Genderless clothing for April and May

April will always be special to Interviewing India. She sent II its first fan mail when the website was launched. Emails were sent back and forth, and an interview date was fixed between Poorva, April and her girlfriend May. Over a scrumptious breakfast, the three chatted about all things straight and queer. Interestingly when it was time to pick an interview topic, it was online shopping that the two lovers jumped at. This delightful interview with the Founders of the QueerQuestion deals with the lack of androgynous clothing in India, why it is important to them and how online shopping can fill this gap.

April and May, both 22 years old, Founders of QueerQuestion

Interviewed by Poorva Dinesh

Why did you decide to give us an interview on online shopping?
April – While I identify as gender fluid, May identifies as gender neutral. It really disturbs us when we walk into big popular places and have to look at a segregated men’s section and women’s section, because we may like something in the men’s section but we may not necessarily identify ourselves as a man. But the fact that we need to label clothes is a problem. Sometimes I want to wear a sari, sometimes I want to wear a shirt, and I don’t have to be saying I am wearing men’s clothes or I am wearing women’s clothes.

May – In the men’s section, there are more boxy clothes, but in the women’s section they are tailored in such a way that nothing ever fits right for curvaceous women. And I feel like people shouldn’t make gender-specific clothes…I mean something may fit you better in the men’s section better than the women’s section. I think people should sell clothes based on body shapes and not gender. Online shopping for androgynous clothes will help because there are a lot of people out there who don’t want to openly go and shop in the other gender’s section because people look at you and treat you differently, and it can also get you into trouble.

April – The reason we chose to talk about online shopping is because online is one place where one can find so many options. If somebody wants to start an androgynous clothing line in India with an option to shop online, I think it will go places because there are so many people to serve. Clothing is something that has to do with expression, and if I am not able to express myself properly with clothing, then I don’t know what is the point of dressing at all.

May –  When I was in the UK, I started researching online on androgynous clothing lines that queer people are coming up with and I found these clothes extremely expensive.
We definitely need androgynous clothes in India now, also because in sense of comfort. I want to wear clothes that make me breathe…that would be a start.

Was there one particular incident that made you feel frustrated about the lack of androgynous clothing in India?
April – I once wanted to gift May a binder. A binder is basically what some gender-non conforming people decide to wear to suppress the breasts. It sort off flattens out the chest so when you wear shirts you don’t feel the curves of your breasts. I was looking for a binder, and I just couldn’t find any in India. It was almost impossible to find binders that were of a good quality and affordable. So I sat and stitched one for May based on her bra size. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing honestly; not as comfortable as what a ready-made one would be…

How do you go about your shopping?
May – There is a lot of awkwardness I feel when I shop in the men’s clothing section in India. In the very beginning, I used to go shopping with my mum, and she would keep asking me why I had to buy clothes from the men’s section or she would tell me how people were staring at us. But now she is okay because she figured I get better T-shirts there.
The moment I go looking for shirts, the salespeople automatically assume I am buying for someone else – which I am not.
I know this is very random, but I like buying clothes from the men’s section in Jockey.

How do you deal with that then?
The thing is whenever I go to Jockey, I am with my mum. The last time I went there, she tried convincing me that the girl’s boxers were equally good. My argument was I got one of those and I wanted some from the men’s section as well. She said something that really upset me. Usually she is okay and lets me do what I want, but this time it was upsetting. I told her if it was going to make her happy, I wouldn’t buy it this time around. But she did feel bad about it, and that wasn’t my intention. Anyway, we are at a place where my mom tries, but I have to make her understand this is who I am.

At the beginning of the interview, you mentioned having a tough time finding the right clothes to go to a prom…
May – April was going to wear a sari, and I thought I will wear a shirt and a tie. All women’s shirts that I had were too short to be tucked in, and all the men shirts I had were too big…the pockets were so big that they covered the entire breast, and the shirts were boxy and not in the best way I mean…The sleeves were big, there was so much room for two hands to go inside, the collars were really huge. It looked ridiculous. We went to a few places…and they didn’t have anything that fit well. I pretty much lost all hope. We finally went to a store that seemed willing to help us.

April – And the sales guy here didn’t question us on why we needed to buy men’s clothes, although in other places there was a behavioral change when they found out we were shopping for May.

May – I explained my problem to him (his name is Alibaug), and he found a really nice shirt, and offered to alter it. He got the pocket removed, shortened the sleeve, and he was really helpful. That is something that I had never seen. And just seconds before getting into this place, I had given up hope and just wanted to go home.

April – It is easy to be a woman and wear man’s clothes, but can you imagine how it must be for a man who wants to wear women’s clothes? You can’t put people into these gender boxes.

The last question has nothing to do with your interview topic. But we ask everyone we interview – what does love mean to you?
April – Aye-ya…Its something that has always changed for me. To me love right now means wanting to be with a person while also having an individual space and a collective space all in one. But I am going to answer this question again next time we meet…you can’t suddenly spring it upon me (laughs)

May – But that’s the point April…
For the longest time, I was a loner. I thought I couldn’t be with anyone. I am going to copy a bit of April’s answer. Love to me is having your individual life and space and not losing your identity and yet create something together.

April – Love is companionship. Simple. Love has been a speedbreaker for me. I was at a very fast speed, suddenly May came and broke it all.

May – For me it is being vulnerable and trust someone. A few years ago, I wouldn’t think of doing something for somebody else or think of moving somewhere for somebody else, but now I want to be with somebody. That’s when I realized life is not just about money or career. The point of life is to live it and share it with someone.

Meet the interviewer

Poorva Dinesh

Poorva would love to call herself a writer, but doesn’t write much these days. Apart from reminding herself everyday about her two unfinished books, Poorva manages the day-to-day operations of Interviewing India and “talks to strangers” as her children put it. Even within the II Team, Poorva is notorious for walking up to complete strangers and requesting them for an interview.

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