The rise of men wearing women’s clothing in the last couple of years brought hope to so many members of the LGBTQQIA community across the world— it became a glimmer of hope or a yellow brick road to acceptance. Genderless fashion challenged the perception of masculinity; it shook grounds, broke walls of divide, and created discourse among people. But, somewhere in the world, in a small island made up of mostly Catholics, a city I’ve lived in over two decades— Cebu City— the topic of embracing the concept of ungendering fashion and letting men be feminine is taboo— but not as taboo.
Cebuanos have grown into people more aware of fashion and has made it a way of life than being (just) a part of life. There is no denying that Cebu fashion has grown in great magnitude the last couple of years, with people becoming more trends-conscious and fashion designers incrementing to irreducible amount. Indeed, fashion in Cebu is growing, but is it progressing? People tend to forego the idea that fashion is a deliberate form of self-expression and that it is free for all, especially Cebu, being an equally conscious and conservative city in the Philippines, with majority of the population being Catholics, there is no denying that reasons are sometimes based on faith, that sometimes people base everything with religion; that sometimes— or even most of the time —they only see what is in accordance to the Holy Scriptures and blurring the rest out to obscurity. With that said, there is little to no avenue for men wearing women’s clothing to prosper in Cebu, as the city itself is congested with conservatives and closed-mindedness. Although, it is not entirely saying there is no chance at all, but it is unlikely to happen the very soon.
When we, members of the LGBTQQIA community, express our uniqueness and individuality through fashion, we’re thought of as unusual, bizarre, weird, or at most extent not normal— especially with gay men dressed in femininity— but we try to, as much as possible, disregard the oppressive ignorance of the majority. It is radical as human beings to fight for what we believe in, but the notion sometimes becomes too exhausting that we just let others drown us with their closed-mindedness— although we oppose, sometimes we just suppose— to simply get it done and over with. Ignorance is also a root of unacceptance, for the lack of knowledge leads to becoming oblivious of any possibilities that can be an empathetic gesture to the complex nature of the community or to just simply being humans.
Majority of the people tend to discount or negate the very idea of men being feminine in fashion, as it does not conform to their paradigm, which in turn, becomes a discriminating and oppressive ordeal. For those within and allies to the community, fashion is an unequivocal mean to express, to evoke the unspoken praises of uniqueness and self-love. It is through this debated medium of art that members and friends of the LGBTQQIA in Cebu get to elicit their creativity to others. Fashion has no gender, as believed by fashion believers and non-binary pillars; it’s true, as gender is being placed on things where it shouldn’t be and allowing yourself to be restricted in oppressive molds enslave the very idea of fashion, that is to express. It has been a communal effort between designers— especially with menswear— to press on the societal issue of letting men be feminine and all across the world, non-binary fashion is being foregrounded, being celebrated, and the Philippines is slowly swimming in with the tides of the world with regards to men being feminine in fashion. The efforts of feminizing masculinity without fully obstructing the identity has slowly rippled in some parts of the Philippines, but not really in Cebu. The reasoning for this is because, as said, Cebu is congested with people conserved by their age-old traditions and customary thinking and I also believe this is due to the fact that Cebuano fashion designers don’t put as much effort in pressing the issue, thus not creating a discourse within the city, then pushing it to oblivion.
Uncertainty. That’s all there is for the future of men wearing women’s clothing in Cebu. Uncertain whether to happen. Uncertain whether to be embraced and accepted. In the spectrum of gender roles in fashion, as much as we try to obstruct the very idea, the obsolete power of not knowing the possibility of ungendering reigns over. I’d like to think the people of Cebu are warming up to the concept of letting men wear women’s clothing, but I don’t think they are. There is sometimes a clear hypocrisy that underlies in the opinions of most when they say men can’t wear women’s clothing. If the majority is so ardent with gender labeling fashion, that: men is to pants and women is to skirts, then everyone has been obviously (more often than not) disrupting their tight principles of gender in fashion, long before the issue even came about. So women can wear pants, but men can’t wear skirts? So much injustice! If only Cebu is more open and more ready to embrace the idea, then, it would be a lot easier for someone who celebrates the irreverence of being different and the very core of wearing a rainbow-colored flag, and it would also help in making members of the community feel truly accepted in the city they call home.
So, what about us? What about those not in the binary spectrum of genderism? What about those who deliberately and profusely deviate themselves in fashion? What about those gay men who opt to celebrate their uniqueness by wearing women’s clothing? Is there room, Cebu?