Monday, 24 April 2017

NOT YOUR GAY BEST FRIEND

I'm gay, yes. I can also be your friend, maybe even your best friend. And still, I am not and will never be your Gay Best Friend. Over the past week, I've seen two major media outlets here in Belgium share a story on women and their homosexual partner in crime, and I just needed to write some things off my mind. My thoughts on the concept, if you will, my two cents on why I immediately start angry sweating when I hear people using the term ‘Gay Best Friend’.



The term Gay Best Friend is possessive, objectifying and completely based on stereotypes and prejudice. Why? Let me break it down. Firstly, it's possessive and objectifying, because by using it, it feels like you are claiming us, as if we are yours to use and abuse when you need/want it. A healthy friendship is about balance and equality, and using derogatory terms like 'Gay Best Friend' is not the way to go. We are not an object, not an accessory, not something to proudly show off to your other friends. Please, treat us like humans, not like some kind of exotic animal in the zoo.
Secondly, I hate to break your bubble, but if you think you're openminded and not prejudiced but you don't see anything wrong with using 'Gay Best Friend', you're just not that openminded. Sorry 'bout it. Gay Best Friends always like shopping, they like drama, they're clumsy, funny and a little mean. Guess what? Those are all things that are stereotypically connected to being gay. As if we get a Gay Starter Kit when we come out, including a love for tiny dogs, an entire catalogue of every fashion trend ever and the lyrics to Madonna's complete oeuvre. Of course there are guys and girls who love all of those things, and who maybe even have all the characteristics I named. And that's totally okay, of course, but my point is that those things aren't and shouldn't be linked to a sexuality. Generalisations are dangerous and hurtful, always. If you think about it, how ridiculous is it to expect someone to be a certain way just because he or she accidently likes men or women? That's like saying all people who like broccoli also love to play squash in their free time. Imagine: "What, you don't love squash? But... didn’t you like broccoli?" Yeah. You get the point.


No longer a person, only a character

Let's have a little story time. Once upon a... woops, this is no fairy tale. Time for real talk. When I was young teenage boy, about sevenish years ago, I came out of the closet. I was thirteen and felt ready so I collected all the courage I had and told my friends first. All went well, or well, almost.

In hindsight I could have seen it coming. When I told her, her eyes widened, her lips formed an almost ecstatic smile, she grasped for air. One, two, thrOMG, YOU CAN BE MY GAY BEST FRIEND NOW! At the time, I laughed it off in the moment, just relieved I got my secret out. It wasn't until later that I realized how toxic her reaction actually was.
In a matter of seconds, three words - I am gay - I was no longer Joppe, her friend, I was Gay, her friend. No longer a real person but some kind of character, designed to please her. Sounds dramatic, I know, but think about it. She immediately reduced me to my sexuality, and nothing more. I was gay, which for her meant that she could do everything all gay guys stereotypically like to do with me. You know what? I like shopping, but quite often not for others. I don't like gossiping at all. Not my style. Granted, I can be a little dramatic from time to time, but I've got enough drama in me to fill that gap on my own, thank you very much.

Yes, our sexuality is a part of who we are, but it isn't everything. Sure, it defines some parts of our lives, but so does the fact that I don't like sports, or how I love to sing until my voice is gone. We are more than our sexuality, we are more than your friend, your accessory. We're just us, like you are you. And please, let's be friends, best friends even. But I am not and will never be your Gay Best Friend.



Monday, 17 April 2017

ALL FASHION, NO RULES W/ ZALANDO


I love fashion. It was my first love and it will probably be my last, and it is the very reason I started this blog. I wanted to share my passion and love for fashion with the world, even if it was on a very, very, very small part of the internet. Somewhere along the way I branched out, make-up & gender fluidity crossed my path, and I kinda lost sight of fashion and trends for a while. I still loved it, but I wasn't as invested in it. About six months ago, I got back into it, with the whole genderbending thing, and right now the fashion fire is bigger than it has ever been.

That's why, when Zalando contacted me work together, I was extremely excited. If you know me, you know I love online shopping, and with a wide variety of styles and brands that aren't always easy to find elsewhere, Zalando has been hitting it in the right spots for me. Well, that whole man box debacle left aside, that is. It might suprise you, but I am a man, and I actually don't like fishing, or sports, and I love shopping. I know, total shocker. It was right before that ad came out, that I actually got the idea for this post: all fashion, no rules.

Today, I'm focusing on another page that Zalando offers, one that I adore. For 2017 , Zalando has a page that collects all trends for you, easy and accessible. What I love the most is how everything is just completely mingled: sweaters with caps with dresses with culottes with shoes with... They have a page more aimed towards women and one more aimed towards men, but some pieces actually return in both, and it's obvious some trends are completely unisex. How about a good bomber jacket, or some wide-legged pants?

