19 Feb Rain Dove is the Future of Fashion
Three years ago, I stumbled upon a StyleLikeU video where gender non-conforming androgynous model Rain Dove was explaining the struggles of being gender fluid in the modeling industry—trying to find success, while not conforming to traditionally feminine or masculine gender ideals.
“Use she, he, it, one, they You could call me mow mow and I honestly don’t care… A pronoun is just a sound. All I’m listening for in that sound is positivity.”– Rain Dove, in conversation with The Guardian
Rain Dove rejects the use of any particular personal pronoun, usually asking other people to choose a pronoun when addressing them. In their recent interview with The Guardian, Dove said, “Use she, he, it, one, they You could call me mow mow and I honestly don’t care… A pronoun is just a sound. All I’m listening for in that sound is positivity.” For the sake of this article, I will address Rain as they. As a cis-gendered Arab woman, I acknowledge my privileges and role as an ally for the LGBTQ+ community.
While modelling may be the field they work in, Dove is now known for starting conversations about the discriminatory North Carolina bathroom bills, mental health, and the presence of gender non-conforming bodies in the fashion industry. Beyond challenging the notion of societal gender stereotypes, Dove also subverts the patriarchal view of what a woman should represent and how a woman should dress.
It started when Dove was cast as a male model for an underwear runway show. The casting agent and members of the runway show had assumed Rain was male because they pass as non-femme in appearance, particularly when given nothing but a pair of boxers to walk the runway in. In this case, Rain chose to walk topless in the underwear, with their breasts exposed. The audience took this action as an insightful message advocating for LGBTQ+ representation on runways and challenging traditional notions of the gender binary.
“[I]t was a pretty even split between people thinking I was a butch lesbian and the other half thinking I was male.”– Rain Dove, in conversation with The Guardian
However, the gendered assumptions about Dove’s identity started long before they began modelling. They’ve often explained the difficulty of being called “Tranny Danny” by classmates at school for not adhering to either femme appearances or masculine biological ideals. In the same interview with The Guardian, Dove noted that “it was a pretty even split between people thinking I was a butch lesbian and the other half thinking I was male.”
Dove’s experiences as a model raise a lot of questions about the influence of the gender binary in the fashion industry. For a billion dollar industry, the fashion industry can be very unsettling in terms of representation. Whether through the choice of models or cultural appropriation in their designs, the fashion industry has seen many instances of discrimination that don’t reflect the diverse identities working in it.
Personally, I’m most inspired by Dove’s empathetic and patient approach to educating people who have a limited understanding of the LGBTQ+ community. When approached with homophobic or transphobic comments, they patiently answer questions in attempt to change the perspective of whoever they are speaking with —their resilience encourages people to listen and to seek out educational opportunities for themselves about how to become a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community.
Dove’s efforts in minimizing the consequences and pressures that the fashion industry imposes on non-binary individuals is not only integral, but also shows the possibility of an inclusive future for fashion.