LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 16: Actress Amandla Stenberg arrives at the premiere of Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" at Microsoft Theater on November 16, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

Amandla Stenberg Opens Up About Their Gender Identity

Actress Amandla Stenberg, who recently appeared in the Beyoncé film Lemonade, has quickly become an icon for teens thanks to her intelligence and wit when it comes to racial and gender issues. On her Tumblr blog, Stenberg is known to talk openly with fans, which led to a fascinating exchange recently about what pronouns they prefer given openly identifying as non-binary.

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Let Jaden Smith Live

My one-year-old son loves to wear his sister’s red, polka dot Christmas dress. For a few weeks, he would sneak into her bedroom, pull it off of the hanger, and drag it around the house until someone with more dexterity would put it on his body. We never told him he couldn’t wear it because it was “girl clothes.” And, while his older sister and brother initially expressed confusion as to why he was “allowed” to wear the dress, they quickly let it go when they saw how my partner and I de-emphasized gender rules and their entanglement with popular fashion. I imagine that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith take much the same approach with their children, Willow and Jaden Smith. So, why can’t the rest of the world come to terms with the fact that Jaden’s clothing choices are his to make?

Jaden Smith’s presentation in dresses and skirts, floral prints and headbands, and tights has been causing some media outlets and Twitter users to lose their scruples for the past few months. They continue to express confusion over his wearing of “female clothes” despite the fact that clothes, as far as I know, have never had a gender. In fact, they never will.

Kat Blaque, artist and dope Black girl, made an informative video about the differences between sex and gender and how often those terms are mixed up with gender norms like clothing.

 

Her core message is simply that our conceptions of “masculinity” and “femininity” are based on societal norms not actual biology. Our mental commitments to labeling and categorizing some bodies as “female” and others as “male” stems from our inability to move away from restrictive gender binaries which exclude many people in society.

While Jaden identifies as male, his choice to wear clothes commonly worn by folks who identify as female shouldn’t be misconstrued to mean that he has a new gender identity. Because, again, clothing does not determine, validate, or articulate gender.Given that we are living in the year 2015, it seems odd that many people still struggle with these simple concepts.

At this point in history, where we have seen the legalizing of same-sex marriage and challenges to historic symbols of racism in America, this uproar over Jaden Smith’s evening wear is almost baffling. Perhaps the puzzlement stems from an overall discomfort with allowing others to be free.

What we choose for ourselves by way of clothing, sexual partners, or anything else, is our choice. Yet, the same freedom we seek and protect for ourselves, we deny in others.

For most people, self-expression is not a privilege but a right. When Jaden walks out of his front door dressed as a caped hero or in an outfit typically found in the petite young women’s section of the department store, he, too, should have the right do so freely. Like my children, who were able to understand that fact within a matter of moments, I’m certain that us adults can let Jaden Smith live in whatever clothing he pleases.

 

Photo credit: Jaden Smith Twitter

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

 

Laverne Cox Has the Best Response to Caitlyn Jenner’s Photo Shoot

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Laverne Cox took to her personal blog to express her thoughts on the responses to Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair photo shoot.

“On May 29, 2014, the issue of timemagazine magazine which proclaimed the “Transgender Tipping Point” was revealed with me on the cover. June 1, 2015 a year and 3 days later, Caitlyn Jenner’s vanityfair cover was revealed proclaiming #CallMeCaitlyn I am so moved by all the love and support Caitlyn is receiving. It feels like a new day, indeed, when a trans person can present her authentic self to the world for the first time and be celebrated for it so universally. Many have commented on how gorgeous Caitlyn looks in her photos, how she is “slaying for the Gods.” I must echo these comments in the vernacular, “Yasss Gawd! Werk Caitlyn! Get it!” But this has made me reflect critically on my own desires to ‘work a photo shoot’, to serve up various forms of glamour, power, sexiness, body affirming, racially empowering images of the various sides of my black, trans womanhood. I love working a photo shoot and creating inspiring images for my fans, for the world and above all for myself. But I also hope that it is my talent, my intelligence, my heart and spirit that most captivate, inspire, move and encourage folks to think more critically about the world around them. Yes, Caitlyn looks amazing and is beautiful but what I think is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities. The love and devotion she has for her family and that they have for her. Her courage to move past denial into her truth so publicly. These things are beyond beautiful to me. A year ago when my Time magazine cover came out I saw posts from many trans folks saying that I am “drop dead gorgeous” and that that doesn’t represent most trans people. (It was news to be that I am drop dead gorgeous but I’ll certainly take it). But what I think they meant is that in certain lighting, at certain angles I am able to embody certain cisnormative beauty standards. Now, there are many trans folks because of genetics and/or lack of material access who will never be able to embody these standards. More importantly many trans folks don’t want to embody them and we shouldn’t have to to be seen as ourselves and respected as ourselves . It is important to note that these standards are also informed by race, class and ability among other intersections. I have always been aware that I can never represent all trans people. No one or two or three trans people can. This is why we need diverse media representations of trans folks to multiply trans narratives in the media and depict our beautiful diversities.”

Read the entire post here.

Photo: Laverne Cox/Tumblr

Fifty-Percent of Millennials Believe Gender Is On a Spectrum

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From Fusion’s Massive Millennial Poll:

Half of all Millennials believe that gender exists on a spectrum, and shouldn’t be limited to the categories of male and female, according to Fusion’s Massive Millennial Poll, which surveyed 1,000 people aged 18-34 about everything from politics to dating to race issues.

The findings suggest young people are moving away from a binary conception of gender, a major shift from previous generations. (For full results and methodology, click here.)

Some subsets of Millennials are even more progressive on the issue: 57 percent of female Millennials believe that gender falls on a spectrum, according to the poll, compared with 44 percent of men. And Millennials in the Northeast were even more likely to say so, at 58 percent. (In the South, that number fell to 42 percent.)

 The poll found that race created substantial differences on views of gender identity.

White Millennials were the most likely to support the concept of a non-binary gender system — 55 percent of whites said gender is on a spectrum, compared to 47 percent of Latinos and 32 percent of African Americans.

Read the entire study here.

Photo: Fusion