One year ago I bought a Speedo swimsuit. Even though it’s not a classic Speedo design and actually looks more like a pair of boxer-briefs, it’s safe to say that it’s the most revealing piece of clothing I’ve ever worn. I bought it because I swim laps a couple times a week and it’s comfortable. I bought it because it is 20 times more resistant to chlorine than a regular swimsuit. I bought it because I liked the color. And perhaps most importantly, I bought it because I’m a feminist, and I’m aware that guys who wear Speedos are challenging American masculinity.
Last summer I wore that Speedo in front of other people for the first time at a public beach in conservative Holland, Michigan. I got a few playful comments from my friends about how much skin I was showing. I got even more stares from strangers. But something about it felt liberating for me. I think that something was a small step in reclaiming who I am and can choose to be rather than what men are supposed to cover up.
I’m not saying that there aren’t true categories or that gender is meaningless. But I know that I have had a lot of difficulties in my life trying to fit what I was told my gender should look or act or be like. I was taught by myriad outside influences growing up that there was a manly ideal for me. I desperately needed to figure out how to become that Man. But I was never taught to ask if I would be happy or fulfilled once that happened.