Clothes Don’t Make You But They Can Break You
“I’ve always been a tomboy!” I exclaimed with a force that I hoped would resonate long after the conversation ended. My mom proceeded to say, “No, you haven’t, you liked wearing dresses.” After sincerely expressing that I never liked or enjoyed wearing either she lamented that perhaps there was truth to this. Besides, the proof was in the pudding. The only time I wore a dress or skirt was out of necessity. When my mom allowed herself to think back to a time that I’d volunteered to wear either just because, she came up empty handed. I was somewhat of a pro at adhering to gender expectations and societal norms. The clothing was just the tip of the iceberg of my gender identity exploration, but it would be the beginning of a journey I’d longed to take since as far back as I could remember.
The last time I wore a skirt was for a wedding. In fact, I did so because I wanted to look the part and fit in. Although I was a proud of my attire, I knew without a doubt that I would be completely uncomfortable during the entire ceremony and reception. I was right. It’s difficult for me to look back at those pictures even now because I was so unhappy then. I kept the outfit not only as a reminder of a beautiful wedding day I had the honor to witness, but as a constant reminder of the beginning of my journey.
I remember sweating buckets during most of the wedding ceremony. I had such a poor self image, but I outwardly projected content while being riddled with discontent. I was hiding the real me from my family, the outside world and my friends out of fear of rejection. Rejection from the world is one thing, but from those you love, its effects are crippling. I did anything I could to avoid it until I could no longer pretend. I suffered from a severe inability to find comfort because I was afraid to hurt the ones I loved the most. Those feelings existed long before that day and would go on to persist until I could no longer accept the shell of the person I was starting to become. I was beside myself over the fact that a lot of this would come as a complete shock to those closest to me.
I was well aware of the fact that the clothes I wore had a big impact on my self image, which in turn coincided with how I felt about my sexuality. I was ashamed of it and myself.
The people I run into now that I knew way back then are often surprised at my transformation. You see, when you become comfortable with your interior and exterior self, those defensive walls start coming undone and negative reception becomes of less concern. My peace of mind was at stake so at the risk of making other people in my world uncomfortable, I begin to take the necessary steps to find and grab hold of my sanity. But really, it’s not a transformation, but a realization that I needed to do whatever necessary to feel complete. Something as simple as clothing reflected the person I felt inside.
My hair was the next to go. The first time I went to the hair salon to have it cut into a fade style, my barber was hesitant, but I finally coaxed him into giving me the style I wanted. It was sort of like freeing my mind in a sense, and it was one of the most liberating feelings. I sported a boy cut, not because I was trying to fit a particular image, but because I honestly hated having to style my hair every single day. I wanted something more practical. I hated sitting in the hair salon for hours on end just to have a style last a few days. My mom’s reaction was not unexpected, but I was past the point of conforming for anyone but myself, and she has come to respect my choices. The day I stopped hiding was the day I started living. This quest for self-actualization exists in all of us and manifests through various degrees of needs, wants and desires that must be met.
I could not attempt to meet my full potential without knowing who I was, and being comfortable with that person. If you don’t know who you are or you’re uncomfortable with who you are, you can’t live your life to the fullest. You can’t even begin to fathom what it is without being content with the whole you. Clothes and hair don’t make the person, but they certainly can highlight our many different characteristics. The same for hair. Ultimately, it’s what’s underneath it all that we must not lose sight of. Clothes don’t make the man or woman but the ability to decide how we want to be seen is not only an expression of our personality, but also an extension of self-confidence.
Once a person has moved through feeling and believing that they are deficient, they naturally seek to grow into who they are, that is to self-actualize. – wikipedia