Breaking Tradition

Breaking Tradition

Model Ivan Fahy with his very proud mother on his graduation day.

I’m the boy that graduated in high heels. Yes, him. I’m Ivan Fahy. I’m an androgynous model, a gender and LGBT activist, and a recent graduate of Psychology and Sociology & Politics.

I decided to graduate in high heels simply because I wanted to and my graduation day was exactly that – mine – so I would exercise autonomy and decide by myself, for myself, what I would wear.

I wore what expresses my being; high heels, skinny jeans and a Britney Spears t-shirt because she is my favourite singer. I also wanted to take a stance in support of all the transgender and gender non-conforming students in Galway, Ireland and the world.

Looking around the Bailey Allen Hall on graduation day, what do you see? You see everything ‘typical’ and heteronormative; boys in suits, girls in dresses, Mammy and Daddy in tow.

Where is LGBT visibility? Where is diversity? Everyone dresses normatively, something tradition demands. This tradition forces you to pay for and wear a gown, forces you to wear a graduation cap if you are female (because your education is being traditionally capped), and forces us to abide by gender and social norms.

Such tradition prevents me and others like myself from being ourselves. Such tradition reflects sexism, homophobia and transphobia. Such tradition rejects the diversity within humanity.

Therefore, I wore my high heels to get everyone thinking. My high heels are my tool of activism. They attract attention. They force people to think and to question, but only because I, a human born male, wear them.

They wouldn’t have such an impact on the feet of a woman. They’d be barely noticed. Yet, when I wear high heels, it’s all people see and remember.

I look forward to the day when a male in high heels isn’t so shocking, but right now it is, but only because gender and its expression is so restrictively understood, and we only have ourselves and those before us to blame.

Society isn’t to blame for we create and maintain society. Gender is beautiful. Norms and traditions constructed by humans hide its beauty. Gender norms and gender policing restrict human potential. They, if allowed, will hold you back. They will hold you back from living the life you want to live and from loving the people you want to love.

We need to protest against these gender norms and this is done most effectively by living your life openly, proudly and visibly.

I studied hard for three years and I was not going to conform and dress ‘traditionally’ on my well-deserved graduation day. What for anyway? For the strangers in the room? For the heads of the university?

We care too much – way too much – about what others think. Also, my androgynous modelling and expression of gender isn’t something that exists only online or in fashion magazines; it exists where I decide.

My androgyny will not be confined to ‘appropriate’ spaces. It will not be hidden, shamed, condemned or censored. By being myself in the graduation public space, I broke graduation tradition.

I hope this results in people dressing exactly how they want to in all future graduations. I hope I may have encouraged and inspired others to feel confident and secure in graduating how they personally want.

I was taken aback by all the love and support I have received in person and online. This love and support was very much needed and hugely appreciated. Nobody wants to live in a boring and closed society, so we need to positively reinforce and support those that live proudly as themselves.

We all have LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) friends and family members, and we may be LGBT ourselves, so we must all stand up for diversity and equality.

I want to thank everyone who showed me love and support on my Facebook page (nearly 1,000 of ye). Ireland is becoming more accepting, and soon we will all vote in the referendum on marriage equality.

It is crucial that everyone is registered and goes to vote (the deadline for registration is November 25th 2014). I would like to end this piece with an empowering quotation; ”Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Please check out my androgynous modelling and LGBT activism Facebook page and click ‘Like’:

Thank you very much!

By Ivan Fahy

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