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Dreaming of a Gender Norm-Free Future

Like many liberal, left-leaning Gen Xers, I see the current state of affairs in the United States and I put my faith in future generations. As our society becomes incrementally more progressive, with marriage equality and better queer representation in media it mostly feels like we’re headed in the right direction. (The last year of atrocities committed by the Dotard-In-Chief notwithstanding.)

One hope that us jaded, almost middle-aged types focus on is that eventually old prejudices, discriminatory attitudes, and conservative mindsets will die out, as Boomers pass on to the Great Free Love Festival in the Sky. While it’s arguable that younger generations’ attitudes will automatically be more progressive, one trend that seems inescapable is the flaunting and downright dismissal of gender norms through fashion. This makes me supremely happy. As a cisgender femme, I dress in a pretty typical cis femme way, but I absolutely love watching others play with gender norms. Sometimes I enjoy the big spectacle of it all, like with drag king shows. But mostly, I love the subtle ways fashion trends supersede gender.

I’ve previously written about musicians and their gender-bending costume choices, but I’m thinking of something more subtle here. These choices made are not necessarily to shock, but just represent normality, as in, “This is me, this is how I like to look.” Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day comes to mind, with his smudgy eyeliner.


Incidentally, Billie Joe teamed up with Kat Von D last year to sell a brand of eyeliner specifically marketed to men, called Basket Case. I see what they did, there.

Another very current, very hot artist is reggaeton artist Bad Bunny, and his painted nails. I was flipping through Vevo recently, catching up on current music videos and came across his song Mia,with Drake. After a minute, I caught myself staring at his

BadBunnyfingernails every time his hands were visible. They were polished, and relatively long! For a Puerto Rican rapper, this felt like a really big deal. In an interview with Refinery 29, he talks about how painted nails have always been a part of his style, even before his rise to stardom. He spoke about being denied a manicure at a nail salon in Spain. While many of his fans support him and love his nail art, he still receives homophobic comments, and recently deleted his Twitter account completely. His Instagram account is still alive, and unapologetic. It will take a few lifetimes to rid the world of toxic masculinity, if ever!

Celebrities like these, along with Jaden Smith, Ruby Rose, and other celebrities who wear whatever the hell they want make it easier for their fans who seek their own freedom. Whether they are questioning their gender identity or just really like how makeup looks on masculine features, representation matters a great deal.

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Rock & Roll Gender Variance

David Bowie wasn’t the first the play with gender in his looks, but he certainly was the most influential. He always seemed like the epitome of cool; effortlessly fashionable with a dash of recklessness. The year he died, 2016, was the same year we lost Prince; another blow. One thing I read a lot after Prince passed away was how both of these iconic artists showed us there was more than one way to be a man. This thought was updated to include George Michael after his death in December of 2016.

While the latter two men would not be considered gender nonconforming, they absolutely challenged our preconceived notions of men in rock and pop music. 80s-era Prince was a vision in ruffled pirate shirts and spandex. My 12 year old brain couldn’t wrap its head around a man who would wear (what I considered to be) such feminine looking clothing, but his music was so full of raw sexuality! Around the same time we were introduced to George Michael via Wham! but it wasn’t until his solo efforts did we see the rougher side of George: unshaven face, cool-guy aviators, and a sensuality that demanded your attention.

The world of music owes so much to these incredible artists; not only for their timeless music or fashion sense, but because by their gender identity choices they gave us the freedom to express ourselves more easily. David Bowie and other gender nonconforming artists helped pave the way for new generations of gender variant artists.