• Daniela Fernández aka Strawberry Shortcake

Don’t Blame it on Fashion Edition 2: Your identity is your business

You're not obliged to demonstrate androgyny, femininity, or anything in between. The gender spectrum rides a roller coaster that can lead us into and out of misgendering others and ourselves. Fashion and presentation of oneself is about expression and identity; however, it does not grant permission to anyone to make assumptions about your labels or lack thereof: your identity is your business.

Speaking of labels, junior Phia O’Gorman (they/she) says, “I prefer labels. I do present feminine. I do it because I want to feel comfortable and pretty, but I also present androgynous if I feel like it, but people still see me as feminine.” Humans are not simple beings, yet they associate people with their most common presentation as though it cannot change. O’Gorman’s quote exposes the fear of false impressions gender non-conforming people experience. To address the privilege of cisgender men as a feminine presenting woman is dangerous, yet possibly more so for those people who do not fit in the fragile female ideal. A lack of femininity makes it increasingly difficult, yet not impossible, for the patriarchy to sexualize people, therefore initiating disorientation for conventional male nonsense.

Contrary to O'Gorman’s perspective, I feel restricted by labels and strive to religiously reject the system that degrades me as a human because of my identity. The patriarchal society enforces and defines femininity as weak and delicate, hence my deliberate attempt to demonstrate my powerful voice and body counteracting the stereotypical femininity. I find dressing and presenting traditionally feminine satisfies my desire for validation and acceptance. Women are expected and encouraged to appear attractive to the male gaze, and often feel validated when they are perceived as beautiful by the male audience. Correspondingly, women are primarily verified as women when they are feminine, delicate, and beautiful, therefore, I feel uniformity in my presentation.

You don’t owe anyone an explanation.

My choice to avoid labels remains unwavering to enforce correct pronoun use and gendering. I adopt an identity as a woman with specific pronouns (she/they), while simultaneously being uninterested in labels in association with the sex, gender, pronouns, and sexuality I identify with. By reason of my feminine presentation and female sex, I have undergone my percentage of discrimination and regularly favor an escape from the box that labels designate. As a result of my “bimbo” presentation, the male gaze keeps me feeling objectified yet adored. And to address my reference to the “bimbo” presentation I declare that it is time for women to take back the derogatory terms placed upon us. Both a “bimbo”, an attractive yet incoherent young woman, and a “slut”, a woman with many casual sexual partners, have negative connotations. Referring to myself as someone with a bimbo or “slutty” presentation, with a “girly” frivolous style allows me to derive power from the patriarchal system and push back against the connotations of those terms with no shame. I prefer to choose who I want to be each day, whether I push the dress code with my provocativeness or not. I want to make it as laborious as possible for any man, or the misogynistic system we live in, to degrade me.

In a system of gender binarism, gender and sexual identity can be hard concepts to grasp. Numerous cultures and social environments have yet to accept or even understand equal rights for those on the non-traditional sides of the gender and sexuality spectrum. Interest and accessibility can be sparse due to an imperative focus on social and fiscal survival. For instance, my Latino culture, including the majority of my family, widely nurtures and welcomes faith in Christianity. Christianity is notorious for not separating church and state, influencing governments around the world. In my experience, Christian/Catholic Latinos lack tolerance and acceptance of modern gender terminology and behavior. However, many privileged white cisgender people also choose ignorance against identity acceptance, rejecting chances to update their education about gender. Religion, political beliefs, and misinformation can create generational ignorance. As a result, the lack of self-discovery in young people in these disadvantaged or insensitive communities manifests as confusion and low self-esteem.

Many dismiss teens' physical appearance and interests as mere phases. I heard a typical freshman cisgendered (he/him) boy actually say, “I never thought [fill in the gender/sexuality/pronoun] was weird because it made sense to me. People around me were not necessarily on the binary, it was just how people were.” This was music to my ears yet it reminded me of how uncommon an accepting freshman boy is, and how effortless it is for majority groups to “not care.” Unfortunately, the abnormality of a accepting mind persists in the patriarchy that does not deem assisting those with fewer rights as respectable.

As much pressure as each of us receives to fit a predetermined gender and sexuality presentation, society will not accept you as yourself and will discriminate regardless. Come what may — a male with nail polish and a crop top or a woman dressed like Adam Sandler (trashy athletic clothing) — your body and identity are yours and not their business. However, safety is essential; therefore, be aware that not everyone has reached the enlightened acceptance of gender variation we hope to see.


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