Gendered rules of genderqueerness
When I came out as non-binary, I had no gender diverse friends, family or acquaintances. With no role models or anyone in solidarity with me, I took to the Internet. These online sources shaped what I thought I ought to feel and look like as a non-binary person. Also via the Internet, I began to make non-binary friends. These people were extremely influential in my understanding of being non-binary. These sources of information, however, were nowhere near helpful. In fact, they were pretty detrimental to my understanding and acceptance of my identity. In no time, I went from loving femininity, girlhood and myself, to chopping my hair, concealing my body, trying to lower my voice and developing hatred and disgust towards my body and myself. I thought I was way too feminine. I learnt I wasn’t a valid non-binary person unless I was strictly embracing masculinity. This meant short hair, no makeup, a thin androgynous body and dysphoria. I tried going with this narrow conception of non-binary gender, but I was miserable. I went through so much unlearning to get to where I am with my gender(s) today, but now I love my femininity, masculinity and androgyny all together and understand that there is no one way to be non-binary.
Feminine Menstrual products
I’m non-binary. I get periods. I’m tired of period products being referred to as “feminine”. I’m all for pushing to call these things “menstrual products”. “Menstrual” is way more accurate than “feminine” anyway. These products are for menstruation, and menstruation shouldn’t be gendered. Anyone can menstruate, regardless of any gendered designations. There’s nothing feminine about my non-binary uterus lining shedding; there’s nothing feminine about a trans-masculine or trans-male person’s uterus lining shedding; there’s nothing feminine about a masculine woman’s uterus lining shedding. A uterus is not inherently feminine; reproductive organs have no gender; they’re socially constructed as such.
I didn’t think anything of my period pre-identifying-as-non-binary, but due to gender essentialist social constructions of reproductive organs, when I came out, I began experiencing immense, sometimes even debilitating dysphoria about my set of organs. It was especially distressing during menstruation. I put in a lot of work towards unlearning this essentialist, binary gendering and unearning my internalized transphobia, and while this took a lot of time, I finally am comfortable again with my body and its functions, and I can confidently assert that there’s nothing feminine about my non-binary menstruation cycle or the menstruation products I use.
Bras, binders, bumless panties and boxers
I don’t know why, I mean no one’s going to see my underwear, but wearing gender affirming undergarments makes all the difference in my self-validation and overall confidence. With my vast collection of underwear, from bras I haven’t worn since adopting the term ‘non-binary’, to binders, to sports bras, to bralets, to boxers, briefs, bikinis, and backless panties, it’s almost like I can achieve any gender identity through matching up my underwear to my internal sense of identity. Choosing my coveted combinations allows me to engage with self-determination and validation of my subconscious perception of gender. So, every morning before getting ready for the day, I sit down with myself and contemplate, “what’s my gender today?”. With limitless possibilities, this reflection could go in any direction. Sometimes it’s an easy answer. Popular conclusions include: Dickies Dyke, femme boy, trans masc, femme, soft butch slutty, anything, all of it, and/or nothing at all. Sometimes I just won’t be able to find any clothes that feel good and right. On unfortunate occasions, it’s a distressing introspection into dysphoria and internalized erasure. Regardless, the most important step of getting ready is always selecting precisely the right gendered combination of undergarments.
Hairy, man-hating, bra-burning, lesbian feminist
I stopped shaving my legs in grade 10. It wasn’t political; I just couldn’t be bothered to upkeep the hairless legs I thought I was supposed to have. Then I started seeing posts about it being radical to stop shaving. These were mainly made by white and/or liberal feminists, and while I roll my eyes at them now, these strains of feminism were my gateways into the intersectional feminism that I now embrace. At the time, I hadn’t yet had my non-binary awakening. I remember thinking to myself, “huh, this is a way to keep women subordinate… Fuck that. I’m gonna flaunt my hairy legs with pride now”. And although there are way more radical acts of resistance, and despite being exhausted by liberal feminists constantly talking about their long blue armpit hair and nothing else, not shaving my legs really is quite liberating; first, as a fuck you to patriarchal Western beauty standards, second in my own identity as a dyke and a trans non-binary genderqueer femme boy. Although they’re generalizations aimed to depreciate feminism and pigeon-hole feminists, I find the stereotypes of a feminist personally amusing… Hairy, man-hating, bra-burning, lesbians? I pretty much check all of those boxes.
