9 Of The Most Influential Gender Benders Among Gen Z
Whether they identify as androgynous, transgender, gender fluid, or somewhere between, gender benders are here to stay.
by Megan Ambers
December 17, 2021 at 5:37 pm
Many famous artists, musicians, and influencers today have been shaking up gender norms more and more. A new wave of activism sees men donning eyeliner and eyeshadow while women shave off their hair or adopt non-binary pronouns.
According to a study conducted by Bigeye, an advertising firm, 50% of Gen Z believe traditional gender roles and binary gender labels are outdated, and 56% of millennials think the same.
Whether they identify as androgynous, transgender, gender fluid, or somewhere between, gender benders are here to stay. The following are nine famous people who break gender boundaries.
Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X has been acclaimed as one of the most famous openly gay Gen Zers since coming out publicly in 2019. During the release of his music video for "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)," Lil Nas X, born Montero Lamar Hill, shared a letter he wrote to his 14-year-old self expressing why he would never go public or be "that kind of gay person."
"I know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist," Lil Nas X said in the letter. "You see, this is very scary for me; people will be angry, they will say I'm pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am. The agenda to make people stay the f*** out of other people's lives and stop dictating who they should be."
The 22-year-old artist has taken advantage of his newfound fame to stand up against homophobia and show people how to accept what society says is wrong about themselves. A legion of celebrities, including Miley Cyrus and Lorde, as well as LGBTQ+ icon Sir Elton John, has publicly supported him.
Zendaya has an extensive history of promoting gender inclusivity, including her former androgynous and gender fluidity clothing line Daya by Zendaya. Despite the discontinuation of her clothing line, Zendaya continues to promote gender fluidity whenever possible. Her gender-fluid wardrobe choices can be traced back to her childhood.
"I was lucky to have parents who let me wear what I wanted to wear and let me shop where I wanted to shop," Zendaya said in an interview with Glamour. "Nine times out of 10, I was shopping in the boy's section. I wore cargo shorts and hoodies. That was my uniform."
The 25-year-old actor, who uses the pronoun "she/her" and identifies as a cisgender, heterosexual woman, had one viral moment with Vanity Fair when asked to reveal her favorite quality in a man. After being surprised by the assumption, she corrected the question by making it gender-neutral.
"[What] I most like in a person, how about that?" the actor replied. "Kindness is not the best way to describe it, but some people are just good people, and you can just feel it.
In terms of influence, both fashion and music, Playboi Carti is one of today's most exciting and influential artists. However, several factors have been used to analyze the sexuality of the Whole Lotta Red rapper, including his choice of clothing and effeminate poses in photos and performances.
In an interview with Highsnobiety, the 25-year-old rapper revealed he is being himself and regrets publicly waiting so long to do so.
"I'm being myself. I hate that I waited so long to be myself," PlayBoi Carti said. "I wish I came in like this. But if you look at my career, you see little signs of that — It's always been me. From the moment I came into this game."
However, Carti's vocal androgyny, which combines half-pronounced words with high-pitched sounds, makes him unique. Artists like PlayBoi Carti, Young Thug, and Lil Uzi Vert have taken to the vocal style, adding a feminine touch to their music while challenging the idea of masculinity.
The fashion and music styles of PlayBoi Carti, born Jordan Carter, are gender-bending and fearless.
Known for their role as transgender woman Angel Vasquez-Evangelista on FX's Pose, Indya Moore identifies as non-binary in real life. Using they/them, Moore has been a dedicated advocate for the transgender community, and they use their platform to highlight the difficulties of being transgender in American.
During an interview with the Hollywood Reporter back in 2019, Indya describes having a gender jar installed in the Century City location of their management agency, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), requiring everyone who misgenders the 26-year-old to fill it with money.
"I thought it would be a great way to hold people accountable. The more you misgender people, the more you have to spend," Moore explains. "My choice to identify as nonbinary — though I typically express in femme ways — is to constantly disrupt the notion of the gender construct. Gender binaries aren't just harmful to people who are trans and queer; they are harmful to all of us."
The oldest gender-bender on the list, rapper Kid Cudi, is highly adored by Gen Zers, despite starting his career when most were still in primary school. Through his music, social media accounts, and public appearances, the Cleveland-born actor and musician has spoken out about depression, suicidal urges, and drug use, encouraging youth to find help when in need.
During his performance on Saturday Night Live in April, Kid Cudi, born Scott Mescudi, honored Kurt Cobain — one of his musical influences and childhood heroes — by wearing a floral dress similar to the one Cobain wore in 1993. The dress, created by Kid Cudi in collaboration with late Virgil Abloh, was met with criticism but only inspired the rapper to wear a dress additional times, including during the CDFA Awards in November. The 37-year-old rapper wore a custom-made wedding dress by California-based fashion label ERL and was accompanied by the brand's designer, Eli Russell Linnetz.
