Ms. Behaved Style Icon: A.J. Durand AKA Trandroid

 Name: A.J. Durand or Trandroid

Age: 30

Location: Logan Square, Chicago

What do you do, in your own words, and how long have you been doing it?
Well, I’ve been a full-time yoga instructor for 3 years, I’m developing my website and working on building Queer yoga workshops and classes into my schedule. I’m a performance artist in the Cabaret/Burlesque genre. I seek to blur gender lines with my performance work and create visibility around gender-queerness and trans*-ness and create a safe space for GNC (gender-non-conforming) and trans* folks to feel at home in an entertainment setting without having to identify or adhere to what I call “homo-normative” situations. I’m a crafter, a PBR enthusiast, and I like ceramic cats.

What is your personal fashion philosophy?
When it comes to fashion, my philosophy is that these garments are an expression. Whether or not the expression is about gender, I like to be playful and a little weird. Things don’t have to be perfectly placed on me. I like garments that inspire a sense of playfulness and freedom. I have an insatiable appetite for sweater dresses and pantsuits. Sometimes I wear a bra on my back or on my butt, and that for me is a little bit more about body politics.

Where do you like to shop for clothes? I know you are also very interested in DIY fashion, altering existing pieces and creating unique looks.
I tend to hit up the Village Discount thrift store in Logan Square and the one in Roscoe Village. I’m not too interested in buying anything new. I see this ribbed knitted tube dress with tinsel and rhinestones on it and I think, “no one besides me would buy this and I’m gonna turn it into pants!” I get very excited about the potential a garment has to be something else. I think about taking ownership over your clothing the same way I think about owning your body- You have an inalienable right to alter, to destroy, reconstruct, break down, build up, punch holes in, draw on or embellish as you see the expression manifest and you have the right to change your mind and repeat the process as often as you shampoo.

Who are your personal style icons and influences?
Tilda Swinton, Grace Jones, Annie Lennox. Early 90’s soccer moms and executive ladies. All the great gender fuckers, your grandmother, Justin Vivian Bond, Lisa Frank trapper keepers, I’m influenced mainly by body politics and appropriating a sense of what is “right” or how things “should be” worn. I think we should wear what we like not what we are supposed to wear and certainly not what we think other people will like. Gaultier, Benjamin Dukhan, long-haired chihuahuas. Science Fiction.

If you could live in any era of fashion history when would it be?
I think I’m living in it. With so much history in the world of fashion we throwback and re-address some of the most exquisite looks of all time. We can do that now. If I were teleported, say, to Buenos Aires in the 1040’s I would not know the gorgeousness of Carol Burnett and Bob Mackie and that is hard to handle when I think about it.

What are your current favorite clothing pieces, accessories, and beauty products?
I have six sweater dresses that I’m currently in a polyamorous relationship with. I don’t think I could live in world without clip-on earrings. As far as beauty products – I’m a Maybelline queen and I don’t break the bank on fancy makeup but skin care is essential. Just moisturize folks, moisturize!

What are your thoughts on the relationship between fashion, personal presentation, and gender identity?
I am a gender non-conforming person. In a perfect world, I would be perfectly genderless. I don’t consider myself female but I hate being regarded as male, I’d rather be regarded as beautiful. That’s a sentiment from a simple artpiece by the late Mark Aguhar who has taught me so much about being brave with my body and my representation, especially in public.

Artwork by Mark Aguhar

As a yoga teacher I’m always walking/biking around in the world in what I call my “yoga drag”  – lululemon shorts and a t-shirt or tank top, often scruffy, but uber comfortable.  This is actually the hardest for me because I’m not expressing myself according to my gender, or lack thereof.  I don’t like being read as “gay” because I am most certifiably Queer.  But it’s my work clothes, and that’s a thing.  It’s a thing we all have.

We all have these beautiful bodies and we should take care of them, whether it’s eating right or practicing fitness or taking vitamins.  Take care of your body and love your body because it is your sole property.  It’s the only thing you own in this life.  So when you are deciding what to put on, fuck what other people think.  seriously fuck it, wear what you need to wear to get the job done.  If you are ready to tell the world that you are transitioning or that you have transitioned TELL the world.  I’ll come running if anyone has anything to say about it.  For real, call me, I’m a gender defender and I will get all up in some business.  You have a right to your identity and everyone else has a responsibility to respect it – and when they don’t I will get super not-nice on their ass!  I love my community and we hold hands for a reason.

Tell me more about the events you organize, and your alter-ego “Trandroid.”
Jen Murphy reached out to me in the summer of 2010 and wanted to do a Queer night at Parlour on Clark. That was the beginning of Shits & Giggles – a Queer cabaret. Since then, S&G has become a great space for amateur performers and community. I’m so proud of this cabaret because it welcomes people.

I recently launched Nuts & Bolts: a DIY dance party. It’s a space where strong LQQKS can be created from a crafting table and then there is a runway/walk-off/soul train kind of moment in the night where folks can present their variation on “drag.” It’s in Logan “sQueer” at Township. With this event I wanted to create a space where folks could embellish their garments and be expressive and hear the crowd clap for them.

Performance and getting “outside of the box” is something that has always been empowering for me. I hope, and still hope, that folks come to this party with an open mind and a creative sensibility.  You not only watch the performance, you get to BE the performance simply by being there.

Trandroid started actually as a blog. I did a photoshoot with a friend and wanted to create this being born in real time who was fully formed with the ability to “switch hardware.” An artificially intelligent being who came into the world without knowing gender as a social construction . Who can learn, over time, how to be in this world. The core of the project with Trandroid was to talk about genderlessness. To raise the question – in homo-normative spaces – of how important someone’s “hardware” is to their identity. We all have “hardware” and we all deserve pleasure, however we want it.

As a yoga instructor, how has your practice informed your body image and sense of self confidence?
It’s hard to understand how moving your body relates to spiritual practice but if you do it, then you can see for yourself. You see how you handle challenges, you see how you are you when you aren’t the most perfect being that you want to be. You get really comfortable, over time, with “not-knowing” and I think that is the key. Getting comfortable with “not-knowing,” learning  “not-doing,” and how to observe oneself without trying to control or change what you see in any way. Learning how to get quiet and hold what you see with compassion. It helps us be open and patient with others. It’s how we, as queer folk, get around in a normative world without lashing out. Without harming. We can feel safe trying, and trying is the practice.

Trying to do a handstand informs doing a handstand so much more than actually “doing” the handstand. Does that make sense at all? Just try. Just be, and then look at what you see and make a choice. You can change, and you can change your mind. You are safe. That’s what I’ve learned so far. I’m so much more a student than I am a teacher. I’ve learned so much from seeing folks go through their own practice than I have learned from my own.

If there is one thing I know, from my practice, it’s that one should try, make a choice, and then look at the results critically. Don’t judge yourself, remember that you made the choice to try. For me, this relates to fashion when it comes to being unafraid when riding the train with lashes on, with sequins- they might stare but in their heart they are proud of you, even if they feel threatened. Do you. As much as you feel comfortable and as often as possible. Do you. Because what the world needs is exactly who you are.

Any general style tips for our readers?
Wear clothes that fit. Your body is beautiful. Dress yourself up in self-love. You deserve it.

Watch a fabulous promo video for Nuts & Bolts here:

Trandroid on Facebook

Nuts and Bolts on Facebook

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Comments

  1. shannonhumphreys says:

    Just YES.

Trackbacks

  1. […] more fashion inspiration? Meet fellow MsBehaved Style Icons  Shaun and A.J. Durand (aka Tranroid) and find out what’s in Femmily’s […]

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