As a lady, the eyes are always on you. Whether you are wearing what is called “Girly Clothes” or not, it’s still a big struggle to walk by a group of people without having them checking you from head to toe. Being too feminine with your talk, walk, act, and clothes could possibly bring you harassment but even more, showing the least femininity could raise more questions in people’s heads.
During my childhood years, I grew up being closer to my brother than any other member of my family. Playing football, spending hours on video games, riding a bicycle, and having short hair were all things that gave me confidence and joy. Little that I knew back then that the need for these things will grow with me as I get older. Things got a little bit more complicated as I became an adult since people have more judgments to make about my outfit or my short hair. Sometimes, I can see them judging me just by looking at their faces. People around me find it hard to accept that a girl is more interested in wearing oversized T-shirts and hoodies than wearing skirts or dresses. As I walk in the street, I notice the looks from people who whisper to each other, “Is this a boy or a girl?” I believe that my sexuality gets questioned by most people who see me and that does not get me mad as much as it gets me worried. Some days, these worries force me to change my outfit or think twice before visiting a certain shop or a café.
Now, that I understand my sexuality better than any time before, I am aware that there is nothing wrong with me. Some days I wake up feeling a strong need to wear a dress and straighten my hair. While on other days, I prefer to wear my oversized hoodie or T-shirt and high-five every single friend I see. I admit that being the least feminine always makes me feel more confident and free. Still, that doesn’t take away my right of wearing skirts and dresses. I am no longer confused about my sexuality but rather confused about the way I can express it through my style without putting myself in trouble. It is about learning how to cross the drawn lines without putting myself in serious problems with anyone.
Your style so as to mine and everyone else’s is chosen according to the social norms that govern the behavior of our Iraqi society. There are certain clothes allowed for guys and another for girls. These limitations come from the belief that keeping our culture alive is achieved by choosing certain clothes and colors to be worn by each gender. I am sure you have noticed that some men avoid wearing pink or red and tend to choose dark colors as a way of expressing their masculinity. Women, on the other side, are expected to embrace their feminine side and express it by having long hair and wearing girly clothes that get them easily distinguished from men. I am here to tell you that there should not be any rules that control what someone can wear. These limitations are not laws of the universe because we are not born with the conviction that pink is for girls and blue is for guys. We learn these rules from our environment which includes our neighborhood, school, family, and even TV and social media.
Having friends and teachers who accept me the way I am and support me helps me feel better about myself. Some of the judgments I receive from people still hurt especially the ones that come from my family members. However, I keep in mind that the real problem is the ideologies that people rely on which make them determine how much respect to give someone base on their dressing style. The other thing that helps me feel better is that I have tried being on both sides. I tried being too girly with my clothes and behavior and I tried being the least girly I could as well. Both ways did not fully stop the irritation or criticism whether that was from my family and some friends or even strangers. That proves my point that no one can escape criticism but what you can do is keep yourself safe by wearing and doing the things that bring you the least pain possible. Keep in mind that not all the Iraqi queers are the same because some are dealing with bigger restrictions and fear than some others. Learn to act based on your own circumstances by putting your life and safety first. Remember not to wear or do anything that can put your life in danger but if you get the chance to express your sexuality through your style do it without any feelings of shyness or shame.