After the awards show, Kid Cudi took to Twitter and shared a message from his 11-year-old daughter, who supported his choice to wear a dress, noting that her dad looked "very pretty" in his dress. Kid Cudi remarked that as long as his daughter is supportive of him, he's happy.
Kid Cudi has been vocal about his nonconforming choices, including wearing nail polish and eye shadow, most recently during an appearance on HBO's The Shop: Uninterrupted.
"I don't give a **** about what anyone thinks," Kid Cudi said. "I want to be a disrupter; I want to **** **** up. And it's cool because I'm also giving confidence to the kids and telling them to be themselves and do what they want to do."
Jordan Kristine Seamon
Jordan Kristine Seamon, 19, says that her role on HBO's We Are Who We Are, helped her recognize that she is gender fluid.
"I had never questioned gender identity at all. Mostly because where I'm from, it wasn't talked about, just because it was foreign to us," Seamon told The Guardian. "The show really helped me in a very healthy way figure out that I'm gender fluid and that I like going by all pronouns."
According to the actor and singer who uses the pronouns "she/they," her debut album, Identity Crisis, was inspired by the similarities between herself and her character and being heavily influenced by other show topics. As she takes on Harper's persona, Seamon's character Caitlin's gender expression gradually shifts toward masculinity. In experimenting with baggier clothes and taping down her chest, Caitlin tries to find comfort in coming to terms with possibly being transgender, a moment that Seamon found relatable.
"It's not specifically said in the script what Caitlin identifies as and who they feel like they are, so I had to do my own research. I was scrolling through social media, and I saw some mention of gender fluidity, and I was curious," Seamon explains. "People were referring to me with multiple pronouns in the scene, so it was easy for me, Jordan, to feel whether that felt good or not for me. And it did."
With his fusion of masculine and feminine aesthetics, Jaden Smith is best known for challenging gender stereotypes. Through his music, fashion, and organization, MSFTS Republic (MSFTSrep), Smith promotes self-expression for Gen Zers. Whether it be dresses or skirts or floral headbands, Smith has worn them all, whatever he decided to wear at the moment.
Throughout his career, Jaden has been at the forefront of eradicating gender stereotypes. In addition to attending Amandla Stenberg's prom in a dress and wearing heels to the 2017 Met Gala, Jaden Smith has solidified himself as a "genderqueer" style icon. In an interview with Nylon magazine, Smith said despite the world's continued bashing of him, "I'm going to keep doing the same things."
"So, you know, in five years when a kid goes to school wearing a skirt, he won't get beat up, and kids won't get mad at him," Jaden said. "It just doesn't matter. I'm taking the brunt of it so that later on, my kids and the next generations of kids will all think that certain things are normal that weren't expected before my time."
Amandla Stenberg first revealed they were non-binary in a Tumblr post in 2016. During an interview with PEOPLE magazine in 2017, Stenberg revealed that they believe that gender in current-day society doesn't exist.
"I've said before that I'm comfortable with using the pronouns they or 'them' alongside 'she' and 'her' just because that's a conversation that's important to me," Stenberg says. "I don't necessarily always subscribe to female pronouns just because I don't think that pronouns are necessarily very meaningful."
Stenberg has also spoken out on sexual identity and the difficulties associated with labels in the LGBTQ community. Previously stating that she identifies as 'bisexual,' Stenberg also declared 'pansexual' to describe her sexuality.
"I would also use the word pansexual to describe my sexuality," she told Teen Vogue. "The thing is I use the word bisexual just because I feel like for people who don't necessarily know that vocabulary … it's easier to say I'm bi."
The 23-year-old actor advocates for racial and gender issues and uses social media to advocate for human rights and female empowerment. In addition to being named a TIME "Next Generation Leader," she received the 2019 Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award.
Although Willow Smith is more private in her gender expression than her older brother Jaden, the Smith siblings are known for their gender fluidity. As the 21-year-old selectively revealed her own identity during an episode of Red Table Talk, she admitted she enjoyed both men's and women's company and sees herself in a polyamorous relationship in the future.
"I love men and women equally, and so I would definitely want one man, one woman," she said. "I feel like I could be polyfidelitous with those two people. I'm not the kind of person that is constantly looking for new sexual experiences."
"I focus a lot on the emotional connection," she continued. "And I feel like if I were to find two people of different genders that I really connected with and we had a romantic and sexual connection, I don't feel like I would feel the need to try to go find more."
She says that being polyamorous is about choosing and being free to build a relationship that works best for you rather than just being monogamous because society believes it is the norm.
In November, the young artist was announced as the face of X8 Eyewear, a 23-piece collection that transcends gender stereotypes with fluid shapes and architectural flourishes. She shared in a press release that she "loved the messaging of gender fluidity and the duality of masculine and feminine energies" that she believes exist in everyone.
Thousands of Gen Zers are shattering stereotypes every day by wearing and doing what makes them feel good. Whether it is attending gender fluid-friendly rallies, using hashtags such as #gendernonconforming, or following their favorite celebrity who is gender fluid, Gen Z will continue to voice their opinions and defend their rights.