“So Anna Wintour, the next time you want to talk about all the ways that young people today are challenging gender constructs, I’m going to need you to call an actual trans/gender nonconforming person.”
By
Michaela Morgan

17 Jul 2017 - 11:19 AM  UPDATED 17 Jul 2017 - 11:19 AM

Gender non-conforming writer Jacob Tobia has written a powerful essay about Vogue’s controversial cover article that hailed Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik as the champions of the gender-fluid movement.

Tobia points out that the magazine has adopted the aesthetics of the gender-fluid community while completely ignoring the reality of the lived experiences of these people.

"As a genderqueer writer and producer who’s been doing this whole “gender bending” thing since I was 2 years old (way ahead of the curve, according to Vogue), I’m fed up,” they write in Cosmopolitan.

“What’s so annoying about this new and sanitised “gender progressive” aesthetic is that it curates gender-fluid identities for those in the cultural elite in a way that totally whitewashes the lived experiences of gender-nonconforming people.

“And it co-opts those experiences in the name of being “edgy,” or seeming in touch with the "growing cohort of 'fluid' young people on Tumblr" whom Vogue's writer acknowledges "crisscross the XX/XY divide" (far more than Zayn or Gigi do) but doesn't think to speak with barely at all for her feature."

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"It’s not about gender. It’s about, like, shapes," says Gigi Hadid.

Tobia goes on to write that unlike Gigi and Zayn swapping designer tracksuits, the reality of being gender non-conforming is “rarely that fun and glamorous". 

"Quite frankly, it can be a harrowing experience. It looks like being shunned by a family member at your own college graduation (summa cum laude from Duke, for the record) because you chose to wear a dress.

“It looks like being spit on in public, or like being terrified to leave the house because the night before, someone on the subway yelled that you should be set on fire. On an average walk through New York City in a dress, I will receive anywhere between 10 and 20 slurs. They are hurled at me with impunity, with complete disregard for my personhood, let alone my feelings. From “What is that?” to “Hey tr***y!” to “What the f***?” to “Oh my god, look at that f****t.

“And for many trans and gender-nonconforming people, it looks like being physically assaulted or worse."

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Tobia adds that it “can get a bit tricky” when it comes to gender: “Who am I to say that Gigi Hadid isn’t gender-nonconforming enough?” they write. 

“But I think it’s absolutely fair to say that neither Zayn nor Gigi present publicly as gender-nonconforming people on a regular basis, nor have they built their careers while challenging gender norms. If anything, Zayn and Gigi have done the opposite, using fairly conventional masculinity and femininity to build their respective brands.

“This, then, is flagrant cultural appropriation — taking the symbols and ideas that were created by a group of oppressed people and using them, without credit, collaboration, or compensation, to elevate people who are not a part of that oppressed group."

“When 'gender bending' culture comes into the mainstream — to the cover of Vogue for example, a place that it rightfully deserves to be — it should be gender-nonconforming people, not cisgender people presented as gender-nonconforming people, who get to put it there.”

Vogue has since apologised for the tone deaf cover article, following widespread backlash on social media.

“The story was intended to highlight the impact the gender-fluid, non-binary communities have had on fashion and culture,” read a statement by a Vogue spokeswoman. “We are very sorry the story did not correctly reflect that spirit – we missed the mark.”

“We do look forward to continuing the conversation with greater sensitivity."