Do you remember playing dress-up when you were a kid?

 What if you could have that same sense of freedom and playfulness when dressing now?

The truth is that you already do – all it takes is understanding that how we choose to express ourselves is a performance. It’s not too different from playing dress-up!

cosplay deadpool GIF

Wearing Clothes Is A Performance?

Think about when you go to a job interview.

You dress to impress. You are "performing" the role of an ideal worker. You may or may not actually be an ideal worker, but the clothes you wear express things like cleanliness and attention to detail.

wearing in charge GIF by Kim's Convenience

The same is true for how masculine or feminine you choose to dress!

drag race alaska GIF by RuPaul's Drag Race

RuPaul is a drag queen (a performer who usually dresses up in a stereotypically hyper-feminine way) who coined the phrase "We're all born naked and the rest is drag."

Here is RuPaul, talking to Oprah about the phrase:

Gender Identity Versus Expression

We all have an inner sense of what our gender is. This is called our gender identity.

confused press conference GIFHowever, we also have a unique gender expression, which is separate from our identity.

Sexy Get Ready GIF by BounceThe way we express ourselves does not impact the gender that we identify as.

Quiz

Which of these is a possible way for Tommy (who identifies as a man) to express himself?

Polo shirts

Makeup

Skirts

All of these

But Men Should Like Masculine Things And Women Should Like Feminine Things!

Maybe most men like their gender expression to be more masculine, and most women like their gender expression to be more feminine, but this isn't always the case!

episode 19 edna krabapple GIFNope! We just have to keep in mind that culture changes over time, and stereotypical gender roles are socially created.

Plus, gender identity can exist outside of the gender binary. Some folks identify as:

  • agender (someone who does not identify with having a gender at all)

  • having multiple genders (either simultaneously or fluidly changing)

  • falling somewhere in between "male" and "female" genders

So do whatever you want! What your gender means and how you express it is totally up to you!

Indian American Beauty GIF by INTO ACTION

Quiz

Which of the following is a socially created norm for gender expression?

Men not shaving their legs or armpits

Women having long hair

Women wearing pantsuits or pencil skirts

All of these

But I'm Not A Drag King Or Queen!

Maybe not!

But drag is one really in-your-face way of seeing that gender is performative.

Even if our gender identity is something we know to be true in the deepest part of ourselves, we can still only express ourselves through constantly changing social norms and meanings.

Byte Author Uploaded Image

Here is Judith Butler, a noted gender studies scholar, speaking about gender being performative:

Your Gender Is Still Meaningful

Saying that "we're all born naked and the rest is drag" is not meant to erase the idea of gender or the importance of gender identity in how we live our lives.

Instead, it stresses our personal freedom and ability to choose how to express ourselves in ways that make us happy.

mic identities GIFWith that growing confidence in our own choices, we can approach life with more confidence and authenticity, regardless of what other people might think.

donald duck disney GIF

Take Action

Remember, the way you choose to express yourself:

  • is completely up to you

  • is not limited to what is considered typical for your gender

  • will not change your inner sense of gender identity

rupauls drag race work GIF

Do you have an outfit that makes you feel super confident?

Don't forget these wise words:

express yourself madonna GIF

License:

Your feedback matters to us.

This Byte helped me better understand the topic.

I feel confident that I can apply what I learned.

This Byte helped me better understand the topic.

Connect with Rumie learners

Browse more content, receive support, share your expertise, and keep learning through text and voice chat!

This Byte has been authored by

SS

Silvan Spicer

higher education instructional designer