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The Hats I keep

In a world with gender normalities and sexual entitlements, my choice is not to rotate them frequently, but to coexist within them all together

By Mia Maaytah

I felt confused when I entered my third year of university. My approach to sexuality and gender changed depending on class or work or through exhausting conversations with the same mundane types of people. My demeanor corresponded with my desire to match my surroundings. It was not until COVID-19 that I realized I had been yearning for extravagant fluidity in clothing and sexuality while searching for some title to encompass it all.

After moving to Toronto in 2017, I spent the following years crafting my identity. I wore multiple hats, catered to the environments they suited. During the weekdays, I was a journalism student — a woman with a loud mouth and a limited circle of friends. On the weeknights I worked long shifts in the service industry, allowing the objectification of my short dress and low neckline. Still, I prioritized the heaps of money over the hair stuck in my lipgloss and the unnecessary commentary from guests.

I’d spend the weekends with my close friends, sipping wine and nursing heartbreaks, or shooting tequila and trying new positions. While wearing spaghetti-straps and no bra, highlight and red lips, we frequented clubs where I kissed girls in the bathrooms and kissed boys at the bar. Online, my social media profiles quite literally painted me colourfully — a feed full of art and highly saturated photographs. I’d contend that it didn’t scream heterosexuality, though the pictures of my current boyfriend would argue otherwise.

Rarely did I feel like the same person all of the time. I chalked this up to late stages of adolescence and the coming-of-age movies that told me I was still finding myself. I rationalized all of my experimentation, and decided that it was nothing permanent, but rather a fleeting moment of curiosity. As if those hats I often wore were just as quick to go out of style — I had to try them all.

Once quarantine began, I felt utterly stripped of the identity I had so carefully built. I was no longer a loud-mouth student, the brunette with the bottles, the bisexual in the bars — I was a person left alone in her apartment, with nothing but a reminiscent camera-roll and all my hats stacked away in my closet.

I went through the stages of grief. I watched as the world’s expectations for normalcy arose and then burned and burned again. I wound up back in my childhood home, finding safety in my teenage routines. Though through this routine, my weekly rotation of attitudes suddenly garnered a need to stabilize. I felt as though all of my differing representations now clashed, and I had to pick just one.

Hesitantly, I approached my femininity first — though I felt an uproar of internalized misogyny as I blow-dried my hair and painted my nails. It’s something I’m still working on. I attempted masculinity-femininity, a mix of gender stereotypes which in my head was a mantra of lesbian porn and unshaven legs. Finally, I attempted masculinity entirely, a love affair of pay-per-view fights and celibacy stemming from sexual confusion.

In the summer, I landed somewhere in the middle — in a land I like to call androgynous and elegant. I think I feared, and still do fear, this obsession we all seem to have with titles. Perhaps this is why in the past I opted for alternating personas fluidly as opposed to possessing all of them at once. I think before COVID-19, I built myself not to appease my own comfortability, but to appeal to the eyes that stood before me.

This past fall, I checked back in with the hats now dusty in my closet. I stood there, reminiscing on my grievance and interpersonal reflection. I finally felt free from the bullshit that resided inside my brain, an achievement I didn’t know I wanted.

I’ve reached a place where I don’t care to identify as just one thing, which I think is what my collection of characters were all about. I don’t care to be intelligent on Mondays, scandalous on Thursdays, and slutty on the weekends. I don’t care to justify my behaviour with women, or my behaviour with men, and convince myself I’m on some experimental journey that comes to an end.

If the question is if I got more gay, more straight, more femme, or more masculine during the pandemic, then the answer is yes. I’ve become them all at the same time without reservation or concern. I am all of the above. I am androgynous and absolutely elegant in it.


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