It’s Jaden Smith’s world, and we’re all just living in it. More specifically, we have the celebrity progeny turned metaphysicist to thank for ushering in the AD (after-dress) era.
Back in April, Smith made headlines and hit lists when he was spotted sporting tunics and dresses. Jaden has actually been publicly riding the gender-fluid fashion wave since 2013—if you believe in the illusion of linear time—when his label MSFTSrep introduced gender-neutral tunics and skirts into their line.
Smith proceeded to put millions of Swarovski crystal embroidered homecoming queens to shame with his recent prom dress, which was actually a midi-length skirt topped with a long black tunic. In addition to bringing tunics out of Sherwood Forest and into the sartorial spotlight, Smith’s open attitude toward apparel has paved the way for a new era in gender-neutral fashion, just as transgender and gender-fluid issues are moving to the forefront of the national conversation. Pretty impressive for a 16-year-old Who Insists On Tweeting Like This.
This week on letting celebrity kids wear dresses if they want to because, duh, Susan Sarandon revealed Monday night that her son is also a fan of cross-gender clothing. At an event for the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth foundation, the actress explained, “My son Miles is a musician and a DJ and sometimes when his band performs they all wear dresses, and he has long hair.” It’s lovely to see someone publicly supporting experimentation and acknowledging that gender works in many ways, and can exist beyond a rigid binary. It’s important to publicize this sort of thing as much as possible, since we’re still living in a world where a J. Crew pamphlet sporting a boy with pink-painted toenails was condemned as liberal propaganda, and inspired the kind of terror usually reserved for a white kid joining ISIS, or Lena Dunham posing in her underwear.
While gender-neutral or gender-fluid fashion can be embraced anywhere on the gender spectrum, diverse gender identities are also trending among the celebrity set. On Tuesday night Miley Cyrus, who has recently said, “I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl,” attended an AmfAR Gala with former The Glee Project contestant Tyler Ford. Cyrus posted a photo of her date the night before, saying, “Tyler is a queer, biracial, agender person, whose pronouns are they/them/theirs.”
Miley herself has said she identifies as “gender fluid,” telling Time, “I’m just equal. I’m just even. It has nothing to do with any parts of me or how I dress or how I look. It’s literally just how I feel.”
Cyrus’s commitment to the LGBTQ community goes beyond arm candy—the singer has also partnered with Instagram and her own Happy Hippie Foundation for the #InstaPride campaign, a collaboration that seeks to share the narratives of individuals who don’t ascribe to rigid gender norms. According to Cyrus, “The portraits and the people in them are meant to serve as positive examples for young people who might be struggling to figure themselves out, as well as reference points for those who might not personally know anyone who doesn’t feel at home in their own body.”
Those of you who have been too busy binging on Orange Is the New Black to check Instagram have probably already hit Ruby Rose’s character arc as siren Stella. In one of their initial scenes together, Piper asks Stella if she considers herself to be a woman. “I do,” she responds, “but that's only because my options are limited.” Rose can relate—“For the most part, I definitely don’t identify as any gender. I’m not a guy; I don’t really feel like a woman, but obviously I was born one.” According to the actress, “People are talking about gender fluidity more and more now because once someone opens a door to something like that, people put their hands up and say, ‘That’s me! That’s my friend! That’s my sister! That’s my mom!’”
Talking about gender fluidity means trying to unlearn the male/female binary and let up on the gendered codes and stereotypes that subtly dictate our gender expression—and hopefully, it means spending more time listening to, and not-so-subtly staring at, Ruby Rose. But since we can’t all be with Ruby Rose, who’s unfortunately taken, we can at least be more like her—by sporting gender-fluid, gender-neutral rags from Scallywags, the fashion line she’s launching with fiancée Phoebe Dahl.
Just as lacing Caitlyn Jenner up in a corset and putting her on the cover of Vanity Fair doesn’t mean that all trans issues have been wrapped up in a similarly tidy bow, a few celebrities speaking up about gender fluidity or buying their sons Topshop gift cards isn’t a fix-all. It’s important to remember everyone who is struggling with these issues without the benefit of Miley Cyrus’s visibility or Jaden Smith’s bank account. Still, we can all agree that we’re better off living in a world where a boy in a dress can get asked to prom by a girl who looks like Amandla Stenberg.