In Response To Orlando

Pride, a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s achievements, the achievements of one’s close associated, or from qualities or possession that are widely admired.

Unconditional, not subject to any conditions.

Love, a strong feeling of affection.

I am fiercely supportive of those who need support. There's nothing that can solidify unconditional love, other than the person offering it. No title of ‘mother’ ‘brother’ ‘sister’ or ‘friend’ will mean that someone will love you unconditionally. People will turn on you and chuck you out as and when they wish, even if you share a bond of blood or years. Obligations aren’t a true foundation for acceptance, utterances like ‘i’ll always love you because you’re my daughter’ and ‘you’re my best friend, I have to love you’ mean nothing in the face of immediate judgment when you decide to embrace your identity.

So many people look toward religion, society and ‘the norm’ to justify the ingrained oppressive values they harbour due to years of hatred. They explain away bigoted thoughts with phrases like ‘it’s just the way I was raised’ or ‘the [insert holy scripture] says!!’ or ‘f**k you [insert slur].' But really it’s just laziness and an inability to change. It’s an indifference to the pain they’re causing by not checking their own privilege. It’s an inability to study their own opinions and wonder why so many people have a problem with it. It’s the niggling feeling in the back of their minds that tells them they should probably think about reevaluating their beliefs if violence is the only defence mechanism they can think of.

What happened in Orlando was HOMOPHOBIA, it wasn't an attack on humanity, it wasn't a religiously fuelled attack. It was someone disgusted that people could love each other in a way that he couldn’t process or understand.

However, just because the attack was on queer people, it does not mean it’s only the job of queer people to rally and fight up. Queer folks have the right to grieve, be scared, be hollow and process the horrific attack on their safe spaces. Now the rest of the world must rally and show the community they care. The rest of the world must talk about it, must raise their voices and shout outrage; they must not rest until gun control laws are updated and they must reassure the queer community that love is still present.

Unconditional love isn’t a phrase; it’s an action. So act.

By Krishanthi Jeyakumar, she/her, @krishithink

One Step Closer To The Wardrobe of My Dreams: A Chat With GDL Clothing

My last thoughts on gender and clothing manifested themselves in Androgynous Fashion: My Queer Struggle and since then my quest for androgynous clothes that fit my body has not stopped. I’m back with another post because I have made progress! It all started when I found Dannielle Owens-Reid’s youtube video; How To Get A Wardrobe YOU Love. This video led me to two great things. One, a less cluttered wardrobe due to getting rid of clothes I don’t wear (they’re far better off in charity shop) and two, falling in love with old clothes again by altering them. I lost a few button ups along the way during this one, but now I have a few that fit me perfectly and I got to play around with different materials and my sewing kit whilst doing so.

I am enjoying being proactive in my quest for confidence in my style and whilst finding things I can do, I have also stumbled upon some great things other people are doing, one of them being GDL Clothing. When they popped up in my Instagram feed, I was happy to have found brand that prides itself in breaking the boundaries of gender specific sections and making affordable clothing while doing so. They stock tees and accessories based on style, not gender and great ones at that! In my endeavour to find out more, I got in touch with brand creator Lucy Hayes and asked them a few questions.

How did it all start? What are your influences? 

It all started in April/May 2015. The idea came about after I got fed up of finding clothing in gender specific sections, e.g. Topman, River Island men’s. I started hand-making a few unisex garments, printing my own t-shirts and creating a style that suited me. The more I wore the clothing, the more people asked where they were from, and this is where the journey began. My girlfriend, Laura-Amie, was onboard from the beginning, she built us a website and we started to narrow the products down ready for a launch. 

The brand & logo ‘GDL Clothing’ stands for genderless clothing. We wanted to use this wording because after researching the market, the word ‘genderless’ wasn’t being used too often, but it was being talked about enough and we wanted to keep things original. Fast forward to October, we officially launched the brand with about 4 Instagram followers (ourselves!) and a friend that Laura went to school with joined us almost immediately after launching as the GDL photographer (Abigail Lewis). So here we are!  

GDL's Love is Genderless & OUT tees 

How do you define ‘genderless’ when it comes to your clothing?

