ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the February 2, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] kyleri, [personal profile] janetmiles, and LJ user Ng_moonmoth. It also fills the "nonsexual touch" square in my 1-23-16 card for the Valentine's Day Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the Astin thread in An Army of One.


"What the Scissors Have Cut Asunder"


Astin loved having more options
for clothing that fit reasonably well
and did not make xyr look like
either a man or a woman.

Neutral colors worked best
across all cultures, just because
everyone wore them.

Astin's favorite maybe-colors
were welcome in some places
but drew frowns in others, and
the same thing happened with
accessories which were read
sometimes as masculine,
other times as feminine.

The soft shirts and pants
fit comfortably but were not
formal enough for some places.
The more tailored garments were ...
a work in progress, Astin concluded.

Xyr current clothes were
much better than the old misfits,
but still didn't feel quite right when
remnant bits of the history
clashed with the present.

So xe swapped messages with
Shuttlecock through the ciphernet,
and they discussed improvements.

Astin arrived at Sargasso Base
to discover that Shuttlecock had been
working on her design skills since
the last time they met, and now
felt ready to stretch her fingers.

They talked about Astin's experiences
and Shuttlecock's materials and
the forming culture of the Lacuna.

"It's the underwear," Astin grumbled.
"Everything I've found is really made
for men or for women, and none of it
feels comfortable on me. Plus it
affects the look of any garment
that I layer on top of it."

"Unisex underwear," said Shuttlecock,
jotting it down. "Have you tried talking
to Mole, who runs the lingerie shop?
He could probably design something,
if you have an idea what you'd like."

"I don't know ... something like
shorts and a tank top that cling
enough to fit under clothes but
aren't too tight or sexed up?"
Astin said, spreading xyr hands.

"That sounds feasible," said Shuttlecock.
"Now, what can I do for you today?"

Astin described the challenges
of color matching and cultures,
and how boring it was to wear
nothing but neutral shades.

"Oh oh oh!" Shuttlecock said,
flapping her hands once and then
grabbing them together. "Just wait
until you see the new yarns. We're
recycling the fibers we have into
fresh yarn and fabric now."

She brought out a box of yarn
and a folder of fabric swatches
to show Astin the current options,
effortlessly sorting through them
to name the fibers by touch.

Tentatively Astin reached out
and felt them for xyrself.

"See, the linsey usually comes out
some kind of heather, because we are
using lint and longer fibers," said Shuttlecock.

"If I wear this with neutral colors, then
it would brighten the look without being
too conspicuous," Astin reasoned.
"Perhaps a sweater vest?"

"I can do that," said Shuttlecock.
"You might want something
a little more serious, though."

"More formal vests are tailored,
and my body is ... different," Astin sighed.
"People don't like it, and I don't like
being touched or hassled."

"Well, I have your measurements
from the MacroScan," said Shuttlecock.
"I could work up a vest that way, and then
I'd only need to touch a little to tailor it."

Astin hesitated, then said, "If you make
one base pattern for a fabric vest, could you
modify it without needing a lot more contact?
I'd really like to have a cargo vest too."

"The kind with all the pockets?"
Shuttlecock said. "Each army had
their own uniform version, but I've been
tinkering to combine the best of both.
Tailoring it to your body is easy."

"Except for the touching part,"
Astin said, but it was still tempting.

"So what's bad about touch for you?"
Shuttlecock said. "Lots of people have
that problem but it's all different kinds --
light touch hurts, or heavy touch hurts,
or scratchy things itch, or people
just make someone twitchy."

"I don't like my body very much,"
Astin admitted. "I don't like how it
looks or feels, and I get uncomfortable
when other people are rude about it,
and skin contact is ... uneasy."

"All right, I can work with that,"
Shuttlecock said. "No body comments
or touching other than what I need
to put your clothes on right."

She rummaged through the box
and offered xyr a hank of yarn
in a quiet mauve heather. "Maybe
try something with a lot of cotton,
because it's so soft," she said.

"I like that for the sweater vest,"
Astin said, fingering the fuzzy yarn.
"I think that black would be
best for the formal one."

"I have a bit of black linen that
was meant for dress uniforms,"
Shuttlecock offered, "and there's
plenty of khaki for the cargo vest."

So they agreed on an order,
and then Astin went to talk
with Mole about underwear.

Mole was as sympathetic as
Shuttlecock had been, which made
this by far the most effective and
least miserable trip ever.

From there, Astin went back
to xyr ship and visited some of
the nearby stops in the Lacuna.

