At conferences, there's a stronger expectation of formal dress. I see a lot more suits, ties, skirts, dresses and button-down shirts at conferences than I do in everyday gatherings of professors and graduate students. This is where I start running into real problems. Once we get more formal than T-shirts, which exist in "unisex" cuts, and athletic attire, where even cisgender women regularly buy from the men's section, clothing gets much more strongly gendered. I'm nonbinary. Now what?We have much to look forward to. But it gets better.
I see a few main options.
One option is to ignore the expectation of formal dress entirely. And yes, I've done this. There is an existing picture of me in a T-shirt, shorts and no shoes at a conference, from the day I presented on one panel and moderated another one.
Another option is to do drag. In situations where openly playing with gender is accepted, I can enjoy dressing up as another gender, but that's not ideal for conferences where I'd be doing drag while pretending that I'm doing no such thing. So, while I recognize the option, I don't like to use it for conferences. (You could argue that I used the drag option for the beginnings of my math classes, though -- everything visible came from the men’s section on those days, including the dress shoes.)Fine. Good luck getting a date, or a job.
I don't think there's just one answer to that question. There may be as many answers as there are people who need to answer it, plus some extra for people who find multiple solutions. But for me, mixing and matching is one answer. Get a suit out of the men's section, but replace the dress shirt with one of the rare dresses I can wear. Dress shirt and suit jacket from the men's section, basic black skirt. Because people tend to assume strangers are one binary gender or the other and femininity is more marked than masculinity, I still get misread as a woman when I use these combinations … but that's likely no matter what I wear. Even when all my visible clothing came from the men's section, I was misread as a woman, and it still felt like doing drag because I'm not a man, either!
Meanwhile, with Hallowe'en approaching, it's likely that the deanlets of Student Affairs will caution against, and prepare to issue sanctions on, any Normal guy who dares dress up as Transitioning Bruce Jenner or as Corporal Klinger. Insensitive, insensitive! Mocking the Binary! Whatever.
One commenter gets it. "I feel badly for people that have to agonize over this. Really badly."
Perhaps it is time to stop subsidizing the foolishness. "There's nothing better than the sounds of pocketbooks snapping shut to bring a bit of sanity to college administrators." Furthermore, it's time to undermine these allegedly sophisticated people with mockery. "This is the deflated, self-loathing bourgeoisie coming together to project their own psycho-social hang-ups on to society at large. They must be criticised and ridiculed out of existence." Indeed.