The word genderless in context of our clothing, doesn’t direct the fashion at people who don’t identify as either gender/non-binary, it simply means whoever you are, you can shop at GDL. The genderless term to us means that we’re inclusive. We encourage equality, which is something that will always be in the foundation of the brand.

Gender specific shop sections are something that a lot of queer and non-binary people struggle with and by creating boundary breaking clothing you’re certainly apart of the current gender conversation. Was this intentional when you started the brand?

Yes and no! Having had personal experiences with shopping in gender specific sections to create a style that the clothing may not have necessarily been made for, then yes absolutely this is exactly what the brand does. We’re pushing boundaries by showing that one t-shirt can be worn by so many people and various styles. On the other hand, something that was really important to us when we started to build GDL was that our clothing was not specifically targeted at the LGBTQ community as this again can often give off an ‘us & them’ kind of message - we want equality for all, and we’d like to give everyone the opportunity to shop by style over gender. This of course doesn’t take away from the fact that we are huge supporters of gay, lesbian, bi, trans and non-binary people.

We appreciate the styles may not be to everyone’s taste, but we’re really proud to say that we’re part of a potential movement into a more equal and revolutionary way of shopping for clothing.

Molly in the World Wide Vibes tank!

Molly in the World Wide Vibes tank!

At the moment gender is being talked about more than ever before, do you think this will influence a shift in the binary attitude of high street fashion?

We really hope so. We think this is the perfect time to have launched because, like you say, this is such a hot topic at the minute. We’re keeping our eyes pealed for the ‘Stonewall’ movement that we’re hoping will see us move forward with non-binary terms, rights and access to many exciting possibilities. It would be fantastic to see gender-neutral changing rooms in stores, and hopefully gender-neutral clothing departments too.

What is your favourite part of doing what you do?

Lucy: For me, it’s knowing that people like myself, who have often felt pushed into a certain direction, could have the opportunity to shop openly without judgement. This was the main reason the brand was created and we will always want to keep that ethos. It’s really exciting to hear such great things being fed back to us, we didn’t realise the journey we would embark on with so many people. We’re a really small brand/company and for people to be so interested and excited about our brand is so flattering.

Laura: Combining style and gender equality into one. I love fashion, and I love the endless styles of how you can wear the clothing. Being very feminine myself, I like to wear some of my GDL tops with a denim skirt and boots, whereas Luc will wear hers with ripped jeans and converse. For me, the diversity of the brand is what I love most about what we do.

I enjoy everything about GDL, our team are brilliant and although we don’t all agree on everything, we’re all on the same page and GDL is constantly fresh.

Plus, I get to be a part of something I’m very passionate about, while promoting something as amazing as gender equality!

and finally, what does the future hold for GDL Clothing?

This is only just the beginning! As we’ve only recently launched, we’ve huge things planned for GDL’s future. We want to expand our ranges into a few categories of genderless clothing. We’ve just launched a racerback gym vest with the GDL emblem logo which can be worn to workout or as a casual summer look, so at the minute we’re exploring different styles and needs for clothing. We’ve just finished off a shoot featuring ‘Hype Gym’ who are backing the GDL concept, they seem to be quite excited about the brand.

We’re eventually hoping to get into stores. We want to create a genderless shopping space in high street stores as well as unique, quirky stores. It will be really interesting to see where the next movement of gender-neutral changing rooms takes us - we hope it kicks off as we’d like to be a huge part of this movement and development.

We’re constantly working on new products and designs, the ideas come very naturally to our work-flow, if we want to try something, we’ll give it go at the very least! 

Finally, we’re also looking to support Pride Cymru this year which we’re incredibly excited about.

As an aside, we’ve been lucky enough to feature in a Wales Online article recently (http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/fashion/women-created-genderless-clothing-after-10859353). They interviewed us about the brand and were extremely supportive of the concept. We’ve also recently been given the opportunity of shooting with international model, Sophie Lord. Sophie joined us for a location shoot at a really great cafe-bar called Gwdihw (if you’re ever in Cardiff, it’s worth visiting just for the experience!)

By Molly Adams

Starting The Conversation: Answering Your Questions About Being Non-binary

I'm starting the conversation for many who don't know how or where to start it, here are my answers to some frequently asked questions about being non-binary.

What does it mean to be non-binary?

