“About Face – are you a boy or a girl?”

 by Tamara Dean

Courtesy Agence Vu and Martin Browne Contemporary Gallery.

 

« There is an arresting beauty in androgyny.
Androgyny challenges our cultural conceptions of femininity and masculinity. The questions that often arise – “Are you a boy or a girl?” or “are you a man or a woman?” – suggest that gender stereotypes, learned behaviour and cultural prejudices can influence the way we perceive and in turn relate to people.
I like to think that androgyny can be perceived as a universal face of humanity. »

Tamara Dean is an Australian artist whose practice includes photography, installation and participatory works exploring the relationship between humans and the natural world and the role ritual plays in our lives.

www.agencevu.com

Annabelle
Scent – Tom Ford Black Orchid
“Androgyny to me is a way to step out of the spotlight and often finds me when I am most at peace with myself.”

Conor
Scent – YSL Paris
“It is still hard when people are crude or uninformed, however I have learnt that this is not my issue, it’s theirs… my androgynous “look” is an asset instead of a burden.”
“My best friend once told me I have the best of both worlds, not being able to identify to one sex but flowing in and out of them, and knowing my sexuality. “
“Growing up as the youngest of four allowed me to have a protected childhood, my siblings always looked after me. However I always knew I was different.”

Grace
Scent – Tom Ford Rive d’Ambre
“I have never thought of myself as ambiguous… When someone questions my sex because of the way I appear and dress, I think to myself, good, ask me and learn that to be a woman I don’t need to act and look a certain way.”
“I never thought people perceived me as a boy until I went to my friends house and his father asked me directly “are you a boy or a girl?”.”

Luca and Aki
Scent – Lavender
“I’d be alright with it [if people thought I was a girl], I’d just say “I’m a boy”…”

Meng
Scent  – Dirty Body Spray from Lush
“She said to me in Mandarin through her sobs and tears, “Not boy, not girl” – a phrase she proceeded to repeat to me for over four years.”
“I think it means being able to embrace both femininity and masculinity. I think it means being comfortable with this fusion of softness and hardness, sensitivity and resilience, the external and the internal.”

Jamie / Poppy
Scent –  Classique by Jean-Paul Gaultier
“As a child I used to bind my chest and hide my long hair under one of my fathers caps, every time I looked like a boy I would feel proud of myself…”
“I never wanted to be a boy but just reject the ideas of woman hood projected onto me.”

Sabrina
Scent – Jean-Paul Gaultier 2- unisex
“I’ve never tried to be androgynous: this is just the way I want to look.”
“When you start the tornado, and you are the tornado, don’t moan about being the tornado.”

Brooke
Scent – Uomo by Valentino 
“For many people it can be quite formidable to find a place where you fit in.”

Brooke
Scent – Uomo by Valentino
For me, being androgynous has always been something I am personally very much comfortable with. That being said, it’s not exactly something I woke up and one day decided that it was going to be my style.
These days we are lucky, the freedom to express yourself is largely accepted. However I do come across people – sometimes in relationships, where I feel like their idea of an androgynous female can be misinterpreted. Very often with ‘bisexual’ women especially. Being able to somewhat represent both male and female gender roles, at the end of the day you are still very much female inside and outside of the body! So in some experiences I’ve had, emotional communication can be hard. This goes for both guys and girls I assume.
When it comes to my sexuality, it was mostly a smooth path for me, luckily. So being complacent with the way I’m perceived or the clothes I decide to wear has always been a uid/no fuss approach. For many people it can be quite formidable to nd a place where you t in. I suppose con dence in yourself and mainly support from family and friends from as young as possible is the most important. The love and acceptance from my family as a teenager certainly shaped me to never put myself down due to the person I am.

Luca and Aki, twins
Scent – Lavender
Aki: What do you mean?… um… could you explain it again? [The concept of androgyny is explained again] Oh, I don’t really care… it’s only just when people make fun of you, but that doesn’t really happen because I got good friends… but it’s mainly my hair, it’s my hair that makes me… I dunno…
Luca: If you look like a boy and a girl?… I dunno… not really… my hair… I’d be alright with it [if people thought I was a girl], I’d just say “I’m a boy”…

Conor

Scent – YSL Paris
Growing up as the youngest of four allowed me to have a protected childhood, my sibling always looked after me. However I always knew I was different. High school hit me hard being an all boys catholic school, and not having any idea of my sexuality. This is when I decided I did not want to recognize or accept being different, even though I didn’t know what was different about me, all I wanted to do was blend in.
Being bullied through high school and having no self acceptance impacted myself in more ways than one, I wanted to be invisible, not different. I didn’t have many friends until the end of high school, and even then I did not want to accept myself for who I am. It wasn’t until after my 21st birthday I came out as gay, even though everyone seemed to know, but me. It wasn’t until I learnt that nothing was technically “wrong” with me, that I am a gay male with feminine features, this is when I accepted and learnt about androgyny.
My best friend once told me I have the best of both worlds, not being able to identify to one sex but owing in and out of them, and knowing my sexuality.
It is still hard when people are crude or uninformed, however I have learnt that this is not my issue, it’s theirs. This is still something I work on every single day, not taking on other people’s problems, and my androgynous “look” is an asset instead of a burden.

 
 

Grace
Scent – Tom Ford Rive d’Ambre
I was a con dent child, that wore what I wanted and did what made me happy. I had no concept of gender; and the associated expectations, or an understanding of sexuality.
As a child I had a strong sense of identity; it is a strange thing to lose it in adolescence only to regain it again. As a small children we played kiss and catch; I was always on the boys team and none of the kids questioned it. The environment that I grew up in was very open and allowed for self discovery and as a young girl it was acceptable to be a tomboy. I never wanted to trade in my board shorts and black harley davidson shirt for a dress, however, it had occurred to me that it was expected. I never thought people perceived me as a boy until I went to my friends house and his father asked me directly «are you a boy or a girl?». I was self-conscious and hesitant to answer, that moment made me stop and internalise what that question meant to me. Of course, I answered girl. I was nine years old and that was the rst time I felt uncomfortable with my body and how I presented myself.
Androgyny denotes a sense of ambiguity. I have never thought of myself as ambiguous but I understand that other people may recognise certain features that are known to be more masculine or more feminine. When someone questions my sex because of the way
I appear and dress; I think to myself, good, ask me and learn that to be a woman I don’t need to act and look a certain way. I feel as though our interactions result in some form of increased understanding; then again, perhaps not but at least it is opening the dialogue for discussion, which, I am now comfortable having.


Sabrina

Scent – John Paul Gaultier 2- unisex
I’ve never tried to be androgynous: this is just the way I want to look. And then that ends up becoming some strange pattern that causes a lot of problems for me. But I am meant to be chaos; so I can’t really complain ever. When you start the tornado, and you are the tornado, don’t moan about being the tornado.

Annabelle
Scent – Tom form Black Orchid or Aesop marikesh (can’t remember how it’s spelt) intense
Female identity is something that undulates in importance for me. I often go through waves as a woman of wanting to feel more or less feminine. Androgyny to me is a way to step out of the spotlight and often nds me when I am most at peace with myself. As a person suffering from anxiety, I nd my feminine side coming out when I am feeling self conscious. Perfume, dresses, make up, are all things that I wear when I am feeling least like myself. Androgyny allows me to relax and I’m sure many other women nd the same resting place in disregarding social expectation.