little box centered on 'office casual' on the masculine side. Not far enough into professional to need button-ups and ties, but definitely not funny-tshirt land. That would be my next job:
This is funny-tshirt and shorts land. Academia, especially academia where we're never expected to run into actual students, is pretty nice that way. Note the right shift in presentation. I was getting a bit more comfortable. Then I moved to a tech startup.
Even broader range, and even more of a right shift. I was definitely drifting into the feminine lands. Also, minimal overlap with what I was doing at my first job. No wonder so little of that wardrobe survived.
Last July I came out. My wardrobe choices at work didn't shift that much, I already had established patterns and was just fine continuing as I was. Where I saw more shift was at home, but... we'll get into that later. Ahem. Anyway.
Then I got fired and had to do a job hunt on no notice, got a job, and started said job. Que angst and settled on, "fuck it, I'm out."
Well. Bit of a move, there.
As I mentioned, the current job has a written dress-code so nothing above the middle line is really permitted so already I had to change up my wardrobe. The last time I'd spent any real time there was 10 years ago; fashions change, and above all I had changed. This is the kind of job that requires a good selection of button-up shirts, the kind of thing I only used for interviews and filed back in the closet to be ignored as long as possible..
See that gulf of white in the 'professional' zone? This is where, "fuck it, I'm out," comes in to play. It turns out shopping in the other 2/3rds of the store is much less scary and far less prone to having my hind-brain pull sulky-teenager tricks. Button-ups I actually like to wear, 10 years ago I'd have called you crazy if you said that would happen. Hell, I'm even ironing willingly. Who the hell am I?
Much happier, it turns out. Somehow I didn't expect that.
When not constrained by dress-code I'd been dressing a lot wider than at work. Here is another chart but with the pink taken out since we're talking "walking around the neighborhood" and that's far more permissive clothing-wise than offices; you can be a transgressive genderpunk far easier.
The blue bits on the left are where I was roughly presenting until just before I came out, and the greenish bits on the right are where I'm presenting nowadays. Still avoiding extremes, but I'm actually wearing nicer clothing all by my self! My parents would be so proud.
Which gives me a unified home/work presentation chart that looks like this:
Kinda one-sided these days. It crept up on me, but that's how it happens sometimes. Full business formal and formal are still too extreme for me, but I just might go there. The next time I'm doing interviews it's probable I won't be using the same suit I just used to get this job. Full formal... may require a wedding or something; I'm on the old side for many of my friends to be doing that much anymore. We'll see.
"Fuck it," very empowering.