Gender Diaries: Jovel Ramos
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 featured model and creative powerhouse Jovel Ramos.
For me personally, I don’t know how to express myself in a lot of ways. The only way I do know how to express myself is through what I wear, and the clothes I put on my back. Gender has always played a huge role in that. For so many years, I was hiding underneath a masculine facade. I was being told: “You’re a boy, so you have to wear this” by the people around me. I grew up in the projects in the middle of nowhere; boys didn’t wear girls clothes and vice versa. You wore what was assigned to your gender, or you got beat up. It was plain and simple.
When I was 17, I moved to New York in hopes of finding myself, a career, and everything else in between. I started working in fashion shortly after moving here, and that’s where I thought I would have freedom and the ability to express my individuality. Obviously, I was fresh off the plane from the middle of nowhere and little did I realize, I had another thing coming. I started modeling, going to castings, test shoots, normal things that people do when they’re trying to break into this industry; but I was still doing it with this huge facade. In the beginning, it felt like high school. I felt trapped, I was trying so hard to fit this masculine character that I knew I wasn’t. At the time, I had a buzzed head, wore men’s clothes from head to toe, and I was so scared to branch out or wear anything remotely feminine. Small things like painting my nails felt so taboo.
I was lucky enough to get street casted by a really amazing brand like Hood By Air. They took me in and showed me that I can wear whatever the fuck I want, and feel empowered. Whether that was a hoodie, or a latex skirt, there were never boundaries. It wasn’t anything specific somebody said to me. It was seeing everybody in the office around me walk around so defiant that really changed my perspective on things like gender and fashion. These stigmas that we grow up with are all just restraints and constructs built by the society we live in.
When I really started coming into myself, I sort of learned on my own that fashion really never has had rules; these “rules” that I grew up with were all man-made and unnecessary. The first time I left the house in a dress was one of the most liberating feelings in my life. Gender isn’t just black or white, there’s a grey area in the middle that no one really touches on. I identify as male but wearing woman’s clothes to me has always been one of the most empowering aspects of my life. I’m proud to be fem, I want people to know that I exist and people like myself exist. We’re living, we’re here, we occupy space.
I can wear whatever I want, and I can be whoever I want. I’m at a place in my life where it’s easy to recognize that. It wasn’t easy to get to this point in my life either. It’s been a long time coming, and I think that a lot of LGBTQ kids can relate, when I say that it takes a lot of self love to get to a point where you don’t really care about what other people have to say about you. If there’s any message I want to convey to people it’s to spread love and never assimilate. Love yourself, love your allies, and be 100% unapologetically you.
Photos courtesy of Damian Corredor; follow Jovel on Instagram
Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here.