Don’t get me wrong ladies, you know that I am here for the love and the self exploration that leads to millions of people living life as their authentic selves every single day, because as a person I went and am still going through that process. This week I am writing about the trials and tribulations of trends, and how their impact in the fashion/beauty industry leaves a larger social footprint than once thought.(I know… last week I was talking about tea and here I am laying down the LAW).
As someone who can empathise and physically put myself in both sides of the argument I am going to explain, trends are nonsensical. They’re something that are made for NUMEROUS reasons. Trends can be made solely to sell product. Trends can be made because of the traditional catwalk – to – high street hierarchy of the fashion life cycle, for example Gucci over the past two years has been influencing the high street more than ever, from Zara to Topshop, florals and ruffled blouses have been everywhere and that’s thanks to the likes of the fashion elite, like Gucci. Trends can also spawn from the ground up and come from a more sociological perspective, such as gender neutrality or the Black Lives Matter movement. These sociopolitical movements have subsequently had an impact on the fashion/beauty industry because of the magnitude of their support and voice in the real world (not that fashion isn’t real but … you catch my drift ladies). What frustrates me about trends is just that – they’re trends. By nature trends have a life span, meaning trends that are based around colour (I don’t know let’s pick YELLOW… randomly of course) fade in and fade out without a second glance because the fact that yellow (although DEEPLY PAINFUL) not being on the shelves isn’t something that is going to necessarily have huge social impact. However, the crossover of the life span of a trend when that trend focuses on gender is something that troubles me and that’s the main focus of this post and the issue that’s been buzzing around my head for QUITE some time.
Gender neutrality is definitely the ‘flavour of the month’. From magazine to magazine, Dazed to i-D, gender non-conformity is being spread around and shared across the globe on a large scale, which is something that I adore. Seeing people being given a platform that thousands upon thousands of people have been campaigning for, for decades, truly warms my heart. People such as Hari Nef and Rain Dove, people who openly celebrate their trans/gender nonconforming identities and share them with the world are widely being loved and cherished which is just what I, as a gender nonconforming person wants to see. Where this issue drips into obscurity for me is when people who are either a) uneducated and unwilling to learn or b) clearly just trend based and ignorant, utilise the trend of ‘gender’ as something that ‘looks chic’ but isn’t actually a hot topic that they’re going to spend their time researching or caring about.
Being at a creative arts university and being gender nonconforming is something that has meant attention from creatives has flooded my basement, however in this instance it has meant I have delved into the world of modelling, being a muse, being interviewed and generally being poked and prodded for all my own personal gender experiences, which I have decided is FINE. If what I am doing is going to be broadcast out there for people to make THEIR OWN truths about, then I can only see that as a positive thing. However, saying this, that does not mean that I have not had run ins with people utilising me for my somewhat CHIC aesthetic, but not giving two hoots about the physical/emotional/social impact of the way that I am alive on this planet affects me as a person. Here are just a few tips from yours truly about discussing gender in your work:
- Use REAL trans/genderNC/LGBTQIA+ people.
“Oh I couldn’t find a model”, or “Oh well I didn’t want to offend them” are NOT excuses for doing projects on gender and not using actual real life trans models. If you’re worried about offending people whilst doing a shoot about trans/genderNC people then well… you probably shouldn’t be doing a shoot on it because you’ve either a) not done your research or b) are just utilising their unique and gorgeous gender identity and expression as a tool to further your career, whilst completely not caring about the rights and lives of the people you’re milking for content. Sorry about it.
2. DO YOUR RESEARCH
There is no use in doing a shoot/interview with trans/genderNC people and not knowing what to do/say. Take it from someone who has been on shoots before where people don’t know pronouns or your story, and instantly freeze when the actual REAL life logistics of gender identity come up. DO RESEARCH on your models/muses/subjects. Don’t just presume that because you’ve watched one episode of Transparent or I Am Cait that you are suddenly a walking talking trans know it all. NO one is, and the best you can do is get to know who you’re working with because they’ll thank you for taking a real interest in their life, and being mature and DECENT enough to be able to care for them, and not just want to use them for their cheekbones. Gender is unique to every person. A snowflake if you will.
3. Don’t do it if you’re seeing it as a trend.
This is a tricky one because Gender is a sociopolitical trend at the moment. The movement is growing and the education and knowledge that our generation has is astounding compared to generations previous. If your work is prompting conversation about gender, or takes a real raw, inspired and WELL RESEARCHED angle then by all means do it. However, if you’re clearly wearing eye make up and taking pictures of your cis white straight friend, or even your cis white gay friend in a pair of tights and lipstick and classing yourself as the next Leigh Bowery, then i’d think again. Gender identity and gender expression can be death sentences for some people. It’s a topic that literally can kill people, drive people to poverty, and force people to be ostracised from society to the edge of darkness. So many creatives use gender which is AMAZING, but don’t give trans/genderNC people false hope by making it look like you care about us, when you actually just want good grades, or to be on the front cover of Dazed.As I said at the start of this post, I adore anything that explores gender in a diverse, open and comfortable way, and for people to find themselves and explore their gender identity and expression through fashion/art/beauty to me is ethereal. But it’s offensive to me (and that’s important – FOR ME, not the whole community) to see cisexual (gender matches sex at birth) straight and gay people wearing make up and a skirt for a photoshoot, but then leaving the studio and not caring that trans people all across the world are being denied their fundamental human rights. To see people wearing clothing that don’t traditionally match their gender for art/creative purposes, but then not being ALLIES to their fellow trans/genderNC humans across the world who might struggle with the simplest of tasks such as buying clothes, going to the bathroom, walking home is detrimental and down right barbaric.
If you’re going to explore something, BE knowledgeable, BE open, BE responsive, BE responsible and BE an ally. We want to be able to make the world a better place, and by having creatives want to explore us as people, it’s an amazing opportunity that even 20 years ago wouldn’t have happened, so USE IT to highlight whatever angle of trans/genderNC people you’re trying to highlight. Whether it be the plight or the pleasure, BE there because we need friends and we need your support, no matter how strong we are.