tear up the gender rulebook and break down the binaries

Lea Colombo and Carlos Nazario travel across America to ask some of the brightest sparks of the LGBTQI community what identity means to them.

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Sep 23 2015, 2:55pm

Ser Serpas

Where are you from? California. 

What do you do? Artist.

What gender do you identify with? Non binary, trans feminine. 

What do you like most about your gender? It's an active agent against heteropatriarchy. 

When did you first become aware of your sexuality? My sexuality and gender are intertwined. 

What is the biggest gender stereotype we need to overcome and why? That gender is an imposed culturally decreed category. 

Who are your idols and why? Erykah Badu, my mom and Ana Castro because she controls her life. 

Ser wears dress Filles a Papa. Earring Jennifer Fisher.

Farideh Arbanian

What do you do? Fashion student.

Facebook now has over 70 genders, what gender do you identify with? Female, because, despite considering myself a proud transgender woman, female definitely sums up how I perceive myself at my core. 

What do you like most about your gender? The emotional complexity of it. I hope I'm not falling into stereotypes here, but I feel women have heightened emotional senses about things that makes life more interesting. 

When did you first become aware of your sexuality? Everything was clear to me from the very beginning. 

Who are your idols and why? My older sister, my mother, my aunt, my grandmother.

Farideh wears dress Chanel.

Serena Jara

Where are you from? Minnesota. 

What do you do? Photographer. 

What gender do you identify with? Trans/trans femme. 

What is the biggest gender stereotype we need to overcome and why? I'm not as concerned with overcoming gender stereotypes as I am with deconstructing patriarchy and white supremacy. Today Amber Monroe, from Detroit, Michigan, became the 12th trans woman lynched in my country this year. It's actually a matter of life and death that we start examining intersections of racism, misogyny, and trans-misogyny, and the disproportionate amounts of violence afflicting trans women of color. 

Who are your idols and why? Trans women, because they embody feminine power, and are the strongest people I have ever met.

Serena wears necklace stylist's own.

Mars Hobrecker

Where are you from? Brooklyn. 

What do you do? Artist. 

What gender do you identify with? A couple of years after coming out as trans I pretty much swore I'd stop talking about my gender because it was all I focused on for so long. At this point, my identity as femme, as an artist, and as queer (along with a multitude of others) come way before my identity as a boy. 

When did you first become aware of your gender? I grew up being perceived and interacted with as a young girl; being unaware of my gender was never an option. This never gave me any knowledge of what it's like to exist as a woman, and I think the idea of people being socialized male or female is sort of bullshit. But during that time my body never felt like my own, and was consistently sexualized by external forces. My gender and how it is interpreted has always been painfully obvious, if complicated.

Mars wears jacket and shorts Comme Des Garçons Homme Plus. Top vintage Helmut Lang from David Casavant Archive. Earring, Socks and shoes stylist's own.

Gogo Graham

Where are you from? Texas. 

What do you do? Designer. 

What gender do you identify with? Female. 

When did you first become aware of your gender? I've always been aware. 

What is the biggest gender stereotype we need to overcome and why? The stereotypes are not what we need to overcome. It's the way that we think about, talk about and act upon these stereotypes that needs to be obliterated and reformed. Individuals within an oppressed population must be allowed to claim these stereotypes without persecution from their oppressors. No matter what, this information will be used against the oppressed group in direct and indirect acts of violence towards that community. This makes it important for the oppressed to acknowledge the cultural stereotypes that pertain to the community to which they identify because overcoming them is just another form of erasure and cultural assimilation. This applies to more than just gender stereotyping.

Gogo wears top vintage Helmut Lang from David Casavant Archive. Earrings Jennifer Fisher.

Aurel Haize Odogbo

What do you do? Artist. 

Facebook now has over 70 genders, what gender do you identify with? None of them. I identify as a monster, meaning that my body and gender expression often causes chaos in public spaces. Whether that chaos is expressed and felt internally or externally, it exists because I do. 

When did you first become aware of your gender? As I came of age and began to imagine the directions that I wanted to go in, I knew that I never wanted to navigate the real world as a male identified person. 

What do you like most about your gender? That it is not and will never be stagnant. 

What is the biggest gender stereotype we need to overcome and why? That your gender can be understood by anyone other than yourself.

Aurel Haize wears top and jumpsuit Paco Rabanne. Rings By Boe.

Laith Ashley

What do you do? Community health worker. 

What gender do you identify with? Male. 

What do you like most about your gender? I like that my gender presentation now matches who I am. 

What is the biggest gender stereotype we need to overcome and why? More than just overcoming gender stereotypes, we need to overcome the rigidity of what it means to be masculine and the policing of femininity. Look at all the transgender women that have been attacked this year. Most of these attacks have come from cis-gender men, and this happens because there is a fear that their masculinity can be questioned if they feel attracted or "deceived." The idea that transgender people equal deception is a monster.

Laith wears top and jeans Telfar.

Credits


Photography Lea Colombo
Styling Carlos Nazario

Hair Jawara Wauchope at Coffin Inc using Bumble and bumble
Make-up Kanako Takase using Tom Ford Beauty
Nail technician Eri Handa at Melbourne Artists Management
Nail technician Christine Marshall at MAM-NYC
Photography assistance Douglas Segars
Styling assistance Kenny Paul, Rasaan Wyzard, Myles Vaughn, Rasha
Production David Lipford, Blayke Kogen
Production assistance Timothy Lee
Models Gogo Graham. Mars Hobrecker. Serena Jara. Ser Serpas. Laith Ashley. Farideh Arbanian. Aurel Haize Odogbo. 
Special thanks to Walter Pearce.