Gender Diaries: Desean Taber
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 professional ballet dancer Desean Taber.
My name is Desean Taber. I am 22 years old, a professional ballet dancer with Boston Ballet, and a part time student at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies.
Mixology is a term used to describe the art of mixing cocktail drink recipes. I am using the title “Product of Mixology” in reference to my multiracial background. To the best of my knowledge, I am a mix of races stemming from many different parts of the world; Chinese, Caribbean, African, European, and even Native American heritage are in my mix. My multi-heritage is important to me. I like to think of myself as a child of the world, taking the best from each culture and applying it to my life.
As an adopted child, I was never sure of what my actual race or heritage was. In my small town of Connecticut, I definitely looked different, and as I got older, I felt more and more different then everyone else. People always had their own idea of what they thought my heritage was. I mostly got African American, because of my darker skin and curls! It wasn’t until about the age of 20 when, talking to a member of my birth family, I actually discovered my heritage. I was fascinated by the different backgrounds of my ancestors. For instance, my great, great grandfather immigrated from Guangdong, China, and my great, great grandmother was from a long line of Palcees women. Discovering my history helped to free myself. For years I had let people label me, decide who I was based on what I looked like. No one is allowed to determine who you are and what you’ll be except yourself, a lesson that I learned later in life. For a long time I hated the way I looked, because I had such a unique look in comparison to everyone around me. I was truly lucky and blessed to have incredible parents who helped guide me and reassure me that I was special for who I was during those rough years and continue to do so. They are selfless people who have dedicated their lives to helping others in every way possible. I aspire to be like them as I grow up.
This history plays into how I see and react to the idea of gender and identity. I believe that knowing where you come from helps shape where you are going. There were a couple instances as a child and teenager where people would confuse my gender. According to pictures, and from what I have been told, I have my birthmother’s cheekbones. I also have very long eyelashes and almond eyes, which give the effect of a softer face. I do not blame the people who confused me, for I have also been told that I walk in gliding movements and tend to swing my hips a lot. To me, this is not masculine or feminine—this is just me and how I walk. To others maybe this is one or the other. To me gender is completely and should be completely equal—without binary. The idea that some people have that men need to be masculine and women need to be feminine is ridiculous. These are just categories that society has developed that oppress people. I strongly believe in not categorizing others. People are just people and that is what makes them beautiful. It is so freeing when you don’t have to put yourself into checkmarks and boxes.
This is why I have always loved fashion so much. My dancing is how I communicate my emotions in my most pure form. Clothing allows one to express their unique style in its own form of communication. Clothing has no judgment, no emotions, and no gender of their own, for they are inanimate objects. This allows the person to put all of their emotion into whatever clothing they have decided to wear. I find that beautiful, and extraordinary. I think it is a silly and frankly outdated notion that certain articles of clothing are only for certain genders. Fashion is constantly defying the norm of society and all of its “boundaries”. I hope that the world can stop focusing on people’s differences whether it be race, gender, or morals, and instead celebrate what makes everyone different and unique. I believe that fashion already allows people to dream and do this, and I strive to do this in my own life as well.
Images courtesy of Georden West
Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here.