{Photograph} courteSy of lydia okello.

Rising up in a conservative household, Lydia Okello favoured frou-frou frocks. However then their gender journey started.

“Oh. I suppose I put on pants now….” It’s a seemingly unremarkable assertion for somebody to have made in 2016. However the notion was a significant turning level that 12 months for each my wardrobe decisions and my gender id. As an AFAB (assigned feminine at delivery) one that grew up adoring frills, floofs and fanciful clothes, I’d by no means have been seen in a pair of pants, not to mention denims.

Trying again, it’s straightforward to see how my historical past formed a narrowed view of the way to dress myself. I’m a first-generation Canadian-Ugandan who was raised in a conservative evangelical Christian house. Gender roles have been inflexible and in plain sight, and my penchant for frocks performed proper into my task as a younger girl.

I usually regarded to 1990s popular culture for vogue inspiration. Completely infatuated with sitcom protagonists, I pined after the garments I noticed on Household Issues, Saved by the Bell and Full Home. D.J. Tanner’s tiered skirts all the time caught my eye; I additionally admired Uncle Jesse’s wardrobe however didn’t assume an excessive amount of of it. Watching Grease within the second grade, I used to be as a lot in love with Danny’s iconic greaser appears as I used to be with Sandy’s sock hop apparel—two sides of expression, however at the moment, I solely consciously tended to at least one.

I awkwardly navigated my teen years in lace-trimmed tank tops and classic skirts, questionably styled. I nonetheless held tightly to the notion that I wanted to maintain “femininity”—although what female meant was a shifting goal.

As an adolescent bibliophile with numerous spare time in the summertime, I pored over books concerning the golden age of Hollywood and the style business’s heady previous. I spent hours thumbing by way of reference measurement tomes of Christian Dior’s New Look and the historical past of Vogue and was entranced by Ken Russell’s pictures of postwar Teddy Ladies; it was a foray into the basics of vogue. I didn’t understand it then, however I used to be constructing a data base that will ultimately inform my profession and my model.

I didn’t come out as a queer particular person till I used to be 25. I used to be scared, nervous and trepidatious. I wasn’t certain if I used to be even allowed to be queer. My restricted perceptions of LGBTQ+ of us—who weren’t homosexual males—have been based mostly on gruff stereotypes, caricatures of individuals. As I got here to just accept my pansexuality, I loosened my grip on my high-femme personhood—for me, the 2 have been intertwined. My internalized homophobia and transphobia meant that I had a really particular script of who I used to be permitted to be. Popping out allotted some respiration room in methods I didn’t anticipate. There was self-exploration of what it meant to be me: to be queer, to be Black. My plus measurement physique now not meant I needed to be femme—it was one thing I may select as an alternative of be assigned to.

As I grew to become extra explorative in my id, together with being non-binary, I discovered myself searching for new inspirations and icons. Author and efficiency artist Alok Vaid-Menon, whose model consists of a mixture of saturated hues and who rebels in opposition to gender “norms” in an unapologetic and absolutely realized imaginative and prescient of selfhood, and Héloïse Letissier, who fronts the band Christine and The Queens, are only a few of the parents who helped me unpack what I had beforehand thought-about to be limitations.

Vaid-Menon (and different nonconforming and non-binary individuals) has taught me to repeatedly search outdoors the white gaze of gender expression as Black individuals, Indigenous individuals and different individuals of color have pre-colonial histories of various genders; I come again to that usually. And Letissier jogs my memory that model—even extravagant or ostentatious model—just isn’t restricted to conventional ideas of femininity. She sports activities puff sleeves and ostentatious trousers, however neither fall into the territory of “female wiles.” Classic infused and by no means demure, Letissier’s clothes decisions maintain house for frivolity—a whimsical nature that isn’t simply reserved for ball robes.

At present, I usually tag my outfits on social media with #tombabe—a designation someplace between “tomboy” and “babely.” I do it to make an announcement that androgyny doesn’t need to be monochrome dishevelled items; it could possibly imply a boldly hued sundress and badass boots. It might probably imply something you rattling properly please. And that’s the way forward for vogue I wish to see.

This story initially appeared within the September 2020 concern of FASHION Canada. Decide up your copy on newsstands now, by way of Apple Information + or the FASHION app. 

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