Consequences of presenting femme
I pass a man on the street. He looks at me, I smile faintly, he smiles back. His eyes burn into me. They crawl up my legs. He doesn’t even speak to me, but I feel violated. I’m late. I have no time to dwell. I think to myself, “I look femme today, so I guess this is how it’s gonna go… I do make a hot femme…” I shrug. Without a second thought, earphones in, I keep speed walking. He chases me. He must have walked a couple blocks in the other direction then turned around and ran – sprinted – down the street after me. Out of breath, he runs up behind me. I take an earphone out. He tells me he doesn’t mean to scare me but I’m cute and he had to tell me. He asks me out. I say I have a girlfriend. I keep speed walking. He follows. He asks, “you’re gay?”. I say yes. He asks me if I “want to try straight”.
This is what I was wearing. (Note: he was East Asian, I look extra EA wearing an oriental shirt, I wonder if this had anything to do with his interest in me).
If you like me, you’re gay. If you’re not down with the gays, get lost.
I’m vocal on my social media about my disdain towards men. I have been since high school, which is when I realized I was gay, and also, probably more importantly, when I confidently established that men are trash. Then I realized I was non-binary. I’m vocal about that too. Social media (well, some platforms) is a place where I can assert myself confidently and safely. I post about social justice, emphasis on LGBTQ+ justice and intersectionality. I post sometimes about the harassment I face; I talk about how I face an increase in harassment when I present as femme. I reblog spells on Tumblr to repel and curse homophobes and transphobes who may visit my blog. I lose a lot of (straight, white, cisgender, male, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic) followers for this reason. I think this is a nice cleanse.
I posted this meme one time on Instagram, I think in 1st year, and captioned it “@ cishet men: if you like me, you’re gay, so either admit you’re gay or leave me the f*ck alone”. I lost so many male followers, hahaha. Mainly the guys from high school who hadn’t unfollowed me yet for my other posts calling men out.
My cheongsams and other Chinese clothing represent the intersection of my gender and ethnicity. I own both women’s and men’s Chinese clothing, partially because I don’t care for the gendering of clothing, but mainly because I find it all beautiful, and a way to connect to my culture through diaspora. I used to feel ashamed of my Chinese ethnicity and hated being mixed-race because of Eurocentrism and internalized racism, but after years of repressing my Chineseness, I now feel so content and connected in my Chinese attire. Aside from wearing clothing regardless of gender, I also embody the symbolism of the dragon and the phoenix. Both associated with prosperity, the former is associated with masculinity and the latter with femininity. Together they are harmonious, like the symbolism of yin and yang. I feel empowered by my embodiment of both the dragon and the phoenix, as well as by my ability to wear both phoenix and dragon symbols and to wear both “women’s” and “men’s” clothing.
Flower-like beautiful boy
Until researching for this project, I only knew of binary terms for Chinese lesbians: T and Po. These are comparable to butch and femme respectively. Being genderqueer, I didn’t know which I’d be categorized as, and I had no other language for the conjunction of my sexuality and gender outside of these terms. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when I read Hu (2017) and learnt some new terms. While T and po are connoted with lesbian gender expression, I learnt that in Chinese and other East Asian cultures, zhongxing and huameinan are used to describe gender expression more broadly (Hu 2017). Hu focuses on the term zhongxing, which literally means “gender neutrality,” but also mentions that huameinan means “flower-like beautiful boys” (183). I love being a beautiful boy and adore the idea of being a flower-like beautiful boy. Despite being genderless by literal translation, zhongxing is increasingly used to describe women whose gender expression leans towards masculine (Hu 2017). This term resonates with me too, and I especially like the way Hu describes zhongxing style:
Typical outfits include stylish short hair commonly seen in popular men’s fashion magazines, well-tailored shirts or polo shirts in a masculine style, loose jeans or khakis, name brand sneakers, and sometimes sports bras or breast binders. Swaggering steps and dauntless attitudes often characterize the ways they carry themselves. (183)
This pretty accurately describes how I generally like to dress and carry myself. I love having these new terms to describe myself, relating to both my gender and ethnicity.
