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MORE THAN FASHION

PROUD TOGETHER: KAI-ISAIAH JAMAL

As part of our Pride Month takeover, we asked LGBTIQ+ writers and activists from our line-up to write an article for us on whatever they wanted. This is their space to express themselves and talk about issues that are important to them. Today, in the last in the series, writer, poet and visibility activist Kai-Isiah Jamal (pronouns: They/Them) talks through their love-hate relationship with clothing.
A picture of poet, writer and visibility activist Kai-Isaiah Jamal | ASOS Style Feed

Instagram: @@kai_Isaiah_jamal

'Tomboy' was the first word I had for both my gender identity and my clothing aesthetic. I watched them both roll and merge into one, as I realised how much emphasis society puts on what you wear. Now, I’m trying to be more autonomous and think about my own beauty standards, which sometimes means starting from scratch. It's my own perspective, rather than digestibility and palatability for others, that matters most.

There are some bodies, like mine, that cannot, and will not, live inside the binary that society expects of them. They are too much of a perfect shade of grey to reduce themselves to black or white. I want to wear clothing that reflects my shade of grey, clothing that feels good on the outside and the inside. The kind of good you can see on my smile.
A picture of poet, writer and visibility activist Kai-Isaiah Jamal | ASOS Style Feed

Instagram: @@kai_Isaiah_jamal

My wardrobe and I have always had a love-hate relationship (similar to the one I have with my body). Each morning I stand before it, unclear if we are going to make love, war, or peace. I find myself in a perplexing state: I want to celebrate my body and the revolutionary shape it takes form in, but I'm also aware that how I want to dress is a signifier of my trans identity. There is power in wearing something that makes someone take a second look at you, but sometimes I need to ensure my safety. In some spaces, I don’t want to attract any attention – whether it comes because of something as stupid as a tiny bit of my stomach showing, or the colours and patterns I'm wearing. So I find myself in black and grey tracksuits a little too often.

When I have those days, I often get frustrated. I critique myself, wondering: why do I try to adhere to a heteronormative style that I don’t believe in? But I have only recently realised that safety is a privilege, and when you can’t ensure that 24/7, sometimes you do need to compromise things – in my case, it's often a crop tee.
A picture of poet, writer and visibility activist Kai-Isaiah Jamal | ASOS Style Feed

Instagram: @@kai_Isaiah_jamal

When I'm at home in my bedroom, none of that matters. I love how I can experiment with my look and try different things. I dip and dive into my fiancé's wardrobe too, and sometimes I try different materials on her rail. Right now, I'm living for a bit of sheerness – sometimes it makes me dysphoric but more often than not, it makes me feel sexy.

I had always drooled over certain looks that in different states of my transition, I felt like I couldn’t wear. At the moment, when I wear really low baggy jeans, massive Air Force 1s and teeny-tiny crop tops, I feel most myself. But my style is a work in progress. My wardrobe and my transition are like long-lost twins separated at birth who find themselves stumbling into each other over and over again. Occasionally, they marry together and bring out a lewk that screams 'me'. I am learning to make love and peace and abstraction with them both.

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