What I love the most about all things sartorial right now, is how everything is possible. Yes, there are trends, of course, but key is to do your thang with them, to give them your specific flavour. And honestly, you can do whatever the *bleep* you want. Mix styles, blur lines, experiment. The nineties are back, but so are the eighties, and a little seventies too. Hyperfemininity is in, but so is androgyny.  Extremes unite, and you can really mix and match, as long as you make it your own. It is all about personal style, about discovering what you like, and about expressing who you are.

That's what I really wanted to show in my outfit: it's all about doing you, no rules applied. Almost every piece I'm wearing I shopped in the "women's department", apart from the shoes. I mixed a wide legged paperbag pants with snakeskin cowboy boots, an oversized cropped jumpers with big sleeves, a modern silver bracelet and some classic pearls, like the ones your grandmother used to wear. When you list all the pieces like that, you wouldn't think it'd work, and still, it does. Because it's not about what you can or can not wear together, it's about attitude. About wearing what you love, because that shows. And honestly, it is so much more fun to try new things some times, even though there's a fair chance you'll look back one day and wonder what the fuck you were doing. If that's the case, look at it this way: at least you did it, and you did it wholeheartedly. Tbere are no rules, but if there's one, it's YOU DO YOU, BOO! Now, get ready for a freaking picture overload, because Maya absolutely hit it out of the park with these ones. Why pick one if you can have them all, right?










Pictures by Maya Bogaert (Archistas

Wearing: Sweater: Topshop Boutique △ Pants: Fashion Union △ Shoes: Jeffery West △ Necklace: J. Crew △ Bracelet: Kenzo (ALL VIA ZALANDO)

Find all trend pieces via WOMENSWEAR TRENDS and MENSWEAR TRENDS

Thank you for reading! 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

I HATE HOW YOU MADE ME FEEL OKAY WITH IT

To the man on the tram, giving me dirty looks. To the woman who sheltered her kid so he couldn't see me. To the driver who stopped in the middle of the road, just to roll down the window and call me a faggot. And especially to the group of drunk guys who triggered this post, by calling me and a friend 'those gays', just loud enough so we could hear us, and who, when we left, happily exclaimed "THEY'RE GONE!". I hate how you made me feel okay with it. Okay with the looks, okay with the comments, okay with the insults. Okay with the dehumanization, because that's what it is.


Context: me and a good friend of mine were at a bar, in Ghent. Minding our own bussiness, having a conversation. That's where the group of drunk guys came in, and the things I mentioned were said. When we walked away, my friend was baffled, disgusted, mad. And I don't know what enraged me more: the fact that he was feeling those emotions, or the fact that I wasn't. At all. Talking to my friend about how he was feeling kinda opened my eyes: how is it possible that we, altough we both are openly proud gay guys, experience such different reactions to hateful comments? The answer is simple: I got used to it. You see, I've been out of the closet for about six years now. Stijn, my friend, came out a little over a year ago. Simplistically sketched: I have had more time to get used to it. Used to the dirty looks, the nasty comments, the hateful laughs. It is only as I am writing this down that I realise how absolutely fucked up that is. Those aren't things one should get used to. Never. And still, that's what happens. You learn to brush it off, to ignore it, in order to stay somewhat positive. And it's true, carrying every little piece of hate you get on your shoulders would make Atlas look weak, and sweeping things under the rug is a fairly easy coping mechanism.
However, that does not mean we should be okay with it. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me to 'just ignore it', I would be laying on a tropical beach right now, on my own private island. Don't get me wrong, I see where they're coming from, I get it. Lord, do I get it. That's what they used to tell me when I got bullied in school: don't give the bullies the attention they want. Make them think it doesn't affect you. So that's what I did. That's what I have been doing, for as long as I can remember. But the truth is, it does affect me. While I won't let you see it, I notice every single look I get on the streets. from the moment I walk out the door. How could I not? The only thing I have learned, is that it is not about whether you notice them or not. It is about what you do with them. I have decided a long time ago that I won't let those things keep me from doing what I want. And I mean, it works. Some days are harder than others, but most of the time, I'm fine. It is only until very recently that I understood how I took that attitude too far. I got so used to the constant stream of negative attitudes towards me that somewhere along the way, I lost sight of how toxic those small stings of homophobia are. I got used to it, and even worse, I was okay with it. Damn. God fucking damn.


Now, I could say the solution is to not be okay with it, to act when random people on the streets call you out, to go into dialogue. But I just read the story of the gay couple in the Netherlands that was beaten up because they were holding hands in public, and because they did not keep quiet when six random dudes made hateful comments. Result: the couple's fun night out turned into a nightmare. To the people that tell me homophobia doesn't exists in our region, and that we shouldn't complain: you can exit stage left, thank you very much. This post has no solution built into it, no happy ending, I don't even know if half of it made sense. I just needed to write things out, because that tends to be the most enlightening thing for me to do.

I hate that I needed to write this down. I hate the hate that goes around. But most of all, I hate how you made me feel okay with it.