STYLE. GROOMING. INSPIRATION. ADVICE.
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INSPIRATION AND ADVICE
EXPLORING GENDER EXPRESSION
23 June 2020
As part of our Pride Month takeover, we asked LGBTIQ+ writers and activists from our line-up to write an article for us on whatever they wanted. This is their space to express themselves and talk about issues that are important to them.
Today on the mic is Tanya Compas (pronouns: she/her) – an award-winning youth-worker and founder of organisations like Queer Black Christmas and Exist Loudly.
I am a masculine presenting, CIS queer woman. For those who don’t know, CIS means I identify with the gender I was assigned at birth (while queerness means something different to everyone, to me it means being free from the ‘hetero ghetto’). And to be masculine presenting, means I am a woman whose aesthetics and external gender expression is more masculine. With clothing still being very gendered and binary, it means that I predominantly wear men’s clothing, including boxers, but I also love wearing a crop top now and then.
Our very rigid view, understanding and documentation of what ‘makes a woman’ and the narrative of womanhood, is often very CIS, heteronormative and feminine. But this view completely erases and negates the existence and experiences of women who are masculine, woman who are fluid in their expression, queer women and trans women. Discovering my queerness meant I was finally ready to give myself the permission to explore who I was and most importantly rediscover my style after years of performative femininity and one too many uncomfortable pairs of heels.
I experienced homelessness in 2019 and left home with only a duffel bag of clothes. As sad as it may seem, in a weird way, it was liberating. I stuffed my duffel bag with my tracksuits and left everything else at my family home – meaning, when I finally got housed again, I started my wardrobe from fresh. I began buying men’s clothing and exploring the difference in menswear and the sizes it comes in now. It was daunting, because it’s a whole different ball game from when I was a 10-year-old tomboy who bought tracksuits from Nike.
I’ve really enjoyed finding, exploring and playing around with my aesthetic and gender expression. I felt so affirmed in myself when I wore my first men’s suit and even more so when I bought myself men’s boxers, almost 15 years since I last wore some, when I was told I needed to ‘look more like a girl’. Who I am now, and how I express my gender as a masculine presenting woman, feels like a huge ‘fuck you’ to CIS-hetero norms and ideals that we are taught to live up to as young women. My masculinity doesn’t erase my womanhood, it enhances it – and my choice of clothes allows me to do so, while living loudly as a queer woman. I want to see more masculine presenting women represented in the media and in fashion, because for so many of us, we are told that it is just a phase. I think it’s time we change that narrative.