I started calling myself a Dickies Dyke. Firstly, because I like the consonance. Secondly, I very stereotypically love my Dickies. Lastly, I love the word dyke. Roberts (1979) traces the trajectory of the word, outlining its connotation with masculine lesbians, addressing the traditional derogatory meaning, and discussing the politicized reclamation. My foreparents’ reclaimed meaning of “dyke” is associated with activism, resistance, strength, pride, independence and self-determination. Although generally reclaimed regarding sexual orientation, and while I am a dyke in this sense, I feel like “dyke” accurately describes my gender. I know it typically refers to a masculine gay woman, but despite not being a woman, the term really resonates. In a sense I have reappropriated “dyke” again for my own self-determination. To me, as an AFAB person attracted to femininity whose gender fluctuates through femme, femme boy, trans-masc, agender, and several other gender designations, I feel that my sexual orientation in conjunction with my gender accurately places me in the realm of dykeyness. I’m a dyke. I love women and femmes. I’m not as masc as a butch, nor as strictly fem as a femme. I’m strong and independent. I’m an activist. I’m super queer and proud.
Everything is drag (reflections on makeup and genderfluidity, genderfluxivity)
I was trying to choose a new profile picture, so I was going through my best selfies. I narrowed it down to two options and couldn’t help but laugh at myself. Not to reduce gender to mutually exclusive binary categories, but I really selected the most masc photo of myself and the most femme. I’m in straight up drag makeup in these two photos; the first being masc drag, the second being femme, both done by my talented girlfriend.
I know that when I posted the femme photo earlier on Instagram, most people just saw a g*rl in glam makeup, but my girlfriend and I know that I was a boy that day and that she asked to doll me up in femme glam drag. The masc drag photo is pretty clearly drag. I wish that people saw the femme photo as drag too. And I mean honestly, being genderfluid and genderflux, any makeup I ever have on borders drag. It’s all a way to manipulate my appearance anywhere from genderless to an all-encompassing gender, from masculine to feminine, anywhere in ambiguity and androgyny.
Hu, Yu-Ying. “Mainstreaming female masculinity, signifying lesbian visibility: The rise of the zhongxing phenomenon in transnational Taiwan”. Sexualities, vol. 22, no. 1-2, 2019, pp. 182-202. Sage Journals, doi:10.1177/1363460717701690. Accessed 10 Oct 2019.
Roberts, JR. “In America They Call Us Dykes: Notes on the Etymology and Usage of ‘Dyke’”. Edited by Harriet Desmoines and Catherine Nicholson. Sinister Wisdom, vol. 9, 1979, pp. 2-11. http://sinisterwisdom.org/sites/default/files/Sinister%20Wisdom%209.pdf. Accessed 19 Oct 2019.
Entrepreneurship & Monetization. Hm.
I have a background in businesses and entrepreneurship, so our talk from Trevor was a lot of things I have already heard through marketing classes, but it was interesting to hear in terms of publishing our unique websites.
It seems funny to put a price tag on art and creative work, but for artists and creatives, this is what they deal with everyday.
I have some friends that are musicians, and I’ve heard many times from them about how it can be frustrating to self-promote and sell tickets to shows when really all you care about is the art of creating. I think for this to be sustainable and not a ‘sell-out’ situation, monetization has to be carefully thought out with lots of emphasis put into maintaining your core values.
This is the struggle shown by the “The Toast is Toast” reading (Carpenter, 2016). This blog had incredible content and a strong following; however they weren’t able to get enough financial support, and the administrative tasks of website upkeep became two much for the blogging duo. This is the danger of wanting art to remain separate from business.
In considering my own website, I have linked to a lot of related bloggers and products that my readers may be interested in. If I was to monetize, I would like to carefully curate the businesses being addressed on my site, and preferably I would like to have relationships with the companies I am linking to. This way I could monitor what is being promoted through my voice.
