My Non-Binary Diary: Perfume Genius

Written by anon

Only a few days earlier I had finally mustered the courage to wear a dress in public again. The glitter-bearded 80s-grandma look I had first settled on singled me out as not quite girly-femme. Instead, the perverse ecstasy of wearing such an outfit signaled the queer non-binary intersection of the gender spectrum I reside in. Just like being forced to try on a dress in the mens’ fitting rooms, although this time I shaved my legs, beard, and cut and sprayed my hair. With a bit of (borrowed) makeup and my very own pair of heels, I was something that might even pass.

Until I opened my mouth, of course.

But now to see Mike Hadreas (Perfume Genius) performing onstage, clad in a gorgeous corseted Victorian jumpsuit, strutting and lunging along to his emotive protracted American drawl, was to see something, or someone, only recognisable in my own daydreams. It was not so much the way he was dressed as the way he moved, contorted, swooning and swaying out front on stage…

“Ripped, heaving…

Cracked, peeling…

No family is safe

When I sashay”

(Perfume Genius – ‘Queen’)

There is something to be said for the tortured perception of one’s own body for many queer people. While Hadreas’ image is shaped by his Crohn’s disease, dysphoria and dissatisfaction mark a genuine pervasive self loathing within the community. An emphasis on tribes and intense labeling enforces a desire to conform to certain physical ideals so as to not only be accepted within the community but put bluntly: to have more sex.

Hadreas’ warts-and-all celebration of queer body and sex is so intensely liberating. The vulnerability inherent in proudly displaying one’s identity giving full exposure to its flaws. This empowered response to the early self-awareness that one’s natural self-expression will provoke an unwanted reaction. By placing one’s body firmly into their art, we are able to shake off, if briefly, the self-doubt and societal disdain.

Gender dysphoria comes from a disconnect between one’s inner identity and outer reality. Turning to the mirror and feeling as if the person staring back is some masculine impostor. It’s a perverse form of self-loathing. Often the only exit seems to be the pursuit of of an ultimately unattainable and illusory gender ideal.

As such, it’s in turning to ‘women’s’ clothing that I can gain some form of bodily comfort. It’s not drag. And while it may just be aesthetic, playing with performativity can help to ease the discomfort by creating its own perverse kind of discomfort. In wearing a dress, I took on an overtly feminine appearance, more so than my own identity. Not only does it draw attention to the ridiculousness of gendered clothing; freeing in its own right, but in transgressing the boundary of my external gendered possibility I can reconstitute my own identity as somewhere in between and inclusive of both the masculine and the feminine.

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