Guest Writer: Ivan Fahy
There’s a new trend in town. Gender neutral clothing lines. Sounds great, right? Not quite.
More and more mainstream clothing brands are introducing gender neutral lines but I don’t think it’s one bit progressive or done to liberate trans and gender diverse customers. It’s clear that these gender neutral lines are for cisgender gender normative buyers who want to feel ahead of the times. The term ‘gender neutral’ is thrown upon certain clothing to give a clothing brand a sense of progessiveness.
A clothing store is only as progressive as its most vulnerable customers feel welcomed and valued. It’s so interesting to see a clothing store have a gender neutral line and receiving much media attention and praise for such, yet trans and gender diverse customers feel no more welcome or safe. It’s clear that these clothing stores are merely jumping on a trend. I know this because despite their apparent good-doing in having gender neutral lines, they often do not have gender neutral changing rooms. Their myopic vision portrays how little they know about the world of gender and clothing. It shows how little they know about trans and gender diverse communities. They expect a trans and/ or gender diverse customer to try on a piece of clothing from this supposedly amazing gender neutral line in a gender specific changing room. ‘‘Relish for a few minutes while browsing through our gender neutral line but then get into an ‘appropriate’ changing room please!’’ Basically, GET BACK INTO YOUR HETEROCISNORMATIVE BOX.
A trans and/or gender diverse customer wouldn’t even bother looking through such a collection because they would know it was really made for cisgender gender normative customers who want to feel cool and progressive by wearing something that was always gender neutral. These gender neutral lines feature over-sized jumpers and t-shirts, things that were always gender neutral. It is outright laziness for a clothing company to create a gender neutral line out of clothing that was and always will be gender neutral. I would expect to see croptops, high waisted jeans and high heels for guys (across the spectrum) in a gender neutral line. That would be something to praise.
Basically, these gender neutral lines serve customers that already have much freedom and privilege. The customers these lines should liberate and empower, do not. Trans and gender diverse customers are forgotten but our LGBTQ terminology (gender neutral) is appropriated to market the brand as being progressive.
A truly progressive clothing store would have all of it goods marketed and proudly portrayed as gender neutral. Progressive stores would have trans and gender diverse models modelling their clothes. Progressive stores would train their staff on welcoming trans and gender diverse customers and how to provide an inclusive and safe space for trans and gender diverse customers. Progressive stores would listen to the voices of trans and gender diverse customers and value their shopping experiences. Progressive stores would proudly employ trans and gender diverse people, celebrating their identities and using their invaluable experience to learn how to embrace and respect all customers. And lastly, progressive clothing stores would have gender neutral changing rooms with changing room attendants all of genders. In my opinion, the best practice for changing rooms is a big room full of mirrors and friendly welcoming staff and private individual cubicles. No one is told where to go. No one is made to feel abnormal. No one is discriminated against.
Clothing stores, question who your clothing lines are liberating; is it those that are already privileged and entitled or those that are not?
An Unknown Sauce
Not So Unknown // @IvanFahy