CONTRIBUTED IMAGE / THE SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY
Trigger warning for mention of hardships experienced as a result of the pandemic as well as LGBTQIA+ discrimination from systems of power. Please self-care and reach out for support if needed.
It is no secret that the pandemic has led individuals to drastically change. Some people will come out of this with new hobbies, habits, haircuts, health, and different ways of thinking.
For many reasons, this event has been a catalyst for people to experiment with gender expression, resulting in a wave of younger generations identifying outside of the binary. Throwing the conventions of womanhood/manhood ‘out the window’.
Staying indoors for extended lengths inadvertently makes for a whole lot of time to reflect on who you are, who you want to be, and the life you want to lead once the world starts back up again with a semblance of normalcy.
Statements popularized on the ‘gay side’ of Tik Tok show how individuals want to perform femininity in the same way that a man would. First of all, what the heck does this mean? Well, it can be characterized aesthetically through sunken cheekbones and a more androgynous and masculinized outward appearance.
Whether people choose to identify as transgender or are rejecting sexist expectations and conventions, one thing remains clear—now more than ever—there is a rise in people thinking about the function that gender plays in their lives.
I will go into my theories as to why someone specifically is coming to the realization that they are not a straight or cisgender person during the pandemic.
Not being able to go out socially means that there is less pressure to wear makeup, get out of pyjamas, do your hair, or otherwise present ourselves in line with the male gaze. After a long enough of not keeping up with these practices, it can dissuade people from continuing certain grooming rituals and furthermore question- who is this even for anyways? Oppositely, some AFAB makeup aficionados have taken to dressing in non-gendered or masculinized ways. In both circumstances, people are collectively taking action towards breaking free from the expectations about how a feminized person can exist within civil society.
Breaking the mold for gendered expectations has always existed and as have queer people. These ideas are not new, but rather, have now achieved more attention and mobility because we live in the age of technology and the effects of the pandemic have caused more people to have the time to think, post, and hear about different ways of being.
When the world is on fire, you have nothing to lose
One of the most powerful tools for personal development humans have is each other. Without the opportunity to socialize in conventional ways, people have turned to social media as a substitute forum for interacting with individuals that have like-minded interests.
Platforms encourage people to interact with one another and engage in conversations at an internationally public level. When people express frustration with the arbitrarily rules and hardships women and queer people face, they can gain traction if many viewers discuss and watch the content.
The sharing and discourse surrounding media, such as Judith Butler’s essay on Gender Performativity and ContraPoints’ Youtube video on Compulsory Heterosexuality, ultimately exposes a wider audience to gender theory in an arguably more approachable way.
Could this level of social traction happen pre-pandemic?
Yes, but not to the same extent. By hosting users of all ages, locations, and backgrounds, people will have a more comprehensive idea of the universally shared experiences of different demographics.
Let’s be honest here; mental health is down the drain, so many people have lost their jobs, endured trauma, or had their life impacted in any other number of ways. Considering all of that, who cares what someone wants to look like?
Something that may have mattered, upholding traditional gendered expectations for example, seems small in contrast to everything else. Any piece of happiness you can get is worth pursuing.
Especially when the only thing that is being harmed here is conservative values which limit different types of expressions. How boring. Be open to trying new things that seem fun, if you think you can gain something positive from it, then it’s for you.
It is becoming more socially and legally acceptable to be queer in public spaces
Systems of power do not privilege those who live outside the norms, especially those with intersections (two or more marginalized identities, ie. race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc.)
Organizations including governments have historically and continually enacted policies and promoted ideas which deny that these groups are deserving of the same level of respect, rights, freedoms, as well as erasing their struggles and celebratory moments, and in some cases, refusing to acknowledge that they exist.
As an out transgender person, I have encountered my fair share of people who do not ‘get it’ and are not willing to learn or try.
For those who don’t believe that queer people face these issues, I encourage you to do some research and talk to members of these communities who are comfortable educating. Discrimination is not a thing of the past: conversion camps still exist, there are places around the world where it is criminalized by punishment of death to be considered gay, medical staff in America can choose not to help a queer patient, and the barriers and harm goes on.
Hard stuff that doesn’t stop there. Making the decisions about whether to acknowledge your feelings about gender and expression is complicated, because being queer can be dangerous and doesn’t exist in a vacuum; you are tied to queer history, potential risks, and societal treatment when choosing to act on your truth.
A big decision to make, but one made easier with hope.
Despite homo/transphobic individuals and institutions, there are progressive movements towards acceptance and equity. What is wonderful about the 21st Century is that, if you have the means to do so, you can cultivate friendships and social environments in which you are safe and respected.
Menna has found a lot of exploration with makeup and outfit. This is a photo of a Club Kid/ clown inspired genderfull look. A sample of what has been very popular on social media in the trans community.
You can do what you please
If someone knows that they are loved and a part of a supportive community, they are probably more encouraged to act on their desires.
If you are questioning your gender or interested in jumping on the bandwagon of sparkles, hair gel, and nonconformity, I have a message for you:
It is more than okay to try using different pronouns to see how it feels, even if it’s just in private. You are not taking anything away from the queer community for trying to feel as comfortable and euphoric as possible in your body and mind.
You deserve to give something scary a try if you can and it is of interest. It doesn’t have to be a big epiphany moment that means something deep, it could just be trying on a graphic bright eyeliner and seeing how it makes you feel.
We are only on this rock hurtling through space for like 80 years so make the most of it, in whatever way that means to you.