By now, pretty much every one knows who Billy Porter is, but in case you missed the memo in fabulousness here he is: (I hesitate to use this pronoun, but as I could find no reference as to what Porter prefers, I am using what I have found in reference to him)
When I saw this image I had so many thought run through my head that I thought it was a great example of the intersectionality that lives in my head.
First thought: Gorgeous! But?
The “but” was what made me break down my thoughts.
First level aesthetics: Cut? Fabulous. Flow? Amazing. Pose? Dramatic, but that is expected? Blurring of gender? LOVE it. Overall look: I might have gone with a smaller bow tie with a ruby/emerald stud in the center, but I like the outfit.
Next my Black voice kicks in. I am so glad to see such a strong voice stepping forward. Porter is unapologetic about who he is. I am sure that is the result of some hard work on his part.
Admit it or not, my community can be horrifically homophobic, and it disheartens me. I am particularly disgusted because our homophobia is a legacy of slavery and the church’s role in colonization. In other words, we did not start hating on our sons and daughters until they taught us to.
A colleague recently hipped me to the life expectancy of a transgendered person -25! WTF!!! I could not believe that a) I did not know that and b) we are not doing more about it.
The visibility and celebration of people like Porter is vitally important in giving LGBTQ youth hope that it really can get better. An image like this also forces my community to face themselves. This is not, “those people dem” this is one of “us”.
As a political statement, I could not ask for any better.
So now comes the woman. It took me a while to figure it out. I spent some time sliding the picture around and seeing it in different blocking, and I realised just how clever the tailoring is. Then it hit me, I had to double check with my finger on the image to be sure. The “but”? It’s the friggen beard!
I realise my bias. I am comfortable with a male adopting/transitioning to/experimenting with a female identity. I am comfortable with the idea of people blurring gender, as I understand intellectually that gender is a construct. Yet in this image, what I see is a man in a dress, and for some reason that throws me. For some reason it feels “unfair” and I know it is the woman in me feeling this.
As open as I believe myself to be, I clearly still have boxes I like people to fit neatly into. I get girl, I get boy, and though gender has nothing to do with sexuality, I also get fluidity in that area. Yet clearly, I feel the need for folks to be one gender or the other – real fluidity in this area brought my bias forward.
I bow down to Porter, who demonstrated the true art of fashion – challenging the expected. I won’t pretend I don’t still want to hold him down, shave him, add a little eyeliner to those gorgeous eyes and a little bronze to those cheek bones. I do however promise to work on trying to break out of this indoctrination.
I post this entry as confirmation of intent, and ask those who know me to check me anytime I display this bias in the future.