Peter was the first person outside of the creators of this project to volunteer for a Test Shoot. For that we are forever grateful. As it happens, we were totally impressed by the coherence of Peter’s style and his individual expression of a queer gender identity. Peter is one dapper chap. We asked Peter some questions about the meaning behind what he wears - you can read his answers below. See more of Peter and his writing on his blog.
Q: How do you define your own transmasculinity?
A: For me, Trans* does not necessarily mean identifying as the ‘opposite’ gender; entirely male or as a ‘trans man’, but can stand for a number of things, such as transgress, transcend, transform or transience, and mean across, beyond, over or through. I have both a male and female identification, both of which are equally important to me, but since it is the male part that is more likely to be called into question as I don’t generally ‘pass’ and many have known me as female, this is the part that I need to assert more strongly, through my name, appearance and social identification. I describe myself as trans* male, as although I am not wholly male-identified, this simply clarifies the direction of my gender experience; that I was female assigned at birth but have some level of male identification.
I prefer trans male to trans masculine for myself, as I am also feminine and indeed enjoy be able to reclaim my femininity on my own terms, despite ‘failing’ at normative femininity. However, many people think that trans* or genderqueer people are simply butches that go one step further, and do not think that more feminine-presenting lesbians can discover they have a queer gender. To them, people like me are also failing at masculinity; confused and unable to perform either properly. In fact, both my gender variance and my feminine expression are intentional, compatible and natural.
Q: What do you want to communicate through your choices?
A: Clothes and fashion are very important to me as I appreciate my gender can be a little complicated, so I use my clothes to portray it physically – it can be an intricate balancing act to simultaneously represent maleness and femininity, particularly on someone who does not pass as male. I can’t expect people to know exactly how I identify from looking, but I hope to simply project an energy that others will understand; that they will sense a gender queerness, but also my femininity. I achieve this by primarily wearing clothes that are socially marked as ‘male’, such as shirts, brogues and ties, and rarely items seen as explicitly female such as dresses and skirts, yet the ‘male’ clothes I wear are reimagined as feminine, through their colours, patterns and cut. I like to emulate the look of an effete dandy! I also love wearing make-up and feel safe to do so in the context of the rest of my style, even though it is generally seen as a female item. I chose my coral-coloured shirt with matching lipstick, and my floral shirt, as these are both designed for men, but create a soft, feminine look. I felt that wearing my tail coat and dress shirt, both items of men’s formal wear, but with dramatic, vampish make-up, created the juxtaposition of gender presentations that (I hope!) come together as a coherent look, which is what I am aiming for in my style.
Q: How has your fashion/style evolved?
A: In search of my identity, I have been through a variety of looks and styles. As a child I usually dressed as a tomboy, preferring clothes from the boy’s section, but that was probably as much due to practicality as gender identity, as I didn’t really think that much about clothes or gender at that age. In my mid-teens I wore eccentric ensembles such as bright Doc Martens with multi-coloured tights, green eye-shadow and cheap, second hand t-shirts from the retro shops in Newcastle, a look that I also quite liked at the time. It was only in my later teens that I succumbed to desire to fit in, and wore more conventional, feminine outfits, but they always felt like a costume I put on; it was not the femininity that I now enjoy and explore, having self-consciously reconstructed it, but the mere default, enforced femininity that was expected of me. When I came out as a lesbian at 20, I felt more able to experiment with my presentation and indulge in a higher degree of masculinity, and could finally try out looks such as short hair, shirts and ties as I had always wanted to. This was very liberating for a time, however still did not feel quite right. It was only when I realised that neither being a masculine or feminine woman would ever feel right due to discovering my trans identity that I felt able to express myself as I wished.