Gender Diaries: Brandon Tan
As the world continues to push against gender constructs, the conversation around how people are identifying themselves is constantly evolving. Each week, MILK.XYZ will feature a guest editor writing about their specific relationship with gender and, often, where it intersects with fashion. This week, we feature writer and artist Brandon Tan.
Gender is a common fissure across the globe; one that has sustained centuries and continues to plague homes, schools and societies. Propagating certain standards, gender has trickled into the gears of almost all functions of life—particularly into those of self expression. While sex is born, gender is appointed; from there, it is standardized into sets of social behavior that are performed, expected and recycled.
Through these gender norms has developed a crisis of masculinity. A distinct feeling from my childhood was anxiety—anxious for liking the color pink, nervous for playing with my sister’s Barbies, guilty for wandering my mom’s wardrobe. These natural curiosities to explore my self-expression were combatted with immense fear. Fear of what, though? For years I had considered this, having come to the conclusion that it is shame which induces distress, causes our knees to buckle and prevents us from being ourselves.
Equipped as a sort of tool to control our nature, shame has been developed to ensure that we follow a certain set of values; that we remain civilized. Gendering is a part of this process as a method of categorization, to mold our behavior into codes for convenience—black and white, right and wrong, boy and girl. Anything beyond the margins was deemed “queer,” which by definition means “strange, odd, different.” That said, the once vague adjective has been so widely adopted, that it has assumed the position of umbrella term, now identifying an entire population of people who don’t quite fit the standards of gender and sexuality.
Though valiantly there has formed a vocal and mobilized opposition to the standards propagated by gender, the binary remains pervasive. It is all-encompassing, seemingly inescapable, but that is how it grasps the upper hand. Gender norms lurk in the crevices of society, hiding within moments that which you would not think to even consider, being thoughtlessly employed by masses, starting prior to even the birth of a child—think baby showers and gender reveal celebrations. Though simply acknowledging the binary will not cause it to disappear, there is much power in awareness. The more conscious we are of its oppressive nature, the more we can dilute its power. In doing so, we must ask questions, proving that we are not mindless consumers to the restrictive ideology.
Why is clothing gendered?
What is stopping a man from wearing dresses or skirts?
Why is makeup exclusively marketed towards women?
What is the functional difference between men’s and women’s razors and deodorants?
Following the crippling shame that I felt as a child came feelings of rage and frustration as a misunderstood teenager, but having transcended the shame and looked past the anger, today I stand patient and hopeful. Things are changing. Luckily, we have created among ourselves platforms in which we may—not only challenge the oppressors—but also develop arenas in which we can foster conversation, thoughts and progression on such polemical topics. With that said, there remains an urgency in the air—one that demands not only the acknowledgment that I mention, but action.
Photographer: Sophia Wilson
Stylist: Jared Martell
Makeup: Sena Murahashi
Art: Mike Roth
Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here.