Up until Sixth Form, I was a self-proclaimed tomboy. It started when I cut my hair short aged nine when a boy commented that I couldn’t play rugby because my hair was long- like a girls’. Sparking a tirade, I subsequently only wore trousers, using my outfit to state that I could run around with the boys, despite my inconvenient lack of a Y chromosome. My outfits had considerable thought behind them, although there were some rash decisions. I once wore a black, woollen polo neck to Scout Club on a Wednesday night, paired with a pair of green, camo trousers. At the time, I was convinced that this choice was both practical, gender ambiguous and a tiny bit stylish. How wrong I was.
What I had failed to take into consideration was the fact that a black woollen polo neck is a magnet for sweat. And when you are running around a garden, playing tag rugby, the human body produces a lot of heat. By the end of the evening, pride aside, I was ready to wear that jumper as a tube top. After all, it’s not as if I could just run around shirtless, like one of the boys….And beyond the fact that the polo neck had fused to my body like a second skin, there was another reason why a DIY tube top was not really an option. I wasn’t wearing a bra.
‘What do you mean, you weren’t wearing a bra?!’ My response is twofold and rather simple.
One, at thirteen I had nothing to put in a bra. Why would I willingly constrain myself unnecessarily in a tight, physically demanding contraption? Seems a bit stupid if you ask me. Secondly, unless it is necessary (many girls develop early, I know), why should we be encouraging young girls to wear something that incites teasing and unwanted recognition from others before they even understand their own body? All it does is cause unnecessary stress, especially within a school changing room where girls just want to blend into the walls. It’s hard enough to go through these changes in your own head, never mind in the company of your peers.
All the attention around boobies brings a further issue. It introduces girls, many for the first time to body consciousness. Girls who have small boobs are made to feel inferior, lacking in a basic, traditionally ‘female’ physical attribute. Some big boobed girls on the other hand, do everything in their power to disguise their assets, avoiding the curious gaze of others. How times change. Within a few years, they would become the envy of their female friends. But at that moment, they were exposed and vulnerable to adult society, left bare, alone against the crowd. The cocoon of childhood ignorance was shattered, opening the gates to the barbarity of becoming an object, an ogled adolescent. Immersed within this dynamic, I remember many of my friends being scared of going into Sixth Form because they were going to have to pick all of their own clothes. Every morning, they were going to have toe the line between expressing identity and protecting their integrity.
Luckily, I had no such fear. The idea of having to think up something new to wear every day was fantastic. For the whole summer before starting year twelve, I had been strutting my stuff up and down the streets, listening to Madonna’s Vogue, pretending I worked at a famous fashion magazine. But it didn’t take long for personal style to become a point of negative interest within school. The idea of individuality became a new buzzword for abnormality. This was perhaps most ironically demonstrated within emerging romantic relationships. Teenage boys, who once picked on girls for their dress sense completely forgot about their stead-fast opinions when their hormones spiked. The bond between style and sex was and still is beguiling.
There was one particular incident in which a girl, known for her distinctly retro, Ab Fab style got into a relationship with a lad who for the sixth months proceeding their hook up had mocked her insatiably for her fashion bravado. Yet, as soon as they got together, there was no recognition that he had ever said anything of the sort about his new beau’s wardrobe. What we do for love!
The attention I received for my own clothing choices was equally nefarious. My peers didn’t seem to understand my desire to stand out, wear clashing colour combination and creative headpieces. I can recall endless comments, ongoing comparisons between myself and the most unflattering models. There was one stela comparison which I am sure I will remember for the rest of my life- Widow Twanky. Do you know who she is? I certainly didn’t. I had to seek the help of an equally mindless teen-droid bot to inform me that Twanky, in all her glory, was a drag queen. I won’t say that at first, I wasn't offended. I think I managed to ignore the group of micro dicks that make the comment for at least two days before I forgot why I was pissed off.
But to tell you straight, now I wear this uneducated insult as a badge of pride. Drag queens are unapologetically themselves. This is in spite of all the danger, all the threats made against them by people trapped within their own myopic world, too enclosed to see true and appreciate the integral role played by individuality, difference and diversity. After all, what could be better than being mocked for the very reason you are wearing flamboyant clothes in the first place- to make an impact, to stamp an impression. For my peers, even the most basic of ‘out-there’ outfits were too much to handle. Accustomed to a sea of plain, anachronistic clothing, my classmates were not exposed to diverse aesthetics. Anything that threatened the go-to model made them feel uncomfortable, pushing them to fit in with the pack and shun the imposter. I just wasn’t normal enough.
Good, I win! My goal was never to be normal. It was and always will be to just be myself. And that’s what queens take to town. So, you can drag me down on a Wednesday morning when I decide to wear a full three-piece suit made entirely from red velvet. But I will always have the confidence of a queen.