Heteronormativity, gender fluidity and fashion

Guest Blog by Jamie

What is it about being anything other that heterosexual that leads people to believe that ‘we’ are some sort of foreign creature? I think it is brilliant that young people are  questioning traditional sexual identity and gender norms, bringing in to use such as pansexual, nonbinary and gender fluid to describe themselves.

When I came out as gay I took the stepping stone route and told my parents I was bisexual. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe I felt like going all the way to gayville was too much of a leap in one go. Maybe I didn’t want to commit to the lesbian label. Or maybe I wanted them to think I was a little bit straight. Somewhere deep down.

But as I’ve grown up I’ve realised just how ignorant people can be and how nosy they are too. I’ve always been open minded and if someone wants to ask me a question about my sexuality I’ll happily give them an honest answer. While I open my arms (and ears) to genuine curiosity – because, after all, we all have our curious moments – that doesn’t mean I’m willing to answer the ridiculous questions too. Why do I wear “men’s jeans”? Because I want to. But here’s a question for you: Why does fashion seem to think that women don’t want pockets to fit an iPhone?

Unfortunately heteronormativity really is a thing. And if you don’t know what I mean by that, let me explain. Heteronormativity is the belief that people fall into very distinct roles with heterosexuality being the only sexual orientation on offer. It’s the norm. It’s what everyone is. Who knew it was possible to like the same sex? Ghastly right?

We see it everywhere we go. How many advertisements can you name off the top of your head that feature non-hetero couples? How many mainstream movies feature a couple that aren’t based around a man and a woman?

Let’s put it this way, you’re in a bar with a couple girlfriends and one of them spots a guy she likes the look of across the room. But oh no, she doesn’t approach him. Why? Women don’t do that, right? There we go, that’s heteronormativity right there. Men do the chatting up, they buy the drinks and pull out chairs. And what do us women do? Well, we probably cook and clean and iron his underwear. But that’s another argument all together.

Gender binary is a big part of heteronormativity too. And this is something that quickly rolls over into fashion. When was the last time you walked into a shop and weren’t greeted by clothes separated by these two binary genders? After all, fashion is just for ‘men’ and ‘women’. No? Exactly. Not at all. I’m the kind of girl you’ll catch wearing a dress one day and then an oversized t-shirt the next. Why? Because that’s my style, and that’s how I like it. I like the fit of boxers but I have no need for their pouch, and when I wear a men’s shirt I often flash my bra like some sort of fashion peephole.

What the fashion industry is missing is the ability to redefine ‘gender’. As society sees gender across a spectrum – much the same with sexuality – fashion really needs to keep up. I'm so excited that GFW Clothing exists, where the ethos is to create products to fit bodies, not gender. Just how it should be.

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