A Devotion of Threads by Lev Boberg
Close up of a blue flannel shirt collar with medium length brunette hair in the frame.
Hello. I am a flannel shirt.

I am blue and black. I have a front and a back, two sleeves, and seventeen buttons.

You, my caretaker, came into my life when you borrowed me from a friend’s closet one stormy summer afternoon in Michigan. As you buttoned me to your neck, you were grateful for the temporary warmth, yet somehow shy of claiming the shelter that I offered.

In that moment, you believed me to be a paradox, a thing of profound desire shrouded in a threat. At the same time you felt effervescent with joy at the thought of wearing me, you heard the curled-lip things that people said on television – in movies, on the street – about those who dressed outside their gender. You heard about the trans men and women killed for what was, and was not, underneath their clothes.

And even in the safety of your own bedroom, you heard the whispers that said that you were wrong-bodied for me. Not boy enough, and yet not girl enough either. “Too small in the shoulder,” they said. “Too full in the chest.” They said so much, through unkind words and laughs and disapproving shrugs, which told you that you were too wrong or shameful or broken for me – or anyone else – to love. In turn, you believed that loving me was evidence of your wrongness.

I am here to tell you otherwise.

Close up of tan workpants with a blue flannel sleeve and a white hand hooked in the back pocket.
I had another life before you. Before your friend found me in that big box of fluorescent light and squeaky metal hangers that I momentarily called home. I remember the feeling of being born from a bolt of cotton and the scissor’s blade; the feeling of my mother sewing and pressing the edges of my pockets so that the plaid would run down my body in one uninterrupted stroke. I remember her hands pinning tucks into my yoke and sleeves, reminding me of the fullness that so often lies beneath a neatly sewn seam. And I remember when she attached the final button into the end of my button placket – the button to replace a lost button, which may or may not ever see the work of buttoning – and that she whispered, “Only you know your own destiny.”
A white non-binary person in a blue flannel arcs their body in a dancerly pose in front of a teal brick wall.
This is my story, and yet you - my darling human - are my destiny. You tuck me into your jeans and adorn me with brass pendants and tiny white dog hairs in the spring, cornmeal dust and rotting leaves in the fall. In summer, I take in the smell of dish soap and campfire when you roll up my sleeves to work, then release it to your nose like perfume the next time you hold me to your face. And in every season, I keep you warm as best I can, like the October night after your Dad died when you sat in a freezing lawn chair in the woods outside Detroit and howled at the moon in grief.
A split frame of a white non-binary person stoically facing the camera and then smiling, leaning with movement and joy.
As you become more and more yourself, you and I will build our own sense of trust.

When you button me against your chest, we will transcend the reach of outside eyes that demand to tell us who we are. I will be your collaborator and your confidante. With me, you are allowed to be neither boy enough, nor girl enough, but a perfectly-fashioned simulacrum of both and neither. When you feel joy in the embrace of your partner when he says, “I love them,” – a habit of his to replace the pronoun of those three words, just to let you know that you are seen – I will embrace you too. When you bind your chest to honor the masculine part of you, and pin jewels to your lapel to delight the feminine, I will breathe all of my blessings onto your skin. And when at last you stride into the glass and gravel of the world outside your bedroom, I will shine my brightest blue around the color of your heart.
A brunette person wearing a blue flannel button up shirt and tan work pants faces away from the camera.
For the time that you wear me - care for me, whisper your innermost thoughts to me - I will be your house of worship and your artist’s statement.

For as long or as brief as that time may be, wherever I hold you will be home.
By Lev Boberg, non-binary writer, designer, and maker
Photographer: Ryan Shipman - IG @ryanjships
Model & Stylist: Lev Boberg - IG @lev.out.loud


  • As someone who has always been “too full in the chest” to be read as my (lack of) gender, this is incredibly uplifting. Thank you for sharing this incredibly affirming story.

    I’m just gonna go and get this dust out of my eyes. Allergies, you know?

    Jen (they/them) on

  • I can feel the flannel through your words and this captures so many feelings I’ve had. Thank you.

    Ethan Lyn on

  • Oh, how wonderful! Thank you!

    A Grandmother on

  • I don’t have adequate words for how sublime the story of a blue flannel shirt truly is but I’m so grateful for how it’s touched my heart.

    Tiffany Smith on

  • Lev, this is beautiful and makes my heart so happy. For you, for me, for the world to get this glimpse of euphoria and gorgeous complexity. Thank you for being you.

    Alyx Hanson on

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