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Kai Pacifico Crisostomo Eng

(they/them)

I hid from my queer identity for a really long time. It didn’t help that I grew up in a pretty homophobic school environment, where calling things “gay” was a synonym for “stupid.” I knew gender as this concrete boundary that was forbidden to cross, and for an AMAB person, any ambiguity as to one’s masculinity was a sign of weakness. I remember being at an empty lunch table in middle school when I was approached by a group of snickering kids who remarked, “Hey, we can’t tell if you’re a boy or a girl.”

I hid from my queer identity for a really long time. It didn’t help that I grew up in a pretty homophobic school environment, where calling things “gay” was a synonym for “stupid.” I knew gender as this concrete boundary that was forbidden to cross, and for an AMAB person, any ambiguity as to one’s masculinity was a sign of weakness. I remember being at an empty lunch table in middle school when I was approached by a group of snickering kids who remarked, “Hey, we can’t tell if you’re a boy or a girl.” 

I can’t tell either. Currently my best guess is “none of the above.” I think gender is a costume that we put on every day for other people, but why wear it if it doesn’t match how you feel on the inside?

It took me a while to dress the way I wanted to, partially because there were so many factors around me dictating the “correct” way to look and act in whatever contemporary phase was going on at the time. Slang and looks at this point are all abstracted to whatever aesthetic anyone desires, so there’s really no point in trying to fit a certain mold. As a queer person of color it’s hard to find people that look like you in pictures or on TV, so as I was coming out I had no reference for how to dress or act to match what I was really feeling. Bit by bit, piece by piece with each life experience I learned a little more about what being queer meant to me. Being around other queer folk and people of color while actively seeking a sense of community wherever I went helped me whittle it down, and I’m still figuring it out.

It took me a while to dress the way I wanted to, partially because there were so many factors around me dictating the “correct” way to look and act in whatever contemporary phase was going on at the time. Slang and looks at this point are all abstracted to whatever aesthetic anyone desires, so there’s really no point in trying to fit a certain mold. As a queer person of color it’s hard to find people that look like you in pictures or on TV, so as I was coming out I had no reference for how to dress or act to match what I was really feeling. Bit by bit, piece by piece with each life experience I learned a little more about what being queer meant to me. Being around other queer folk and people of color while actively seeking a sense of community wherever I went helped me whittle it down, and I’m still figuring it out. 

I don’t think fashion should have a gender. I think ascribing social norms to scraps of cloth we use to hide our nether bits is silly. We’ve reached a point in our contemporary understanding of how people dress that “boundary-breaking” consists of crossing the frankly imaginary line we’ve set up for ourselves. Wearing what you want is a part of figuring out who you are, and nobody’s a rightful judge of that besides the person wearing the clothes.

 

My outfit for this project is a modular jumpsuit-coat-skirt type deal that can be worn any number of ways just by unzipping it, and that’s the approach I take to any dressing scenario. It’s also the approach I take to my gender. If I’m unsure about it on any particular day, I'll just put it on shuffle. If people like it, great. If they don’t, tough. It’s still part of me.

 

I’m a collection of electrical signals piloting a bag of meat and saltwater like a mech suit.