By the time xe returned to
Sargasso Base, xyr orders
of clothing were ready.

Mole had produced an array of
short bottoms and sleeveless tops
made in soft, clingy, stretchy cloth.
"If you don't want any of these,
just say so, and I can sell them
to someone else," he said.
"I've had all kinds of offers."

"Let me try these and figure out
which ones I like best," Astin said.
"Then I can get more of those.
Meanwhile, you have the patterns
so that you can make more for
anyone who wants some."

With the forgiving fabric,
these garments were comfortable
both physically and philosophically.
It was just a matter of wearing them
for long enough to pick favorites.

That sent Astin over to Threads
with a bounce in xyr step.

"You seem happy today,"
Shuttlecock said. "Are you
ready to try out your vests?"

That took the bounce out of
Astin. "If I must," xe said.

"Your sweater vest just needs
to be tried on to make sure it fits,"
said Shuttlecock. "It's stretchy and
I had your measurements, but if
it's off-sized then I can put it on
the rack and make you another."

"All right," said Astin. Xe went
into the changing room and put on
the mauve vest, which was both
comfortable and attractive.
"I like this one a lot."

"That's good," said Shuttlecock.
"Now we just need to fit the others."

Shuttlecock was gentle and brisk
about the fitting, though, and even
explained how the changes would
make the formal vest work better.

"The cargo vest is easier," she said.
"Those patterns usually have a belt
in the back to make them adjustable.
All I really need to tweak for you are
the pleats and vents along the spine."

Astin was discovering a love of garments
that incorporated their own belts, buttons,
drawstrings, and other adjustments.

"It's not so bad, being touched
by someone who's careful and
polite," Astin said. "Sometimes
on long flights I get a bit lonely.
But I hate people who grab me or
hug me even after I'd told them
that I don't like touching."

"I have just the thing for that,"
Shuttlecock said, disappearing
behind a counter. "Remember
what I said about how lots of
people have that problem?
So they made cling patches."

She brought out a divided tray
with lots of soft badges that
would stick to fabric, each slot
holding a stack with its own
text or pictures or both.

Astin fingered them, finding
the bristly edge that let them
adhere to the underlying fabric.

Xe found one that said "No Hugs!"
and another badge that just showed
two people hugging, crossed out.
A third said "Do not touch me"
around a crossed-out hand.

"I'll take these too," xe said.

"I should have the tailoring done
by tomorrow," said Shuttlecock.

"I'll come back then," Astin said.

"You know ... if you get lonely,
there are some ways to feed
your skin-hunger that don't
involve random strangers
grabbing you," she said.

"Like what?" Astin said warily.

"My friend Palmer does massage.
She can touch you as little or as much
as you want -- she really needs a lot of
body contact, but it's been hard for her
because she was trained not to touch
people like she wanted," said Shuttlecock.

"I'll think about it," Astin said as xe
piled up the purchases that were
ready to go this afternoon.

"You know, I think we have a lot
in common," Shuttlecock said.
"You're trying to put together
your identity, and I'm trying to
assemble a business and
help build a culture here."

"You're right, and it's not easy,"
Astin said. Then xe smiled.
"It's easier with friends, though."

"There's a saying -- The sewing machine
joins what the scissors have cut asunder,
plus whatever else comes in its path,"

Shuttlecock said. "That's true
for friendship as well."

"Yes, it is," Astin said,
and when they shook hands
over the deal to seal it, xe
didn't worry that Shuttlecock
was going to climb all over xyr,
and xe didn't flinch at the touch.

That was worth as much as the clothes.

* * *

Notes:

The sewing machine joins what the scissors have cut asunder, plus whatever else comes in its path.
~ Mason Cooley

Gender identity is subtly different from gender expression. Figuring out this stuff can get very complicated. A playful approach, such as a gender exploration dress-up event, can help a lot.

Genderqueer fashion is complex because just getting dressed becomes a political act. This creates a lot of challenges. Some designers are offering resources, and some fashion setters are queering up their wardrobes. You have a right to clothing that looks good, fits well, feels comfortable, and suits you. One approach to genderqueer clothing is to balance styles marketed for men with those for women. Another focuses on the middle of the spectrum instead.

Androgynous style favors unisex clothing without strong gender markers. Here are some garments and accessories useful in androgynous fashion. Lingerie is especially important because foundation garments shape everything you put on top of them. You can use things like this to create different androgynous styles. This service assists people in building a good androgynous wardrobe. There are tips on how to look androgynous and buy unisex clothes.