Non-binary is an umbrella term used for people who don’t identify within the binary genders of man and woman. The reason it is considered an umbrella is because there are many different ways people experience being non-binary. Someone may feel like both a man and a woman or neither or have a gender identity that changes over time. This concept may be confusing if you haven’t encountered it before but, in the last few years the visibility of non-binary people has picked up significantly as more people have adopted the definition of gender referring to the way you feel rather than your biology.

Some words non-binary people may use to describe the way they identify include:

Genderqueer - a term used in place of non-binary

Genderfluid - having a gender identity that fluctuates over time

Trans or Transgender- not identifying with the gender you were raised as

Agender - feeling gender neutral/ not identifying as man or woman

Gender non conforming - not conforming to traditional gender expectations

What is important to note here is that while these words have definitions, they aren't the only meaning. The meaning can change for each person. Don’t be afraid of asking, “What does that word mean to you?,” if you’d like to find out more from an individual close to you.

Google trends search for non-binary 2005- present

Why is it so difficult to understand?

It’s often difficult for cisgender (those who identify with the gender they were designated at birth) people to quickly grasp the concept of non-binary identities. This is because one of two genders is given to us from day one and it is continually imposed on us in our culture; films, newspapers, language, and our sex education at school have all catered to a binary system.

Another reason we find it so difficult is because we naturally categorise and stereotype to make sense of this world around us. An advantage of this is that we are able to respond quickly to situations because we may have encountered a similar experience before. A disadvantage, however, is that we make generalisations and often ignore peoples intricate differences. So, as we are habitual creatures, a knee jerk reaction into “I don't understand” when confronted with a non-binary person is not your fault. This shouldn't be used an an excuse to not understand though, it's important to respect and engage with the identities of those around you!

What does it feel like to be non-binary?

Being non-binary feels different to everyone, so it’s important to keep an open mind when talking to someone about their gender identity. My parents gained a greater understanding of what it feels like to be non-binary through a friend of theirs who grew up in Serbia but now lives their life in Sweden; this person is unsure what to answer when someone asks them where they are from. They feel caught between cultures, not fully being able to fully commit to either country.

So, is your nationality where you were born, or where you live? Are they both or are they neither? They say it can be fluid depending on national holidays or where they are in the world, but the feeling of not properly belonging to either is very much there. 

I would say this is how I feel about my gender identity. I am non-binary because I never feel fully connected to being a man or a woman. Feelings about your gender can change depending on your context; I find that when I am in the company of my family, I tend to default back to the gender was raised as, but when I meet new people I feel much freer in terms of my gender expression. 

Gender is a spectrum, but it is much more complicated than a straight line with a man at one end and woman at the other. My non-binary identity is not the same as someone else’s, just as one person's identity as a man doesn’t necessarily equate to another’s. To limit identity to a binary and to act as if all identities mean the same thing to everyone does a great disservice to all of our unique identities.

Is being non-binary a phase?

A common assumption about non-binary people is that it’s “just a phase." Perhaps this is because people who don’t understand you might assume being non-binary is an in-between, an “experimental” space for someone to be before they figure out who they actually are. Though this is true for some people, it isn’t always a given. Besides - doubting the validity of someone’s identity for who they say they are isn’t a good thing to do. I know people who have been openly non-binary for years. Other people go from binary to non-binary, or non-binary to binary. There’s nothing wrong with feeling something now and something else later on.

I hope this post has introduced you to the tip of the gender identity iceberg. I encourage openness to those brave enough to live just as they are even when some people don’t understand. Whether you are living as the gender you were labeled at birth or as transgender or non-binary, I encourage you to talk about it; the gender conversation is for all of us.

If you have any questions you would like answered, email them to nogendernoprobleminfo@gmail.com

The Burds and the Bees: What Scotland’s Rejection of LGBTI Education Means for Non-binary Youth

I have limited experience with being non-binary at school. I only really got to grips with my identity halfway through my final year and I only told a handful of people about it. Maybe the fact that I just knew that most people weren’t going to have a clue what I was talking about says something, though. Despite the elusiveness of my gender, however, it was no secret at high school that I wasn’t straight – and some of the stuff I faced because of that was enough to tell me that our sex education programme is failing LGBTI students.

