They say “the cowl does not make the monk. Does our society really believe it, though? What do you think when looking at a man dressed as a woman and a woman dressed as a man? First thing you would do is probably question their sexuality and then their sexual orientation. A man with a feminine look is certainly homosexual, a woman with a masculine look is certainly lesbian. Everything is black or white. Seeing in color is hard, for some reason.
What we wear has a strong impact on the way people perceive ourselves and especially our sexualilty. For ages, men and women were supposed to have a certain dress code, dictated by social standards and patriarchy. The patriarchal order, where foundations are the dichotomous categories of gender and the heterosexual paradigm, has slowly been overturned.
Fortunately, the queer theory, born in the 90s, came to help us all: it called into question gender categorization, revolutionizing their rigid structures. Queer theory outlines a sexual identity in continuous transit, free from any social norms and obligations, free from any clothing.
The French Canadian photographer Laurence Philomene (@laurencephilomene) knows that very well. They make use of photography not only to tell the story of the changing and the evolving of their own body, as a non-binary person. Laurence’s camera became a powerful tool to give a face to the queer world and its inhabitants. These photos are the embodiment of the identity as free from any limitations and constrictions, especially clothing. We should all be able to wear whatever we want, we should all be able to be the people we like.
We might wonder, who is hidden underneath? A multicolored entity, which sparks while changing shape. The more multiform and unrestricted the mask is, the more we are able to express our true self and own our narrative.
When we enter the photographic universe of Laurence Philomene, we are brought into a kaleidoscopic and lively reality, which is liberating when we look at it. The subjects in the pictures are bold enough to wear any sort of clothing. There is no conventional correspondence between their gender, sexual orientation and the clothes they decide to put on. None of them really matter. It’s only about the people and the people only.
The protagonists of Laurence's photos are people who made a liberating choice, not only about their dress and accessories, but also about themselves. They are an example for all of us.
Laurence’s photos demonstrate that social dynamics, which are translated into the clothes we are supposed to wear, are too limiting for human beings. We are evolving and shifting, hybrid creatures made up of different parts.
We are queer.
Identity itself is queer, uncertain and uncatchable. So the cowl doesn't really make the monk, does it?