From Salon: http://www.salon.com/2013/11/10/what_happens_when_a_female_model_starts_dressing_as_a_man/
Elliott Sailors has gotten media criticism and homophobic slurs, but says she’s just expressing her masculine side
Sunday, Nov 10, 2013
A week ago, Elliott Sailors announced that she has reinvented herself as a male model after years of successfully modeling womenswear with the Ford agency. Since male models have longer careers than their female counterparts, Sailors took the drastic step of cutting her hair, binding her breasts and modeling as a man when she saw her job prospects withering at the age of 30. The media has been transfixed by Sailors’ transformation: She’s been covered by talk shows and news outlets around the world, where she has been celebrated for pushing the boundaries of gender fluidity. The collective fascination with Sailors reveals how transgressive it still is for a heterosexual woman to project a masculine identity.
In the midst of the fray, Katy Waldman of Slate accused Sailors of exploiting transgender narratives in order to further her career, writing, “To appropriate the trans/transition narrative when really all you intend to do is playact a different gender for the camera is just silly. Cut it out.” But Waldman’s accusation does not consider the complexities of gender identification that Sailors has experienced and, more broadly, it does not make room for the possibility that women may genuinely desire to embody masculinity without seeking gender reassignment.
When I spoke with Sailors, she explained that her decision to reinvent herself was not motivated purely by a desire to continue working in fashion. “As a model, there is a lot of direction that comes from the [modeling] agency in terms of how to present yourself,” she says. “This is something I took on outside of conversations with the agency. This is something I did on my own.” Indeed, she had been toying with the idea of gender transformation for many years, driven by a strong feeling that her identity is not encapsulated by traditional femininity. “I don’t identify as a man, but I don’t identify with feminine ways of being either,” she says. “For me, wearing a dress and heels always feels like ‘dressing up.’” Outside her modeling work, Sailors has always been more comfortable wearing men’s clothing. “I have purchased more menswear since doing this, but this is exactly the same kind of clothing that I would have worn before.” Sailors says that she is regularly identified as a man when she walks around Manhattan. “I am excited when people make the mistake sometimes because it means this is working,” she says. “People are realizing that my energy is inclusive of masculine energy.”
As many have noted, gender identity and sexual orientation are not one and the same — and Sailors’ transformation sends a liberating message to women who do not feel entirely at home within the trappings of femininity. Since taking on her new appearance, Sailors has heard from many other heterosexual women who are grateful they are not alone in yearning for more fluid gender identities. However, she makes it clear that she does not expect all women to want to embody masculine characteristics. “A lot of people don’t necessarily feel that their experience of themselves includes more than the gender that they were born into,” she asserts. “I don’t blame anybody else for not doing what I have done.”
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2013/11/10/what_happens_when_a_female_model_starts_dressing_as_a_man/