Gender Expression in Local Calgary Teens


Let Me Introduce Myself

Hi everyone! My name is Alex Lepa and welcome to my project! Let me know if you have any questions or comments down below. I hope you enjoy getting to know more about gender expression in my community!

Let Me Introduce Calgary

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Calgary is a large urban town located in the province of Alberta in Canada. Calgary is known for its conservative and yet diverse views, the Calgary Stampede, and the Canadian Rockies. I have lived in this active city for seven years now and am very happy to call this cold place my home! Throughout my presentation, I have included pictures of pride from around Calgary so you can get an idea for the unique culture we have.

Taken at Bow Valley College, one of Calgary’s leading universities.
Have you ever been to Calgary?
Yes, it was great!
No, not yet!
Created with Poll Maker

Meet Judith Butler

Judith Pamela Butler is an American philosopher and author who revolutionized gender theory. Butler was born in Cleveland, Ohio on February 24, 1956 and is currently 63 years old. Following high school, Butler first attended Bennington College and then Yale University where she attained her PhD in philosophy. Butler’s most cited book is Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, which questions being a woman and what that really means.

the terms that make up one’s own gender are, from the start, out-side oneself, beyond oneself in a sociality has no single author

Judith Butler

Butler’s theory of gender performance states that one’s gender is not inherent within themselves, and instead is interpreted by and performed for society.

What I Noticed

Underneath the famous pride bridge in Prince’s Island Park

An issue in my community that I have noticed is the lack of questionably people have regarding the societal norms. This is especially apparent when looking at the norms gender identity has on the lives of my friends as well as my own. I have interviewed three local queer teen Calgarians regarding their gender identity and the impacts it has on their day to day life. Additionally, I have asked them how fashion and gender expression has had an impact on their sense of style. I wanted to question and really dive into the views of society and how those views impact my friends in order to gain insight into the lives of queer teens in my community. I also wanted to use the data and research gathered to reflect upon myself and explore my own ideas surrounding gender. My project relates to the specific UN Sustainable Development goals of good health and well being, gender equality, reduced discrimination and peace, justice, and strong institutions. My project will also create change by asking the Global Online Academy population to consider how gender identity impacts their life as well as how they express.

How does gender performance and various societal pressures impact the appearance and gender expression of local queer teens?

Let Me Introduce Jared

Ever since I met Jared, he has always been more traditionally feminine and free flowing. He mentioned how his non-binary identity made him feel more free to express his feminine attributes and wear more traditionally feminine articles of clothing, which is something I related to. His views on society and the pressures people feel from the majority of the population were extremely interesting and eye opening. It was ironic how candidly he discussed discrimination and harassment, however people like him are still needed to challenge societal normativity.

Let Me Introduce Piper

Piper and I have been friends for over a year and even so, I was shocked at several of her responses. When we met, Piper and I initially bonded over fashion so it was very eye opening to hear her perspectives on gender. Additionally, it was very rewarding to be able to have a more in depth philosophical conversation regarding appearance. Although I have noticed her more masculine inspired outfits, I was shocked when she shared her experiences as a child with her parents being confused about her gender. She also mentioned how her sense of fashion and style helps her blend in with her mostly male friend group, which I thought was a very interesting perspective.

Let Me Introduce Daniel

After my interview with Daniel, I questioned my entire project as he very clearly felt so strong that his gender is individual rather than performative. Despite my own doubts, I rewatched the interview and felt that maybe both gender performance can exist while also allowing space for people to express their own identity as well. It was also very interesting to me how his appearance did not change after he came out as transgender, rather that it had remained the same all along.

My Thoughts

Taken at a pro GSA protest in Marda Loop

Overall I think that my project helped me reflect on gender in my own community. Through both the interviews as well as my research on gender performativity, I was able to really dive into the effects society has on queer teens.

Although all the interviewees had unique perspectives a few special moments stood out to me. Jared’s perspectives on conforming to society led me to question what I do personally to conform to society. Piper’s unique sense of fashion led me to challenge my own personal fashion choice and defy the norms that the clothing industry has set out for me. Daniel’s refreshing perspective on gender helped me appreciate how gender may be performative to some and yet others have completely disregarded society and do what they genuinely want instead.

With regards to my own gender identity and performativity, I am definitely challenging what it means to be a non-binary person and really understanding that fashion is not linked to gender. Before this project, I subconsciously viewed articles of clothing as masculine and feminine. Now I see clothing from more of an art perspective really separating it from gender completely and admiring the texture, shape, and colour of the articles that I wear. Additionally, I have realized that my performance of being non-binary is not for anyone else and that how they interpret me is completely up to them. I have no control over how I get viewed and I am okay with that. I am going to make a conscious effort to not be offended or annoyed when people use the wrong pronouns as this project had helped me realize that for me pronouns are not that important and neither is gender.

To conclude, my initial research and interviews really challenged me to reflect inwardly and question my own personal beliefs. I hope that my project has challenged you to do the same. Next time you see someone wearing a dress they to disassociate that article from a gender and look at the dress for the colour, texture, or any other particular that suits your fancy. Additionally, you may want to consider the mannerisms and attitudes you express in your day to day life and how your friends may interpret your actions. Not so that you need to change them, just for the curiosity and awareness of the effects of your actions.

Your Thoughts

Taking into account Judith Butler’s theories, as well as the interviews above, let me know what you think below. I challenge you to consider your own community and look at specific people from your life in this reflection if you feel safe and comfortable.

Here are some ways to connect on Instagram if you have questions, comments, or ideas.

  • Alex Lepa @alexlovesbowties
  • Daniel @areyounotalone
  • Jared @_jsr_18
  • Piper @canadianmjolk
  • Calgary Pride @calgarypride
  • Centre for Sexuality @yycsexualhealth
  • City of Calgary @cityofcalgary
  • Bow Valley College @bowvalley
  • #judithbutler
  • #yycpride
  • #genderperformance

Works Cited

Special thanks to my interviewees Jared, Piper, and Daniel for speaking on record about such personal topics.

Please click here to view my works cited.

Overall Feedback

Share this project
  1. April 27, 2019 by Sierra Erdman-Luntz

    I love the video interviews!

    • April 27, 2019 by Alex.Lepa

      Thank you Sierra!

  2. April 28, 2019 by Minea.Hill

    Your project is extremely well done. I think having the three interviews linked in was a super great way to highlight your main discussions and connect back to yourself as well as your community. It is eye-opening to hear people’s first-hand accounts of how their identity changes their expression, as well as how it impacts their lives, like, for example, Daniel’s mom’s response to change and expression. What changes do you think need to be made in order to create a good enough environment to not only welcome but encourage individual expression?

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