So, here’s some real talk: gender is kind of a thorny subject for me, mostly because I’m not sure exactly where (or even if) I fit onto the continuum of masculine-presenting, female-born people.
A quick encapsulation of a labyrinth of a subject: I’ve had top surgery but don’t take hormones, I’m not butch and I’m not comfortable with traditional lesbionic identifiers. I’m actually not that comfortable with she but I’m also uncomfortable with he or any of the newfangled pomo pronouns. I hate being called a woman or a lady or any other feminine-specific names.
In my attempts to just be myself, it seems, I’ve picked an extremely complicated life path to navigate. I think about transitioning probably once a month and maybe I will someday. I guess I’d call myself gender variant and on the trans spectrum. Mostly, when forced to consider it, I call myself gender transcendent.
Why am I telling you all this? Why am I getting all heavy on my fashion blog? I’m putting my heart on my sleeve for you, dear IBC readers and, more importantly, for style.
My kindred spirits, gender-wise, are few and far between. I think part of this has to do with the rebellious heart it takes to live outside the binary and part of it has to with a lack of visibility around those of us that do.
But the rebel is the epitome of style and the fashion industry has known this for years (see the list below for a few examples). How does a fella from within the ranks combat this invisibility issue? By creating a roll call of just such dashing rebels, of course. If you’re not inspired by this list, I don’t know what to tell you.
I don’t think anyone I’ve pulled together below shares the same expression as myself (or each other) but I think there’s a spiritual thread that runs through us all and that’s what I’ve chosen as my criteria–something as personal and ephemeral as my understanding of my own gender.
Without further ado, an extremely short list of well-dressed non-normatives who, like me, aren’t performing gender so much as transcending it. Caveat: I tried to research and note what people’s gender identity preferences are. I’m happy to post corrections if I’ve made an error or an incorrect assumption. Additionally, I’m sorely lacking the photo credits department so send me a heads up if you happen to have information on who shot what.
The grandpapa of handsome female dandies is Radclyffe Hall. Check out that bow tie! Radclyffe, in referring to herself as a “congenital invert” was clearly a forbearer of those of us on the trans-spectrum. She used female pronouns throughout her life, dated women and identified herself as lesbian (though her subscription to the “inversion” theory was certainly a super trans-y place to situate her gender). If being a famous author, sharp dresser and a bad-ass weren’t enough, she underwent, like Wilde, a sham obscenity trial over her brilliant The Well of Loneliness.
I don’t need to tell you how fucking awesome Jenny Shimizu is, but did you know that she is super stylish? Check out that outfit–understated, well-made clothing! She looks like a million bucks. She’s 43! Bam!
Now, as far as I can tell, Jenny identifies herself squarely in the butch lesbian camp. I mean, she does rebuild motorcycles. She also banged Madonna and fell in love with Angelina Jolie which is basically my fantasy life circa 1999. However you slice it, Shimizu is cut from a queer cloth and her gender expression is dangerously dapper.
I know I went there pretty recently, but I bring up JD Samson again because her gender identity and mine bear the most resemblance of any person I know. Also, her art/performance collective, MEN, is currently on tour! Mostly I wish I had a mustache.
Here’s there new single. JD gets to dress like a sea captain! Check out her lighthouse! Wow.
de Morny was a hugely controversial French painter and sculptor. She and Colette had a six year affair that ended with an onstage kiss at the Moulin Rouge that literally caused a riot. de Morny would likely have transitioned today: in her time, she had a hysterectomy and reportedly had her breasts removed. She was addressed, due to her lineage, as Monsieur le Marquis and she used female pronouns.
As an aside, I really wish people would call me Monsieur McBee.
Reportedly she was quite the playboy and drank and smoked her way through France. Sadly, she died by suicide in 1944.
Annemarie Schwarzenbach was a bona-fide REBEL! In pre-war Bohemian Berlin, “She lived dangerously. She drank too much. She never went to sleep before dawn,” recalled a friend. Nice! She ended up travelling the world taking photographs, writing and having lots of affairs while combating Fascism and resisting family pressure to stop causing a ruckus and get behind Hitler’s Germany. She documented through photographs the rise of Facism, had an affair with the daughter of a Turkish ambassador and rejected the amorous advances of Carson McCullers. That’s a life! Damn!
My pal Cubby Berk and I look like bizzaro twins in our faces but we are not any kind of related. However, I think our gender expressions are within the same ballpark–which is not so much a ballpark as a cosmic forcefield of complicated dissonance. (Cubby’s gender identity: “Lavender snowflake.”)
Cubby is a total musical genius and the lead singer of Lovers, whose electro-witchy-heartbreak queer line-up includes the dashingly boho PDX fashion stylings of her bandmates, Kerby Ferris and Emily Kingan. They all wear fantastic boots. Especially Emily Kingan.
Though I’ve focused on the female-born for this post, I see an intense gender soulmate in the beautiful Andrej Pejic. Pejic, if you haven’t noticed him on the cover of every fashion magazine worth looking at it, is a 19-year-old Serbian who models both menswear and womenswear. The stunning model uses male pronouns, started wearing make-up at thirteen, and made his first runway appearance for Jean Paul Gaultier Spring/Summer 2011. He’s modeled for Marc Jacobs, as well, and was featured in an editorial for Vogue Paris in September, 2010.
Of course, Andrej has had to put up with stupid shit from people in his hometown, but now he’s one of the most famous fashion models in the world. And there’s a moral here: style is about embodiment and we can see its cool manifestation from a mile away. F0r some of us–trans and not, space between and space beyond–gender is more than performance, afterthought or non-starter. It’s not a problem to be solved, just a gorgeous, crazy fundamental–a miracle to live.