Meet — André Falconer

 

André Falconer
24, Portland

Where are you from?

I spent half of my childhood in California with my dad's side, which is my black side, and the other half isolated in a reservation town called Madras in central Oregon. It was hard for me to live there [in Madras]. It was very lonely because I just couldn't find anybody who saw the world the way that I did. 

How did you see the world?

I don't know how I saw it, specifically, but I knew I didn't see it the way they did. I've always been visibly and audibly feminine. Every day was a reconciliation of, "how authentic do I want to be today? What is more important to me: my safety, or my truth?" And the latter was always my choice. So stylistically, I spent my life creating this cocoon that I took with me everywhere — developing my own sense of aesthetics and just dreaming. I dreamt a lot.

What were your early experiences with dressing feminine?

It's so embarrassing for me to think about my aesthetic at the time, but I was fully gay pride at 14. I had rainbow bows in my hair, I started a GSA, I wore polka-dot headbands and trench coats — I was a political Barbie doll. And everybody hated it. In such a small town, everybody knew me. I was that one. I could've either hid, or I could've said "fuck you" with my femininity. So wearing my femininity started off as an armor.

How did Madras react to a 14-year-old queer-activist Barbie doll?

I learned at a really early age how dangerous femininity could be. Like, how angry people get when you're feminine. It inspires violence! I remember getting so many threats of violence at school. But my experience has always been, "fuck you, I'm going to be feminine." It wasn't easy. It's easy now, for the most part, but at the time everyone was only telling me what I couldn't do. 

Is Portland is an easy place to practice freedom of dress?

Depends. People seem to imagine Portland as some paradise of artistic freedom; but the reality is there are 2 million people, and 90% of them are normal people that you find everywhere. So it depends where I am, honestly. I don't trust the gazes of people. Are they thinking, "Wow, that's ferociously stylish!" or "What the fuck is that?" I don't care if the gaze is a negative one, but I constantly have to have a conversation with myself.  I have to prepare myself to walk from work to class, knowing I'm going to be looked at. But like I said earlier: I could hide or I could live my truth. And my truth is having visual control, being inspired by textiles and expressing myself! It's "easy" because I don't care what strangers are thinking. But it isn't always easy to feel rejection when you're just trying to go grocery shopping. 

What influences your style?

I'm inspired by the unknown. What inspires me stylistically is the same thing that inspires me musically, or inspires my interest in literature: the unknown.

When I was 10 or something, I heard Björk's "It's In Our Hands." It was like nothing I'd ever heard before; and I loved it. So much about Björk is reinvention, and what inspires me is that factor of uncertainty. Personally, I like doing things with fashion that force me to try something I've never done before. That's why I bleached my eyebrows: I wanted a new way to understand my face. Style and clothing are my most sacred creative outlets. They mean everything to me. 

How does your family react to you being you?

My family is my mother and my brother. We're a small family, and they like me a lot. My brother is a pianist, and he's gay, so we understand each other's weird artistic neuroses. My mom has always accepted me. She gave me the freedom, always, to experiment and explore myself. She may not have wanted me to, but I think she felt that I had to do those things, whatever they were. 

With intentional vagueness: what do you love to do?

I love when I'm engaging with people, and when I'm dressing myself. Those two things challenge me. 

Making connections and developing friendships is some of the best work I've ever done. I wouldn't be alive today if I didn't have such amazing friends in my life; and that takes work. It's work that I am exceptionally proud of. I have a community that trusts me and loves me, and it's taken years for me to get here. I love connecting with people. Understanding people. Loving people who are so different from me. That's what I love. 

As for clothing, I love to rediscover myself. When I get comfortable in a style that works for me or whatever, I get inspired to try something new. Denim, for example, is something I was always terrified of. It really understands the body. It's classic. It's a vulnerable textile. And I thought I would never wear it because I've had issues with accepting my body; but there is an XL denim Dickies shirt that I challenge myself to wear as many different ways as I can. A bra! A skirt! A dress! When I tackled denim, it was a weird creative healing process for me. The denim and I collaborated together to get there.

 

When do you feel empowered? 

I feel the most powerful when I'm in a group of people and were all connecting. That feeling like I'm one with the people around me — it kinda stops time for me.

What is your hope for queer America?

To feel like we belong. To feel like we have a role that is ours, and to fulfill it with confidence and skill. I think a lot of us feel like we want a place in society that isn't extracurricular. A place that isn't an add-on to your meal — like, it's part of The Meal. 

What is your hope for the feminine man? 

We spend so much of the conversation talking about the outside. How "they" perceive us. But how about how we, feminine men, perceive each other? There's that whole MASC4MASC fiasco (which is based completely on the patriarchy). I myself have employed that on other people in micro ways. And sometimes, I still do! And I have to check myself. Sometimes I might see a guy who's feminine and I wont be attracted to him because he is feminine. Embracing femininity for us starts from within. 

How are you deconstructing your internalized femme phobia? 

I'm still doing it. Literature helps. Works by queer indigenous scholars help me accept my femininity.

It really manifests itself in relationships. I have an idea of whom I want to be with; and I want it to be a "man." I want to be the quasi-girlfriend. I want to be someone's Carrie to their Mr Big. We [feminine men] don't see relationship models reflected for us anywhere! So in order for me to date authentically, I have to be open to the possibility that there can be new models I haven't seen before. For so long, I couldn't be attracted to femininity. And that is absolutely something I have to unlearn, because it's all so fucked up.

That is an honest confession.

This is the kinda honesty I'm afraid to admit to people sometimes. But its important to realize that were all learning things.

Most importantly, what is the deal with your love of selfies?

I love selfies because it's my way of making sure I exist in media.

Why do you have to exist in media?

Because I want to be represented. It goes back to my hope for queer people. Self-documentation is historicizing. Its a record of existence; and our existence as queer femme men is compromised. If we don't document ourselves, who will? And I love selfies particularly because we associate them with extreme femininity. Like Kim Kardashian's selfie book. Men don't take selfies—it's a girl thing to do. It's therefore stupid, frivolous, silly, there's no analysis to be had, there's no critical investigation of a selfie. And I completely disagree with all that. Selfies can be empowering. They can be actualizing. They can be healing! And thats why I love them. 

 
Henry Bae