My Gender is Not Your Trend
My Gender is Not Your Trend
I’m tired of people being so surface level. So many aspects of society, culture and the world that we are living in are displayed by the media as being superficial nonsense. I feel like fashion has finally begun to get rid of that image. Don’t get me wrong, there are still ridiculous amounts of people swanning around fashion week thinking they’re the next Suzy Menkes, just because they have a friend of a friend who is doing the cleaning in the makeup rooms at Freemasons Hall and has managed to bag them a ticket. But after spending nearly 3 years surrounded by the next generation of fashion creatives, it appears as though, we are really taking things a lot more seriously. We are using our personal and socio-political experiences alongside our passions and being really blatant when it comes to the meaning behind our work. A lot of my work as a Fashion Management and Marketing student has featured around the results of a world that is socially shifting in terms of strict gender norms, and how this alters the fashion sphere, and eventually, us as consumers. As somebody who identifies as non-binary, fashion is one of the only places where I have seen people like myself given the exposure and representation that we desperately need.
Not identifying with male or female gender scripts has been a common thread throughout fashion and art. Queer artists, especially in the UK, brought art and music to the forefront of the ‘general public’s’ minds during the 70s and 80s, and really pushed the boundaries of what was seen as a ‘normal’ gender. From Boy George to Bowie, Hockney to Mapplethorpe, queer expression was in abundance and was, whether people liked it or not, being pushed to the front of the media’s all seeing eye. However, after sitting down in the hairdressers the other day and not having a phone or magazine (I know, call myself a millennial) I was engrossed in my thoughts for a good two hours. I realised that although there was a distinct trend of gender nonconformity during this time, the open dialogue and conversation around gender, sexuality and queer identities was basically non-existent.
A huge example of this was the subsequent demonisation and vilification of gay men during the HIV epidemic of the 80s. How could we have such queer, extrovert artists and creatives across mainstream media as Jimmy Sommerville, front man of the Bronksi Beat and the GAYEST group ever The Communards, being so openly gay, but also have the implication of Section 28 across the UK via the Tory government at the time. Cheers Mags.
Now, in 2017, gender is a topic that is being stretched and played with constantly. Designers such as Palomo Spain and Art School, completely disregard the need for differentiations in gender in fashion. Alejandro Gómez Palomo designs his work from a purely artistic place, and although his designs are shown on men, the artistic gender neutrality is clear. It’s just fashion. As someone who lives with the many micro-aggressions of navigating the world as a non-binary person, seeing gender neutrality being discussed in fashion is something that is amazing and terrifying at the same time.
The problem with discussions around gender and fashion is that it is commonly discussed in a purely creative manner. The idea of gender is manipulated and dissected as a ‘motive for art’ or a ‘concept’, and the real life implications of being beyond the binary can be forgotten. While seeing the lines of gender being blurred and the decline of the emphasis on ‘mens and womens’ clothing is something that I live for, when you’re living in a world where the same person who supports cisgendered heterosexual men wearing makeup on the runway won’t use the correct pronouns with an actual trans/gender non-conforming person, major problems are still present. Gender is a performance, but it is also an identity and is something that literally motivates people to kill other people. 8/10 young trans people have self-harmed and 45% have attempted suicide, so it needs to be dealt with and worked with in an informed and intelligent manner. Learn your shit. Educate yourself.
As I have said, representation is key, and for me, seeing trans/gender non-conforming models and public figures being present in the media and in the fashion industry, is a real fist in the air and a middle finger to the cisgay/cishet fashion industry ideals, however, there is still more to be done. We need to ensure that when we’re doing work with gender, it’s informed and researched. The amount of shoots that I have been involved with where it is clear that I’m being used and fetishised as a prop is ridiculous. A prop to ‘get someone a good grade’, or a prop to make the individuals work look ‘current and quirky’. We get it, you read i-D and you love drag race, but your gender acceptance needs to go further. Don’t use literal trans people in your work, and misgender them whilst you’re working with them.
When you’re constantly mocked on the streets, excluded from gendered spaces, and don’t even have your gender recognised legally, it’s incredibly demoralising and disappointing to see your life being elevated, and just as quickly dropped again by an industry that is constantly on the move. Just imagine living and navigating the world where you are constantly invalidated. The majority of advertising and media consumption that we see on the street involves binary gender options, from toilets to changing rooms, you’re constantly having to justify your human existence. We are not threatening. We are human beings, and we are just trying to live our lives, and we don’t need positive discrimination to feel validated. I don’t need 10 minutes in front of a camera to be misgendered but told that I’m beautiful. I don’t need this complex of ‘I feel accepted and the star here, but in actual fact, these people couldn’t give a shit about my real life’. I don’t need you to feel accepted. Acceptance comes from within darling.
For acceptance, first we need education. Stonewall, with whom I volunteer, have amazing amounts of free information on trans people in all aspects of life such as in the workplace, dating and relationships and trans inclusion in the family. The list literally goes on. It’s not my job to sit here and justify my gender identity to everyone I meet. It is also not my place to be your ‘quirky looking feature’. I know my own worth, and I am more than just the way that I look. Stop commercialising my gender for your financial gain whilst further pushing trans people to the bottom of the list when it comes to actual equality. Representation is nothing without real strength, fight and education from all sides.
Written by Jamie Windust
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