The importance of representation

by AJ Clementine

If you asked me what I wanted to be when I was younger, I would point to the ultra-feminine girly tropes in film/TV. No matter how they were portrayed, I was drawn to their style, movements and catchphrases. As I grew older, I realised that the world within film is much different from how our world operates. I can wake up and decide to mirror the characters that I grew up watching, although, I would be treated differently. Even though I could also be ultra-feminine and girly, on any given day, unfortunately, this could be my downfall.

When I started transitioning at 17, I tried to pass as a girl to prove to the world that I was a girl, it was part of my daily routine. I felt like my safety was unknown and now being where I am with my transition as a trans woman, I still feel the same. I went from being a 17-year-old with short, boyish hair without any female hormones, to being on hormones for seven years and going through sexual reassignment surgery. I am kind of better at doing my makeup now, but nothing has really changed about how I view the world.

I grew up idolising my Filipino mother. She taught me that ‘if you’re a good person, that’s all that matters’. I understood what this meant, but also felt like it was unforgiving watching the racism she faced. As a child, it taught me to hide my Asian identity and do everything I could to pass as white so that no one knew I had an Asian mother. Very similar to how I felt about being trans, I spent more time hiding who I was so that I could protect myself from people.

Now being public with my life online, I’ve learnt that the way I protected myself as a child and leading up to my teen years held more depth that I didn’t think about back then.

People only know what they are told, and when someone questions this, they are stuck and don’t know how to move forward with it.

The ultra-feminine girly tropes I adored growing up in the early 2000s were unattainable to me because they were always portrayed as white, heterosexual, cisgender women who will never understand what it’s like to walk in my shoes. They say the world is getting better but the life expectancy for black trans women is 30-35 and transphobia seems like a tornado online, pulling many people in its path. I can try to filter it out and decide to educate, but at the end of the day, it’s still being said. Discussions on my body, my life and my partner – it all carries on into my day-to-day.

My world doesn’t get a story arc about being the popular girl nor does it close with credits. However, because of this, our power is bringing light to these issues. They are ongoing and have been a part of a continuous fight.

I would have felt safer growing up knowing that there was a woman in film/TV who was strong, feminine, girly and that looked like me, not the butt of the joke, but a person with thoughts and feelings. That could have changed my world, connecting me to feeling ‘Asian enough’ and accepting myself as a trans woman earlier on in my life. 


 

Instagram, TikTok & YouTube sensation AJ Clementine is an Australian creator known for her LGBTQI+ advocacy, along with her devilish sense of humour and fashion content.

She is passionate about sharing her experiences & journey of her transition and she is focused on breaking stereotypes and helping the next generation feel confident, supported and heard. 

In 2020, AJ’s career truly took off with a Mardi Gras Sydney x Instagram feature, her runway attendance at Priceline Pharmacy for VAMFF and being the very first transgender person to model for the iconic Australian brand, Bonds. She also became an official ambassador for Minus18 and finished her year with her own custom eyeshadow palette in collaboration with Australis.

In 2021, AJ has already hit the ground running with her brand partnerships including the likes of Mecca Cosmetica, Disney, L’Oreal and Pandora.

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