As bad as it sounds, a part of me is sort of relieved that LGBTI issues were never properly addressed in the classroom. I could feel sweat on the back of my neck whenever a teacher even vaguely mentioned “homophobia,” even just as an abstract concept. Are all eyes on me? Is someone going to say something offensive? Are other people going to pick up on the fact that the potential offensive thing applies to me and feel uncomfortable? It was a nightmare.

I wonder how much more stressed I’d have felt if we’d been having a real, substantial conversation about non-heteronormative ways to define sex or even the existence of trans people.

But I know I shouldn’t have had to feel that way – and the only way anything’s going to change is if people are educated – and that’s why I was so disappointed when I read that the Scottish Parliament had rejected a proposal to make LGBTI-related topics a mandatory part of the sex education curriculum. 

Campaign group Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) presented a petition urging the Scottish Parliament to include LGBTI issues in its sex ed programme; however, a unanimous decision across parties was made to turn it down. Parliament then expressed its “sympathy” for TIE’s campaign and for the all-too-common hardship faced by queer youth, which is actually just laughable.

Does nobody in Holyrood realise that a lack of comprehensive, straightforward information about LGBTI identities, health and matters is (in part at least) what contributes to the othering of queer students and that it legitimises bullying, discrimination and intolerance? 

There have been various attempts to justify excluding discussion about all genders and sexual/romantic orientations from lessons about sexual health and relationships – not least that it would be wrong to foist a particular identity upon young, impressionable students or be seen to be promoting one way of life at the expense of others.

Honestly, “eyes rolling all the way back into my sockets as I slump, defeated, out of my chair and into a pile of exasperation on the floor” is an understatement. Seriously, though, when your discussions of sex and relationships literally refuse to validate or even acknowledge the existence of transgender and intersex people, non-heterosexual sex or polyamory, it’s pretty obvious what sort of values you’re imposing upon your class.

This cis-heteronormative arrangement is especially harsh on non-binary students. In a society where most people are still unaware of the plethora of gender identities other than “male” and “female” and that some people fluctuate between these, school could be an important site for change. Instead, the Scottish Parliament have chosen to preserve an outdated, harmful paradigm of sex, gender and relationships which excludes and invalidates anyone who doesn’t fit into the categories “boy” or “girl.” Remind me, whose agenda are we afraid of infiltrating the curriculum? 

I can’t imagine how much more accepting of myself I’d have been if school had given me a reason for and a way to articulate the discomfort and awkwardness I’d felt in my own skin. I can’t imagine how much more confident I’d have been in navigating my self-discovery if school had given me access to information about sexual and emotional health which was remotely relevant to my experiences and my identity. Nor can I imagine how much less scornful some of my peers would’ve been if they’d even known what I meant when I’d tentatively suggested that I might not be a boy or a girl.

And, unfortunately, it looks as though none of these things are going to be a possibility for the queer and questioning students of today and of the foreseeable future, either. 

Not teaching students about non-binary gender won’t make it disappear, but it does have the potential to perpetuate confusion, unease and ignorance. 

I hope that, eventually, the current sex education programme is reformed and we see more acknowledgement and useful, informative discussion of LGBTI health and issues in schools, particularly a shift away from the widespread view that gender is entirely polarised and biological. With the rise of a generation that, I think, is more open-minded and tolerant than its predecessors, I believe such a reform is possible and probably inevitable.

It would be nice to know that someday, students like me won’t be mopping their brows at the mere mention of homophobia. 

By Lu

My Comfort Is Not Synonymous To Any Identity

Body hair has become a socio-political statement.

It has become a casualty in the beauty industry’s campaign to make the natural ‘unnatural’ by enforcing patriarchal standards of femininity onto a population affected by mass media and advertising. 

Acceptable beauty standards equate my attractiveness to the amount of body hair on my arms. There is this unspoken rule that lingers heavy in society that the less hair I have, the more feminine I am, which correlates to the conventional, stereotypical norm that defines what a woman should be; if I have less hair, I am more “woman.”

Body hair is entirely natural, and, on the contrary, the forced removal of it is entirely unnatural. 