For this semester, I will refrain from installing ads on my website and instead reach out to some bloggers that may be interested in collaborating with me!
This photo essay delves into the complexity of drag culture and non-binary identity through an auto-ethnographic study. With the help of my girlfriend, I transform into several drag looks then reflect on the process in relation to gender identity. Each look has a drag name, pronouns, a unique persona, and a song that they would perform to. The project explores drag in relation to gender performativity and gender roles. In the process, I find that drag, for me, functions as an extension of my gender and allows me to perform and embody heightened gendered expressions.
Tuxedhoe Masc is a femme boy. He is here and he is queer. He is gay and here to say, ‘down with toxic masculinity!’ A play on Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon, the ideal dream boy, Tuxedhoe Masc is indeed a dreamboat. He is tall, dark and handsome. He is mysterious like Tuxedo Mask, but still emotionally available. He is in touch with his feminine side, his masculinity, and the fluidity of his gender, while still being a confident ladies’ man. Tuxedhoe Masc performs feminist masculinities, disrupting traditional gendered expectations, rejecting male dominance and female degradation, and reinventing masculinity as queer (Basaliere, 2019). Feminist masculinities acknowledge the overarching social contexts in which gendered performances play out, and creates a space for new, healthy masculinities.
Ms Dyswhoria is a bit of a slut. She uses her femininity to play the patriarchal system and get what she wants. She’s a queer queen who fakes straight when she wants something she couldn’t otherwise attain. This act of ‘realness’ (Bailey, 2011) is an act of resilience. The name of this drag look is a play on gender dysphoria. As an AFAB non-binary person, who hasn’t undergone any transition except for some chest binding, in a world where gender roles are rampant, I experience so much social dysphoria. By performing a heightened femininity, I feel as though I’m sticking it to those who dictate that non-binary has a certain look (androgynous, thin, white). I can be hyper-femme and non-binary. Further, I can use that hyper-femininity to exploit the binary gender system that enforces the roles that make me feel this dysphoria.
Song: XS – Rina Sawayama
Stoned Priestx is so extra. Xe doesn’t conform to any rules. This look was the most fun and most difficult to create. Not wanting to conform to masculinity or femininity in anyway, Stoned Priestx beats xyr face to reject traditional gender roles and create endless queer gender possibilities. To xem, traditional gender roles mean nothing; xe envisions a future of queerness and fluidity when it comes to gender. Stoned Priestx breaks the binary and embraces a matrix of infinite gender possibilities. Xe performs to XS by Rina Sawayama as the song is about wanting “more, more, more, more, more,” and Stoned Priestx wants to be the most. Xe is inspired by club kid style and culture which centralizes gender fluidity, extravagance, and DIY aesthetics (Boulay, 2020).
Song: Dynasty – Rina Sawayama
Mixxxed Dynasty is all mixxxed up. In terms of gender, they are queer and fluid. Racially, she is a mix of Chinese, Irish, English and Welsh heritage. This look is an act of reclamation of the appropriation of xyr Chinese culture that frequents the mainstream. White girls is cheongsams, white boys in changshans, popular brands using traditional oriental patterns and materials… The list goes on. Mixxxed Dynasty may be all mixxxed up, but he is sure of one thing: He is tired of the appropriation and bastardization of his culture and he wants to take it back. Mixxxed Dynasty performs to Dynasty by Rina Sawayama, who is also queer and of East Asian descent.
Song: Immaterial – SOPHIE
Dimsumdyke is just as their name suggests: A big ol’ dyke. This final look portrays how, for me, everything is drag. Even my day to day looks feel like drag as non-binary, genderfluid individual. Dimsumdyke’s look is a casual look, nothing campy or extra about it at all, as Dimsumdyke is very shy by nature. They perform to Immaterial by SOPHIE as the lyrics reflect the binary that they feel simultaneously caught between and outside. Further, the more camp-like nature of the song contrasts their shy nature to reflect the internal conflict between being a raging genderqueer dyke and the constraints of conforming to society and appearing ‘acceptable’.
