Not Queer Enough

In some instances, individuals who are members of the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, etc.) community experience feeling like an outsider or that they do not belong because their personal style does not clearly show their queerness or sexual identity. In the garments pictured here, the women had a more feminine aesthetic in their presentation and were often assumed to be straight leaving them to sometimes prove their sexuality in other ways.

Red Jumpsuit

“I think any attempt to ever butch it up has just been so unsuccessful and I just feel so, weird, not quite like dressing in drag, but I just feel so bizarre. One thing that I can point to [that would identify her as queer], would be my visible body hair. A couple of years ago I was at the Philly Trans-Health conference. I was going to the big queer dance party that they have that weekend when trans health is happening, and I was wearing, this maroon, strapless jumpsuit with all of this gold lamé all over it, and really dark, maroon lipstick. I looked like ridiculously hot. I was going to this party, and I asked this group of people for directions to the club, and it was this group of queer folks. And they were like, ‘you know that’s a gay club right?’ and I was like, ‘yeah, yeah I know it’s a gay club,’ and they were like, ‘okay, everyone there is gay’ and I was like yeah, ‘so am I, I’m going to that club,’ and these people were supposed to be family, they were like supposed to know, and they’re saying to me ‘it’s a gay club, everyone there is gay,’ and I was like ‘yeah, Uh, I’m gay, I’m a gay person’ and I remembered like, I should not have had to prove it to anyone, I’m just over proving anything to anyone, fuck, I don’t have time for that anymore, but I like lifted up my arms because I have these incredibly hairy armpits and I was like ‘look, look! see! I’m gayyyy.” Like no self-respecting straight women would have all of this body hair, you know? And they were kind of like ‘ohhhh.’ It was like it was the passport. –personal interview with Emma, November, 2017


Structured red strapless jumpsuit with gold brocade.
Owner – Emma (queer lesbian, woman, 30, lives in Iowa) c. 2010s. Photo courtesy of Kelly L. Reddy-Best, 2018.

Black Halter Dress

“As a youth I didn’t recognize that I was actually interested in women at all and it’s funny, because, my mom told me when I was a little girl, because I was very, you know, feminine as a child, my mom and Kathy were more along the lines of the traditional, 90s mullet, you know, dyke-style which is, great for them, but just wasn’t my thing. So my mom was like, ‘Oh, you’re just so straight’ and I was like ‘okay, you’re right’ and just didn’t question it.” -personal interview with Lyadonna, October, 2017

In her interview, Lyadonna explained that she often blurred gender boundaries, but this feminine black and white halter dress was one of her favorite outfits.


Babydoll dress with black bodice and black and white psychedelic print maxi skirt
Owner – Lyadonna (bi-sexual, woman, 32, lives in Iowa). c. 2010s. Photo courtesy of Kelly L. Reddy-Best, 2018.


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Queer Fashion and Style: Stories from the Heartland Copyright © 2020 by Kelly L. Reddy-Best, Dana Goodin, and Eulanda Sanders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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