It’s weird, because in order to conform, one must twist and change in order to fit into a ‘box’ and this box is just a amalgamation of various advertising campaigns that have become successful over the years (that and the influence of euro-centric beauty, a remnant of colonialism and more). This confuses me, because more effort must be put in just to conform, which makes a comfortable, natural state of existence the beacon of rebellion. 

Surely a natural state of existence should be the norm?

On a personal level I’m often asked whether the reason I don’t shave my arms and legs is because I’m a feminist, and this really confuses me. The reason I don’t shave my arms and legs is because I literally cannot be bothered, I’m the product of two Tamil parents meaning that it’s in my genetics to be pretty furry – taking time out of my day (every day) to make sure that my arms are smooth would just be a waste. I’ve got youtube to watch and coffee shops to frequent.

These assumptions also diminish the feminist opinions of individuals who prefer to take time to shave, surely their feminist views shouldn’t have to be justified in the face of their hairless arms. I mean the reason I’m a feminist is because I have huge issues with the patriarchy and that should be the only counting factor.

I’m tempted to enter the world every morning with a banner stating, My comfort is not a political statement. I mean, surely I should be able to have autonomy over my body without being told that my ‘unkempt’ body reduces my perceived attraction level? 

You know, to have complete autonomy over your body is to decide what happens to it, without having your actions be completely scrutinised at all points. Having to justify ideological views in response to perceived stereotypes related to physical appearance is ridiculous.

I’m frustrated at not being able to wear suits, and have hairy arms without a multitude of identities being forced upon me.

My comfort is not synonymous to any identity.

By Krishanthi Jeyakumar 

She/her

Why There’s Nothing “Narcissistic” About Being Non-Binary

I’d say I am relatively easy to get along with. I like people; I like talking to people. And I don’t find making friends, at least on a superficial level, too difficult. So when a girl I was seeing mentioned that her friend had felt uneasy around me the first (and only) time we’d met, I was anxious to know what had gone wrong.

When I asked, I was told, “She couldn’t tell if you were a boy or a girl.”

For weeks afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about this. I blamed myself: if I was “normal,” I reasoned, I wouldn’t have caused that girl such discomfort. This was the first time I’d been made to feel guilty about my non-binary identity, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

I’m probably not the only non-binary (or even queer in general) person who has been made to feel as though existing as their true self causes unnecessary fuss or hassle, simply because it challenges people’s everyday assumptions about how people are and how people (should) live.

I’ve even been told that the LGBTQ+ community “has a narcissism problem, and it’s no wonder that [non-queer] people have an issue with it.” In other words, the fact that I’d spent enough time getting to know myself to form an identity that didn’t simply “go with the flow,” was shameful.

Why does this matter?

When we imply that queerness is inconvenient and unsettling, when we associate queer identity with self-centeredness and narcissism, it makes it very difficult for queer people to insist on being treated with the respect they deserve. Countless non-binary people don’t correct those who misgender them. Why? Simply because they feel they’d cause undue awkwardness or simply because they doubt the person misgendering them would even understand what “non-binary” meant – I think this is, in part at least, reflective of a culture which sees any “unusual” identity as a nuisance.

I remember making a passing comment at the dinner table about the needless gendering of the greetings cards I sold at work and being told, “Now isn’t the time.” There is an expectation, I believe, for queer people not to allow their identity to “spill over” from designated queer spaces into the rest of their lives and their social interactions with others.

If we want to create a society more aware and more accepting of the diversity of gender identities, we need to let non-binary people’s discussion of their experiences of struggle and marginalisation spill over into the realm of the everyday. Whether it’s a non-binary person’s request to be referred to with correct pronouns, an explanation of their gender identity, or a casual complaint about the deep entrenchment of gender socialisation and how this harms non-binary people, none of these things should be a burden or a cause of embarrassment – and we certainly should not brand non-binary people as self-centred or attention-seeking for voicing these things.

It’s the fault of close-minded individuals that society at large is unaccommodating towards people who aren’t cis, and I believe being a good ally entails recognising this and displaying willingness to understand the struggle of others.

My non-binary identity might not be the easiest to understand, but that doesn’t mean I should stop talking about it. I refuse to feel guilty for a problem which I did not cause, and which, by continuing to talk about it, I could in fact find the solution to.

Lu
they/them