Drag is an art form that can be embodied infinitely. For some drag performers, a drag persona is separate from their day-to-day self (CBC Arts, 2020). Conversely, for other performers, including myself, it is nearly impossible to differentiate between drag and day-to-day gender. This project unveiled realms of gendered possibilities for me, all of which overlap in one way or another. The fluidity of gender is quite apparent in my transformations and queering and rejection of traditional gendered expectations. My drag functions to dismantle oppressive systems and create new, healthy, infinite gender possibilities.
Bailey, Marlon. “Gender/ Racial Realness: Theorizing the Gender System in Ballroom Culture.” Feminist Studies, 37.2 (2011): 365-386.
Basilere, Jae. “Staging Dissents: Drag kings, resistance, and feminist masculinities.” Signs, 44.4 (2019): pp. 979- 999.
Boulay, Nadine. “Week 5- June 12th.” Simon Fraser University, 12 June 2020.
CBC Arts. “We are not worthy of the talents of non-binary ‘drag thing’ Rose Butch.” 14 Feb 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJaOzlAyoLo.
Below are some Gifs that inspired my art and styling this month. I admire the use of bold colours (specifically a large amount of primary colours), the abstract patterns, and the strong energy of the models.
Here’s a little bit of me!
*The above image was taken from Nishita’s Blog.
A peer review on audience and channels
Nishita’s Blog is vibrant and eclectic gallery of multi-media art. The overall aesthetics are consistent, easy to navigate, and convey a style that seems to be very reflective of Nishita herself: on her about page Nishita shares her love of hip hop, which is ever-present in the style and colours for this blog. The pages themselves are purposely monochromatic: the dark background acts as the perfect wall, drawing all attention to the images of art. As Travis Gerts explains in his article Design Machines: How to survive the digital apocalypse, “nothing makes a drop of colour brighter than when it’s set against a wall of grey”. Most of the images are vibrant, and bright pieces of art, contrasting well against the simple and dark theme. With this in mind, I find the title of her blog really hard to read against the busy background – changing the font colour from black to white, or even to the same red as the paper garland would allow for the title of the blog to pop, and become a lot more legible.
While navigating Nishita’s website, the first noticeable graphics were the large Instagram icons on the right, under the blog tab. There is a main instagram page that is private, as well as public art page While this is a wonderful way of building a following and audience, I would recommend linking your blog to your Instagram, which would allow for a stronger use of this cross-promotion. In addition, I would recommend making the main page public to allow for greater audience and reach – especially as it is labeled main, which leaves me to assume that traffic would be preferably diverted here as opposed to the accompanying art page. If this is not the case, I would remove the main link altogether. This seesaw between personal blog and art blog speaks to the multidisciplinary qualities of social media, and the undefined rules of online networks, which are “bringing change to all forms of information” (Kissane).
The mixed modes of art is really wonderful: this blog truly highlights Nishita’s talent and versatility. When it comes to videos, however, I could be cautious with the auto-play. For example, the blog tab automatically plays the last video at the bottom of the page – a vibrant alleyway filled with colourful street art and vendors. At first, its hard to say where the sound is coming: I check all my other tabs to see if there might be an add somewhere, or a video that popped up. We’ve all seen those people I class, in a café, or in a library, who interrupt the silence with an unexpected video, and panic trying to turn the sound off. Similarly, I often find myself browsing websites in a public space, and exit the website immediately as opposed to taking time to find the source of the sound. Keeping this in mind, especially if this blog is looking at retention, lower bounce rate, and overall keeping track of the analytics. If the auto-play function is something particularly desired, perhaps the blog could have a pop up muted video, like in Lonely Planet’s landing page, so the user immediately knows where the sound is coming from. Similarly, having a preview of the post as opposed to the entire post would allow for reduced scrolling, and potentially more retention: the easier it is to find what you need, the better the experience for the user, which means a higher chance of returning to the blog.
These simple suggestions could help elevate the blog to the next level, creating a stronger sense of legitimacy, and foster a strong following. Overall, Nishita does a beautiful job of curating her website to best highlight her art. If you’re an art enthusiast, or an artist yourself, I recommend you check out her work here!