In a post-Caitlyn Jenner world, male and female identities are getting challenged daily. RACHEL GIESE reports on the people behind the new pronouns.
“GENDER IS OVER!” THAT WAS
the message emblazoned across Miley Cyrus’s tank top this past July in an Instagram, which went on to garner more than 540,000 likes. In June, the 22-year-old pop star launched a social justice campaign called Happy Hippie Presents #InstaPride, which aims to educate her 23 million followers about people who do not label themselves strictly male or female. The project features personal stories, along with portraits shot by Cyrus herself. “Anyone should be able to express how they feel, without question, and be able to live, and use the f—ing public restrooms,” Cyrus told the media when she kicked off the campaign.
Cyrus’s allyship (a community term for support) is a sign that awareness of gender diversity—including identities such as trans, gender fluid, genderqueer, non-gendered and other labels that go beyond male and female—has entered the mainstream. Teenagers are sharing their transition experiences via YouTube and Vine videos, and celebrities like Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox, model Andreja Pejić, TV host Janet Mock, Olympian-turned-reality-TVstar Caitlyn Jenner and activist Chaz Bono are speaking up for transgender rights. Last year, Facebook began offering a few dozen options for gender in a drop-down menu, but even that proved limited. Since February the site has offered a free-form field in which users can customize their gender. Taken together, it does seem, as Time magazine said in a 2014 cover story on Cox, that we are experiencing “the transgender tipping point.”
Take Pejić—who was on the cover of FASHION Magazine’s February 2012 issue well before Caitlyn Jenner arrived. She first made her mark in fashion in 2010 as a womenswear model in French Vogue while identifying as an androgynous male (her Australian passport allowed her to have an “X” rather than an “F” or “M” in the gender box) but then transitioned to female in 2014. She has since appeared in Vogue and just landed a major contract (alongside actress Jamie Chung) with the professional cosmetics line Make Up For Ever, accompanied by the slogan “Be Bold. Be Unexpected. Be You.” Pejić’s ascent reflects a new embrace of gender fluidity in the fashion world—an industry that plays a significant role in how gender is defined and displayed. This past year, several labels, including Prada, Burberry and Coach, had women model menswear, and Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, showcased a line for men that featured lace, bows, ruffles and floral patterns. Meanwhile, London department store Selfridges has devoted three floors to Agender, a pop-up boutique of unisex clothes.
In Canada, award-winning musician and author Rae Spoon has long been an outspoken advocate for nonbinary gender identity. Growing up in a conservative evangelical family in Calgary, Spoon was expected to be an obedient, religious wife but instead came out first as queer and then as a trans man. Then, a couple of years ago, around the age of 30, Spoon announced a retirement from gender altogether. “At the time, I had been going by the pronoun ‘he’ for about 10 »
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE:
ANDREJA PEJIĆ, RUBY ROSE, LAVERNE COX, MILEY CYRUS, CAITLYN JENNER
AND BINX WALTON