Gender Diaries: Hilton Dresden
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 where it intersects with fashion. This week, we feature writer, editor, actor, and illustrator Hilton Dresden.
“What are you doing?” asked the toddler boy from his stroller, gazing up at me as I ordered an iced coffee in a floor-length, powder blue gown at the cafe next to work last Tuesday.
I looked back down at him and met his gaze, before quietly muttering to myself, “I don’t fucking know.”
I don’t feel prepared to assign myself any one gender label at the moment—it all feels rather trivial and unnecessarily complex for me. That’s not to say labels can’t be good—if someone wants to call themselves a woman, they absolutely should, because they are, and vice versa.
But in my case, I feel best letting anyone refer to me in whatever manner works for them: to the drive-thru people at McDonald’s who have without fail addressed me as “ma’am” upon hearing my shrill, headmistress-like croak through the intercom, I smile and nod pleasantly, accepting their classification. To my friend’s little sister who asked me in high school, “Are you a boy or a girl, because you look like a boy, but sound like a girl,” I say, “You’re the first person who’s ever said I looked like a boy, and I am both shocked and intrigued to hear more.” To everyone out there on the street today who saw a strange, frizzy-haired creature that looks something like a hybrid between their Great-Aunt Bertha, the Orphan Annie, and Golem, I say: “I’m just as confused as you are.”
My fashion’s evolved over time, as has everyone’s: I went from an Abercrombie polo with Hollister cargo shorts in eighth grade to a houndstooth cardigan with a sailboat brooch later in high school to what I typically wear now, which can only really be described as, “my elderly female kindergarten teacher moonlights as a gothic twink.” My way of dressing reflects how I identify in its irreverence: I don’t consciously pick out a Victorian-style frock because I want to be associated with a certain spot on a constructed spectrum. I model myself after the gay ghost of Mary Todd Lincoln because it’s what’s fun and comfortable to me.
Call me a girl. Call me a boy. Call me trans. Call me a freak. You can all be right because I don’t care and am happy to be told I’m anything. And to that toddler boy in the cafe, I think I’ve got my answer: I’m just trying to have a good day.
Images courtesy of Kristtian Chevere; for more from Hilton, check out his weekly web series, “5 Things With Hilton Dresden,” on OUT.com
Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here.