Gender Diaries: Po
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 barber Po.
“Pick one, Butch or Femme.” -Midway Cafe 2003
This was said to me by a member of the gay community, and it has always stuck with me. In ‘96 (before ELLEN was out of the closet), I was outed by a close friend to my entire inner-city high school. I got benched on my sports teams, kicked out of my home, and school was not the safest haven. My “close friend” came out a year and a half later. Outing me allowed her to come out. Many years later, I can say that my most challenging and confusing struggles as a queer person had been within our own queer community.
The problem I found wasn’t just “a coming of age” in a society that only has two gender boxes. It was also trying to fit into a subculture that has also adopted that ideology.
I was consistently told I was either butch or transgender. The love I felt for all people who identified as such did not negate the fact that neither of these boxes were mine. I spent the next 20 years not only trying to figure out why I did not fit into the heterosexual culture, but was also not completely comfortable in my own skin, or the gay community.
It wasn’t until 2014-2015, when I had a major health scare, that I decided my life and my identity were my own. I realized during this time that my androgyny wasn’t just how I looked, but that it was a reflection of my chemical make up: two gender identities, one body. A mix of feminine and masculine. It was then that I came out as Androgyn to a coworker and that began my second coming out. It wasn’t received very well. I was being told, yet again, that I had to choose. I didn’t understand why my own personal identity was something that people had the rights over. However this time around, I wasn’t backing down. It was during this time that I met my fiancée.
She is 10 years younger than me, had a totally different coming out, attended the extremely progressive Brookline High, and introduced me to the term Genderqueer. For me, someone who doesn’t really Google often, finding out firsthand that the younger generation had extended their boxes, created new self images, and have in kind, created the safe space I had been looking for forever changed me. I was no longer alone, and I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.
My beliefs have always been simple. Kindness is contagious, judgment is destructive, and a minority + minority = the majority. Everyone’s struggle is real. The pain and confusion people experience trying to fit in is universal. It has destroyed lives and provoked change.
In my life, it has given me strength and insight. As an artist within the beauty industry, my queerness has pushed a couple of limits. I have been told I “dress too much like a dyke.” I “You look too butch and your arms are too big, you better tone it down or no one will let me touch their hair.” And I was “too gay-looking to work in a smaller town.” It was because of my prior experiences that I didn’t let this hold me back. I used these negative experiences as fuel. It has taken a lot of time, change, self-discovery, controversy, and growth.
It has taken me 10 years in the industry to find a salon that is inclusive and supports EVERYONE. At 333 Salon, Owner Mike Baldino has created a safe space for not only queer stylists and client, but for all people. Your skin, gender, aesthetic, sexuality, income doesn’t matter. “If you are kind and open, you have a place here.” – M.B.
To any artist or person questioning their process, please know it gets better. You have a home and community. It has been this journey that inspired me to create Haus of Threes: Art, Fashion, Entertainment. Haus of Threes is an all-inclusive fashion collaborative. It is all about artists supporting artists. Good people supporting good people in order to create beautiful, unique, moving art. The support of 333, our Ho3 vetted artists, and my shop family have proven that this ideal can be and is a reality. Haus of Threes is in its infancy. However the lives it has touched, the lives it will touch, and the change it will incite is limitless.
In closing, I challenge you to be difference.
Speak to yourself kindly,
View others kindly,
And love fearlessly.
*Food for thought*
For people who think this lifestyle is a choice: my biological mother had three children. All three were raised in different houses, different families.
I am genderqueer.
My brother is transitioning MTF (HELLO APRIL <3)
And my sister is gay.
-Nature not Nurture
Images courtesy of Georden West
Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here.