Have you ever considered creating your own gender? Clemson University students explored this phenomenon by embarking on a “Create Your Own Gender Adventure” workshop on Wednesday.
Clemson’s Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center hosted the event, which featured Lara Americo, a transgender activist and founder of Comic Girl Coffee, which is an "anti-capitalist space that uses the non-profit model to support community building," according to its website.
Americo campaigns for greater rights for the LGBTQ community through TEDX, the ACLU, and Change.org.
“We create gender every day whether we realize it or not,” claims the event description. “When we wake up, with clothes and mannerisms, we perform and create gender.”
“Gender!” Americo exclaimed at the event. “It takes so much energy, so we need to eat, we need to sustain ourselves so we can keep up this performance that we put on every single day.”
Five students and four adults attended Americo’s presentation, sitting at tables surrounding the activist. Americo mixed and matched clothes from a pile to model “new genders.” The transgender activist selected two volunteers to pick out a shirt, pants, makeup, and accessories to assemble various outfits, while the audience attempted to guess what type of gender each piece of clothing represented.
“As soon as you wake up, think about all the things you do to prepare to walk outside of the house. You have all these clothes, all these products that you bought, all these different things that you use to create your identity and by default you use to create your gender expression: your blend of masculinity and femininity,” Americo explained.
“So, we’re gonna do it right now. We’re gonna create something. Are there only two genders? Is it just male and female? Or are genders infinite…and can we create infinite genders based on our emotions and our feelings for today?”
Americo dressed in a variety of clothes to mix and match styles, including fox-covered tights, cargo pants, pink cat ears, and a loose-fitting striped shirt. The activist dressed an audience volunteer up in a variety of “different gendered” clothing, including a woman’s suit jacket, a colored skirt, and a pair of men’s camouflage pants.
The group laughed and joked as the volunteer had difficulty fitting all of the clothes together for review.
“This is the complicated gender,” a student joked. “This is gender as a math problem, no shade to the math professor.”
In a Q&A session, Americo described growing up with a father who encouraged going into the military, and later MMA fighting. It was the trouble of living “authentically”; the way that felt most emotionally comfortable, that conflicted with Americo’s masculine upbringing and eventually drove America to alter associate with femininity, while becoming an advocate for the LGBTQ community.
“We don’t realize how much energy it takes to stay within the binaries”, Americo states, “If you’re born with a penis and you wanna shave your legs and wear lipstick every day, who cares? As long as you’re contributing to society and being a good friend and family member. And it’s impossible to do that when you can’t be yourself,” Americo explained.
“So the purpose of this is to demonstrate the absurdity of gender roles and gender stereotypes.”