One way to get good genderqueer clothing is to make your own, which often entails modifying the pattern. There are free patterns online for men's wear, women's wear, and miscellaneous categories. Making clothes that fit often requires scaling a pattern for different sizes. A sloper or fitting pattern is advisable for anyone, but essential for people with unusually shaped bodies, a common trait among genderqueer folks. Know how to modify women's and men's patterns. Ultimately you may need to combine different patterns to create a customized garment.

Alterations to men's wear and women's wear can make off-the-rack clothes fit you better. Alternatively, hire a tailor or seamstress to do it for you. Other special considerations may benefit from tailored solutions, such as modifying garments to look good while seated for wheelchair users. Some of these resources include tips of interest to genderqueer folks due to their unique body shapes.

Gender-neutral underwear includes things like this top-and-shorts line.

Formal vests can be unisex, like this crisp black one. Casual sweater vests, like this mauve heather one, are stretchy and forgiving.

Many practical garments such as cargo vests are unisex too. Look at the back and you'll usually find adjustable features. Self-adjusting clothes are a great asset to genderqueer folks because these make it easier to fit unusual or changing body shapes. Here is one pattern for a unisex cargo vest.

Skin hunger and touch aversion are two ends of the tactile interaction scale. Building trust helps make it possible to cope with tactile defensiveness, which can otherwise make socializing and dressing very difficult. These are common challenges for neurovariant people.

Society discusses consent almost exclusively in sexual or medical contexts. However, it applies just as much to other situations. Know how to incorporate consent into everyday activities.

"No Hugs" buttons come in text only and graphic only versions. The "Do Not Touch Me" button incorporates both.

Massage offers many benefits. It can help with body image, genderqueer issues, and autistic challenges.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-07 10:13 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] tadpoleacorn
There was so much in this that I identified with! Thank you for writing this! ^_^

A feast

Date: 2016-02-08 12:25 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
The subject, the details in the poetry,and in the universe, are wonderful.

But it's the PILE of information to sort through in your links that will keep me coming back to this through four or five iterations, each time gaining new insights and more subtle impressions as the links provide more depth and relevant reminders--often simply a different perspective on skills I've had and used since I was a child, like sewing.

It's not tearing down gender /roles/ so much as liberating skills FROM gender identities!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-08 01:22 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
So much good stuff in the links! (Liked the poem a lot, too.)

Many of the craft fairs around here sell sarongs, which I'm going to start experimenting with this summer when it's hot. Not at work, though. I also have a couple of Japanese yukatas that I'm very fond of. I sometimes wear those at cons, and quite frequently around the house.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2016-02-08 05:22 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Heh. I got married in a caftan -- it later saw several years' service in the SCA. Which does gender its clothing, but differently enough that male garb will pass for mundane women's wear.

Colleen found some amazingly soft, fluffy bathrobes for me and Naomi. (See my Facebook profile pic.)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-08 09:43 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
I think of a salwar kameez as being gender-neutral because they're female garb in some cultures and male garb in others. (Google isn't giving me any pictures that don't look very feminine, but it's basically a T-tunic worn over coordinating loose trousers.) They're also comfortable and practical.

What colors does Astin consider "neutrals"? I would bet that the range of colors which don't trigger heavy gender associations is wider than xe suspects.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-08 08:16 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Oh, very nice. I like the linked sweaters. I hope Astin is comfortable in them!

>>Astin was discovering a love of garments
that incorporated their own belts, buttons,
drawstrings, and other adjustments.<<

This makes for a fun aesthetic, too. Not to mention easy handling of anything that can be attached to those attachment points!

Lots of this resonated. <3

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-09 04:04 am (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Ooh this is lovely (& agreed on the additional resources!).

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-08 05:39 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (happydance)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
:smiles:

Consent and respectful touch is a huge part of massage, and I learnt a lot about that aspect being [livejournal.com profile] pocketnaomi's guinea pig...

Yes...

Date: 2016-02-08 05:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I agree. There is more of this in some other contexts, like Polychrome Heroics, but I think it's the first time the topic has come up in An Army of One.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-11-25 07:34 am (UTC)
bairnsidhe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bairnsidhe
I like this. Shuttlecock and Mole are only focused on doing their new jobs well, which means making Astin happy as their customer, not on making Astin fit into some box they've decided on. So everyone wins because Astin gets good clothing that's not gendered, and Shuttlecock and Mole get practice doing something new and valuable, and the Lacuna in general gets new products that are pretty and useful. I like win-win-win scenarios.

Also, the text-only no hugs link is borked.

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