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February 28, 2021

Yardley cuffs his pants, a habit he picked up living in Italy, where he said people are singled out if they don’t conform to the fashion-based culture.

[Click here to listen] “They have a phrase, ‘la bella figura,’ which means you don’t go outside, basically, unless you look good,” he said. “And if you do, you’re labeled … an American tourist. And I really didn’t want to be an American tourist.”

The culture at ASL treated Yardley differently than in Italy. When he moved to the school in Grade 9, he said his fashion choices meant he was now the one being singled out; students labeled him as gay. He paused after saying this – his expression one of befuddlement.

Nonetheless, Yardley said one hypothesis might be the damaging equation of metrosexuality to femininity, which in turn is aligned with homosexuality. He said men that care about the way they look send the “wrong message that ‘I’m beautiful, come here and protect me,’ which falls much more into the stereotypes of what people think gay men are like than what people think straight men are like.”

Jaworski said she notices a discontinuity between the relationships that younger generations and older generations have with gender. She said younger generations are accepting of gender fluidity, whereas older ones maintain more rigid definitions.

Furthermore, Jaworski said older people tend to use clothing as a sure-fire signifier of gender, and thus they would, due to their traditional perceptions of gender, force stereotypical clothing on people.

[Click here to listen] “‘I must know: are you a boy or a girl?’” she said, as an example of how older people think. “‘And if you decide that you’re one, then you must dress that way.’”

In the same vein, makeup can differentiate gender. Papenhagen said although ASL is one of the safest places for a boy to wear makeup, a male student might hesitate when considering wearing makeup to school.

“Are there things at ASL that would kind of make that student or give that student pause?” he said. “Absolutely … We’re still a very American school in some ways.”

Similarly, Linton said while the American layer to the school’s identity still shows its colors, it would be more accepting of a boy in makeup than schools in the U.S.

According to Papenhagen, “the man box is much bigger in America.”

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