A gynandromorph butterfly with the transgender pride flag for the front wing and the rainbow pride flag on the rear wing On Servants Wings
Resources and Reflections by Ari Leigh

Tunic FAQ (Archive)



Background

From 2014 - 2017 I made the conscious decision to express my gender and faith by wearing gender neutral tunics, many of which had a pronoun patch embroidered on them to make it easier for people to actually see me (and not just make assumptions about me).


Why Tunics?

In May 2014 I made the conscious choice to donate the majority of my clothes to charity and begin to wear tunics on a daily basis. The main reasons I did this were:

  • Possessiveness: Before making this change I owned three complete wardrobes which was far more clothing than I needed or could use. As a Christian I realized that my attachment to clothing was serving as a barrier to my relationship with God.
  • Gender Expression: One of the reasons I had so much clothing is that I'd spend the better part of year trying to find any type of clothing that would enable me to be seen as my gender identity. Due the highly gendered clothes of our society I realized I needed to look backwards. In history I found tunics as a gender neutral garment that have been in use for centuries, including the present day.
  • Simplicity: There is a richness is the repetitive processes our ancestors lived by. I've delighted in the opportunity to hand-sew and embroidery my tunics. In so doing I've learned that for me physical tasks can be an active, intimate, form of prayer.
  • Comfort: Tunics are light and comfortable, allowing a freedom of motion that I'd rarely found in modern attire.

  • Are you a monk? A nun?

    No, I am not affiliated with a religious order. I am a Christian who made a temporary commitment to simplicity in clothing in order to provide space for spiritual growth. While I did draw inspiration from the monastic traditions my decision to pursue this path was not tied to exploring a monastic life.


    By temporary you mean...?

    I initially made this commitment for one year, from May 2014 to May 2015. Once the temporary commitment ended I realized that I was more comfortable in tunics than I had been in any other form of apparel. Recognizing that I wanted to continue to present myself in this manner, I created two new garments during the summer and fall of 2015, this time adding embroidery to reflect different expressions of my identity. Beyond that time temporary meant that I had not committed to this style permanently. Still, the comfort, simplicity and practicality of my tunics means that this year long exercise expanded into three years.


    Are you a Rennie? SCAdian?

    Not in the way you might expect. My decision to wear tunics on a daily basis is not related to my interest in medieval history, but rather is centered in a spiritual exercise. At the same time I have been involved with the Society for Creative Anachronism(SCA) since I was 14. In the SCA I learned to appreciate doing things in a historical fashion, how to research different crafts and the importance of durability in clothing. While my decision to wear tunics isn't related to the SCA, I certainly credit the individuals there with helping me build the skills which have made this change possible.


    Isn't this anachronistic? Out of it's proper time?

    Absolutely. Giving away all of ones clothes and wearing tunics is as out of place today as creating a website would be in the middle ages. The anachronism is part of the beauty for me. Having spent most of my life being told I don't belong; I find I treasure in those things which others say don't quite fit.

    Also, I've found that my religion and faith are rooted in anachronism. As a Christian I worship using an ancient liturgy with centuries old prayers, live and serve in this present time, and act as a citizen of the future Dominion of God. For me to fit the expectations of this time would be to deny the Spirit I've been entrusted with.


    Aren't you hot in that?

    Tunics are loose and breath easily. I'm far more comfortable in hot weather than I ever have been before.


    How many of those do you own?

    Throughout most of this time I had one to two tunics for each season, one embroidered for professional wear, the other plain for crafting, construction, and other messy work. My summer tunics are linen, which was chosen for its ability to breath and it's coolness. My winter tunics are a cotton canvas chosen for its durability and weight.


    Why green?

    Green has a cultural association with life and growth. It also had an aesthetic appeal for me in being a natural color. Finally, green is dark enough to make it easy to keep clean even with daily use.


    How did you make your tunics?

    I followed this pattern.


    Why'd you stop wearing them?

    Great question. It was a combination of fatigue and new opportunities. After three years I was exhausted by the public visibility of being non-binary and was experiencing anti-trans discrimination multiple times per day. As I neared total exhaustion I also encountered some awesome science themed dresses from Svaha. Between that, and with my partners help, I realized that I could still be queer even if I didn't want to be constantly marked as non-binary.


    So why is this still on your website?

    A frequent problem I've encountered in the transgender community is the assumption that a narrative has to be visible in order to be real. I've chosen to leave this archive online because it is important for people to have access to this journey and the possibilities that it opens. If conventional gender concepts don't work for you, feel free to invent your own. They may stick, or not, and either is ok. I have no regrets about the period in which my gender expression was "queer medieval monastic" and want to ensure others know that it's one possibility in many.