The Pursuit of Femininity
Last year the fashion industry took a primarily underground phenomenon and opened it up into a mainstream revolution. I am talking of course about the so called “Gender Revolution”, a topic that is very much en vogue today. Now more than ever Transgenderism is a buzz word but more than that it is an actuality swiftly moving away from a segregated part of society to very public one; the fashion industry.
The sudden visibility of transgender issues is hailed overwhelmingly as a positive fact but when gender blending finds a place in the pages of fashion magazines and in other mainstream media it begs the question; what is the humanitarian impact on real life “gender blenders”?
I have a Transgender friend who believes she does not need to heighten the pitch of her voice or wear hair down to her chest, as she says “Grace Jones has a deep voice so why should I change mine when there a women out there who sound like me?” and I agree with her.
However, when people tell me “His makeup is incredible” or “He has really great style” I have to ask; with the fashion industry’s super feminine image of Transgenderism and Androgyny, can we trans women afford not to live up to feminine stereotypes?
One of the most talked about models today is Andrej Pejic. A twenty year old who has walked both men’s and women’s shows for high profile designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, he is ranked number 18 on the models.com Top 50 Male Models list and 98 in FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women list 2011. Although he is not transsexual himself, his feminine beauty has become synonymous with the fashion industry’s depiction of Transgenderism and Androgyny.
Interestingly, transgender model Lea T, whose looks are somewhat less feminine than Pejic’s, is ranked only 42 on the Top 50 Models Women list. The industry’s presentation of figures such as Pejic and Lea T sets a benchmark for those who do not conform to the misconception of a gender binary. It is one of super femininity and, much like this industry’s depiction of women as a whole, it creates a pressure to live up to it.
There are “born women” with deep voices, masculine features, short hair and other stereotypically male traits. Though in many cases if a trans woman displays such traits it can hinder her ability to publicly pass as female and, as I have seen in the case of my friend, lead to those unfamiliar with transgender issues reading her at best as an androgynous male.
There is already then a pressure for transgender women to live up to an almost stereotypical idea of femininity. But when a widely visible, feminine and androgynous male such as Pejic is added to the mix another pressure is also added. One for trans women to style themselves in a way that is even more feminine in order to not only distance themselves from being viewed as male but also from this ultra-feminine kind of Androgyny.
Just like catwalks and fashion magazines have arguably created expectations around weight and size for all women, similar expectations are being formed around femininity for trans women. With the blurring of the gender binary idea that many still believe in, comes a new fact to deal with; now in this time of Androgyny in fashion, trans women must pursue femininity further to distinguish themselves from this new, more feminine kind of man.