Let’s not skirt the trans is­sue

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Jackie Burger calls it neo­trans. When I looked on­line to see who else was us­ing the term, all I found was a freight com­pany.

The fash­ion com­mu­nity usu­ally seizes the op­por­tu­nity to spot and name a trend, but it’s been rather quiet about the dawn of gen­der-free fash­ion. Per­haps it’s be­cause trans cul­ture and queer cul­ture aren’t pass­ing trends. The past year has been one of sus­tained main­stream vis­i­bil­ity for queer peo­ple, from trans men and women to gen­der-bend­ing in­di­vid­u­als and peo­ple who don’t sub­scribe to gen­der la­bels.

Love or loathe them, we can’t deny the ef­fect of the pos­i­tive re­sponse the Kar­dashian-Jen­ner clan re­ceived when Cait­lyn Jen­ner in­tro­duced her­self, not to men­tion the back­ing of main­stream, thought-shap­ing ti­tles such as Van­ity Fair, Buz­zFeed and Time. But race and class dy­nam­ics con­tinue to en­trench the hi­er­ar­chy re­gard­ing which bod­ies are rep­re­sented and ac­cepted.

I’m in­ter­ested in the idea of gen­der-free fash­ion and whether this shift has re­sulted from in­creas­ing gen­der equal­ity or a new form of one of fash­ion’s favourite trends: “the an­drog­y­nous look”. Will it, like other trends, be gone in a year?

Women have been wear­ing menswear for decades, ex­em­pli­fied by now-for­got­ten items like boyfriend jeans and jack­ets. It seems it’s fi­nally time for men wear­ing women’s clothes to be just as nor­mal. The lat­est Louis Vuit­ton cam­paign fea­tures ac­tor Jaden Smith wear­ing a skirt, stand­ing ca­su­ally among women. The lat­est Marc Jacobs cam­paign fea­tures trans di­rec­tor Lana Wa­chowski as the face of the brand. Menswear at Gucci has boldly tran­si­tioned into fem­i­nine luxe at the helm of Alessan­dro Michele, with del­i­cate flo­ral blouses, silk scarves and tra­di­tion­ally femme hues worn by men in girly bobs and over­sized sun­glasses.

Here at home, de­sign­ers Jody Paulsen and Adriaan Kuiters’ cloth­ing la­bel AKJP has been mak­ing uni­sex cloth­ing for some time, while on­line store Su­per­bal­ist re­cently pub­lished an ar­ti­cle by San­diso Ngubane on his love for women’s cloth­ing and how this has lit­tle to do with his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. The ar­ti­cle fea­tures other in­di­vid­u­als – some who iden­tify as male and oth­ers as gen­der-blur­ring/bend­ing – wear­ing women’s high-heeled shoes, dresses and fem­i­nine tops.

What does neo­trans fash­ion mean? Are the leaps made by queer com­mu­ni­ties be­ing used by the fash­ion in­dus­try for profit, as aca­demic Mary Rizzo ar­gues, or is gen­der-free fash­ion the be­gin­ning of the re­lax­ation of rigid so­cial norms when it comes to per­form­ing one’s gen­der? What of the fact that Pan­tone’s colours of 2016 are Rose Quartz and Seren­ity, a blended jux­ta­po­si­tion of what re­sem­bles pas­tel pink and baby blue? Will neo­trans cat­a­pult us into do­ing away with pink for girls and blue for boys al­to­gether?



San­diso Ngubane slays on Su­per­bal­ist’s gen­der-free blog

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