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Gender Diaries: Bryn Barnett

As the world continues to push against gender constructs, the conversation around how people are identifying themselves is constantly evolving. Each month, Milk.xyz will feature a guest editor writing about their specific relationship with gender and where it intersects with fashion. This month, we feature creative muse Bryn Barnett.  

Summer of ’99, in my Tia Elba’s home in North Philadelphia. Typical for family gatherings, the smell of rice and beans filled the air. All the adults gathered in the kitchen, I however, was in a small room with a dozen of my cousins; who were all boys. I waited patiently for my turn at Justice League Task Force on Sega Genesis…it was my turn. I quickly adjusted to the pressure of all their menacing, staring eyes, just waiting for me to lose the round.  I chose Wonder Woman; a strong and seemingly courageous woman who stood out to me from the choice of hyper-masculinized super heroes. “You picked the girl?!” A wave of confusion, and laughter filled the room. After a few combos, the room grew silent once [I defeated my opponent, Superman.]

Since ancient times, across almost if not all religions, there has been some sort of mention of gender variance.  Respectfully, there are the Sari in Judaism, The Mukhannathun of Islam, Hijras and the Tritiya-Prakriti (meaning third-nature) of Hinduism, the Kathoey of Buddhism, and so on. This goes to show that not only is the binary an intentional construct of Colonialism, but that gender non-conforming people have existed since ancient times. A part of colonization is completely eradicating the beliefs, practices, and recorded history of our ancestors. This erasure is evidently still a part of our modern culture: forced gender roles can be seen everywhere in advertisements, as well as the intentional use of color in the products we consume. “Pink for girls, blue for boys.” As a child, I was  scolded and bullied for my femininity. My womanhood was always something that was deemed “bad.” Why?… There has certainly been a recent rise in awareness in our collective consciousness regarding sexuality and gender. Fashion in itself has always been an instrument of communication for me. Seeing trans & GNC models walking runways and in fashion editorials [as well as play characters] in television and film and a stronger urge for political engagement also solidifies this rise in awareness. But as always, there is still work to do and it is truly in our hands.

Images courtesy of Xavier Smith

Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here

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