Last year was one in which I tried a lot of new things. For example, I have despised aubergines all my life but tried a friend’s homemade baba ganoush – and I loved it!
In that same spirit, I wore a skirt to SA Menswear Week a few months ago and, again, loved it! I felt free. I felt empowered. It was like I was at least a foot taller.
I was very hesitant and nervous when I first thought about it, but the week’s events were drawing to a close and I needed an outfit for the last night. I decided to consult some friends – most of them straight – and one offered a skirt she’d used in a play she’d been in.
It was a long, black, wrap-around number, so it could have been worn as subtly or as daringly as one wanted. Of course, I went for something closer to the latter! I wore it with flats and a pink choker-style ribbon around my neck.
Fast-forward a few months and it was time for the Cape Town leg of the Colour Run. And, what better excuse was there to mark my unique identity than a celebration of colour? When the friend who collected our race-packs sent a text asking if I wanted a tutu (probably as a joke) I simply responded: “Get me a purple one! Thanks.”
Again, there was this pang of hesitation when it came to the day. Would it be “too much”? Would people understand what I was wearing it for? If I had been a straight man I think it would have been easier for people to understand because “he’s just a bloke and he’s wearing it for fun”. With my strut and flamboyant hand flailing, however, it’s undeniable that I am gay. (Rightfully so! I’ve decided that I’ll carry myself however I feel at any given moment for as long as I have breath in my lungs.)
I was born male and I identify as a gay man. When I was younger I played with dolls and often chose to wear dresses and skirts when playing dress-up. At a certain point I stopped. This was a conscious decision; I didn’t want people to think that I wanted to be a girl, because I didn’t. I was as happy as I could be in my body, as me.
Now, as an adult, I have more freedom to decide what I wear or what not to wear. But on both those occasions in which I wore skirts in public I was admittedly nervous about what others might think. Will that cute gay guy see me as too femme? Will that straight guy think I’m looking at him thirstily? Gosh! So many thoughts!
And that is the problem. We think too much and feel too little. If we acknowledged how we feel more often we would be happier and less stressed. Imagine if we dressed simply on the basis of how we felt!
So why did I wear the skirt and the tutu? Well, I simply wanted to, of course. I also did it for those around the world who can’t. As progressive as our society seems to be, there are many people who are still persecuted for being queer. There are still countries where being with the person you love can get both of you killed.
For those people, I will wear a skirt or a dress at every opportunity. When all is said and done it is only fabric; the same fabric that makes trousers and shirts. I will also continue to wear skirts and dresses for me. Because sometimes I need to feel a little taller; a little more empowered.