Being non-binary is how I identify, not how I present. It is completely fine to be male presenting with a female body, androgynous or female with a male body. For the past year I have enjoyed experimenting with how I present. Skirts work. Dresses aren’t my thing, but I’m open to them. T-shirt dresses are good. Love a good colour pair of tights. It’s nice to have the freedom to experiment.
A few weeks ago I was travelling through Croatia and my suitcase filled with non-binary clothes was locked away for safety reasons. Croatia is 79% Catholic and while there are LGBTQ rights here the public are not used to seeing gay people let alone “men” in skirts. While walking around Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, I had man after man staring at me while I wore a skirt. One man filmed me with his phone while driving his taxi!
So, I locked a part of me away in my suitcase, bought emergency shorts for dining out and powered through. Which is a shame as I had spent time crafting my beach look before we left. My plan was to wear my Star Trek skirt. Super light and quick to dry. Perfect. But, it stayed in the suitcase all week due to fear. I ended up wearing my sparkly men’s briefs for swimming with beach shorts and a t-shirt for wandering. If I couldn’t wear a skirt I was still happy to wear sparkly briefs.
Wearing male presenting clothes was interesting. I hadn’t presented that way for that long for months. Did I have a new-found respect for masculinity? No. I still feel like that way of life is not for me. Having a break from being misgendered, people staring at me and filming me was nice. It shouldn’t be something I do, though. I shouldn’t be taking a break from myself to feel safe and OK.
I feel a little guilty for not fighting the patriarchy while out there, but I was alone. In the tiny village where we stayed there were 3 churches and a cross on the beach. On the beach! Lordy. Being the change you want to see in the world is tough, and even tougher when you feel like you’re against an entire country. Everyone there was lovely but they were lovely to what they saw as an everyday man.
It would be great to feel the way I do at home when I wear a skirt and people comment on how amazing I look. I feel like I’m changing the world. I feel like I’m helping others see that they can be themselves. It’s a great feeling to have. Maybe I need to see this time off being myself as a recovery week. When training for a big race you can’t run every day. Off days help your body grow muscle and are an integral part of training. Rest and rebuild before heading back to the UK to continue the fight.
My relationship with my male presenting clothes has changed after this trip. There will be days when I need to wear them to feel safe. This is a long-term fight that will continue long after I’m gone, unfortunately. All I can do is make it easier for the next person. Sometimes that means wearing men’s clothes. Sometimes not.