Gender Diaries: Philip Errico
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 performer and model Philip Errico.
I sat in my room for many hours as a child drowning myself in video games, music and art. I often stood in front of my mirror, exploring the neutral shape of my face. “Not too feminine, but not very masculine” I thought. I was a slender, bony body—a thin bag of flesh. As a male I wore the supposed clothes of a boy, and yet I didn’t feel like much of one. I saw other boys, compared my face and body to theirs and I didn’t seem up to par. However, I didn’t think much about being a girl either. My reclusiveness from the world allowed me to find comfort in technology and music at home. I was disassociated from any sort of identity, including the concept of gender.
Gender was like an instructional guide to me. It could end up in your bookshelf or in the trash, depending on how much you care to follow the rules or how much you want to figure it out on your own. This was a hard decision for me, but in the back of my mind, I always felt that every construct, including gender had rules and guidelines that were completely optional to follow.
I had ended up telling my entire middle school I liked boys at the age of 12 via an argument with another student. My brain and body reacted violently to the release of information and I began to dress aggressively with bandannas, conflicting patterns of plaid and stripes, tons of glistening jewelry, and a passive attitude to aid my security throughout my entire middle school life from then on.
I always bought whatever I wanted to wear. If I couldn’t afford it, which was usually the case, I would make it—cutting up old shirts, burning them, crafting them. I would poke holes and suture together the gaping wounds of fabric that hung from my body in my unaware rebellion. I never felt like I was ever truly rebelling—I just felt that I didn’t have to participate in anything if I didn’t want to, which was interpreted as a major rebellion in my middle school.
“Are you a boy or a girl?” was the hottest question of my 7th and 8th grade life, and still scores many points in the identity game to this day. Kids would look up at me like some sort of amalgamated figure, sometimes laughing and whispering to each other, and some staring in awe.
I only got in to fashion by accident when I was street casted for a Diesel spread in high school, and I was told by designers and stylists I had fit pieces of clothing made for women’s sample sizes better than female models do. I always wore whatever I was told to wear, and never thought much of it—I enjoyed the entire process. It only got strange to me when people calling me brave, and fearless for wearing what I wore, because I didn’t feel that I was doing anything brave whatsoever. I just was doing what felt correct for me.
Throughout my journey in fashion as a teenager, I was asked daily more and more what my pronouns were, and if I was trans, if I was a girl or a boy, and often times, photographers, directors and stylists would be surprised for my reluctance to identify with anything. Sometimes I was even chastised for not identifying, and being told that I had to, which was oddly repressive to me to hear from people in fashion. I always felt like I needed to please when I modeled, but never in terms of my identity.
The biggest lesson I can say I’ve learned is that I cannot identify with any label or pronoun regarding gender and feel comfortable or free—every label felt like a constriction of my values and appearance. I would feel lost even with a pronoun, like I was being fenced off from exploring identity further.
I feel that my identity continues to exist as a free floating, moldable bag of flesh and hair without subscribing to any sort of existing label. Existing is truly infinite, and labels do not exist without humans to wear them. In a time of immense pressure to identify with a label, how will you choose to identify?
In the pictures above I let my friends mold me to their liking with their most eccentric ideas surrounding identity and gender through the filter of my conceptual direction; showcasing what the concepts of amalgamated, synergizing perspectives can create without the limits of labels.
Photographer: Jordan Buttolph
Stylist: Samantha Sungeun-Kim
Makeup: Michaela Bosch
Hair: Cheeky Maa
Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here.