Pink and Blue Summer Dress // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

Dress from Molly and Zoey

(Content warning: This post discusses gender and gender dysphoria at length. I still use she/her pronouns!)

People often ask me why I started my blog, or why it’s called Fake & Basic.

The name is Out There on purpose. 😛

The casual answer is that I started it as a place to document my outfits, because I like them and I have many of them. The in-depth reason is more complicated.

I was assigned female at birth, but from the moment I could grasp the concept of gender and that there were supposed to be two of them, I knew that I wasn’t a girl. There was an essence of femininity that I lacked, so subtle that it was almost imperceptible, unless you knew what you were looking for: mainly, a deep disdain for being forced into any sort of female gender role. I would have come out as trans, but I didn’t feel that way either.

There was also a slight problem: as much as I disliked anything “girly”, my aesthetic was the exact opposite. I was (and still am … obviously) obsessed with brights, pastels, colorful lipstick, dresses, and heels. When I tried to explain this dilemma to others, they laughed me off and told me I couldn’t possibly not be a girl. If I hated being seen as one so much, they reasoned, why did I wear a dress every day?

Pink and Blue Summer Dress // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

Pink and Blue Summer Dress // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

One person — an older family friend who is no longer so welcome in my family — was especially awful. I had made the mistake of confiding in him how I felt about gender; he was over at my house quite often, and whenever he could, he would bring up all of the things that he thought were wrong with me: I was a freak, I was sick, I had been raised wrong by my parents, who were both immigrants to the United States. Obviously, since I looked like the girliest girl imaginable on the outside, there had to be something wrong with my mind. I tried to tell those close to me what was happening, but I didn’t communicate it very well, and nobody believed me.

I was sixteen years old at the time, and the only way I could think to respond was to become a walking, talking embodiment of toxic masculinity. I cut off my hair, wore way too much Axe Body Spray, told anti-feminist jokes, and generally behaved like a shitty teenage boy. Such behavior, as you can imagine, did not endear me to many, nor did it foster a particularly strong work ethic. My grades dropped, I lost friends, and was generally miserable throughout the rest of high school.

Pink and Blue Summer Dress // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

Pink and Blue Summer Dress // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

A little while after high school graduation, I approached my mom again to tell her what had happened with the family friend. He’d revealed his true opinions a while before, and had since grown apart from my family. This time she listened, and was horrified by what had happened. I spent the summer before college online dress shopping and educating myself about gender dysphoria.

I learned that gender wasn’t binary — there was a whole spectrum of possible identities. I talked to others who knew exactly what I meant by “lack of feminine essence”. I learned that there were terms for how I identified as: masculine-of-center personality-wise, and femme aesthetic-wise. I entered college with my head held high and an unapologetically full closet of dresses.

Pink and Blue Summer Dress // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

Pink and Blue Summer Dress // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

Here’s the thing, though: although I did meet many people who identified as masculine-of-center and many who identified as femme, I have yet to speak to someone who identifies as both (unless you count myself). And, with probabilities being the way they are, I know that other masculine-of-center femmes do exist. Maybe one of them is sixteen years old right now, feeling as alone and isolated as I did. I hope she finds this site and realizes that it’s completely okay to present and act the way she does.

That’s the true reason I started Fake & Basic. I know what it feels like to want to look like a Stepford wife and yet be completely against everything they stand for. I know what it’s like to have a group of girls eager to befriend you, only to drop you two weeks in when they realize that you’re not the person they thought you were. I know what it feels like to be the only “girl” in a group of cis male friends, and that awful, heart-wrenching feeling when you realize that you’re not exactly like them. To be honest, I’ve held back about these experiences because I still don’t know how to talk about them comfortably.

Representation matters, though, and it’s hard for me to be a good advocate for women and gender-nonconforming people in tech without revealing exactly where I stand on the matter. If I can keep even one more MOC femme from going through those awful years I had when I was a teenager, I’ve done my part.

So the reason why I started this blog is still the same reason why I keep it going today — to provide a masculine of femme’s standpoint on various topics. At the beginning, that was on fashion. Now it’s expanded to music, “dry” technical topics in math and computer science, modeling, philosophy, and whatever else I feel like writing about. I do it for my past self, who thought it was wrong or shameful to have this point of view at all. I do it to educate others who may not know that people like me exist, and I do it for people who need representation.

Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

Growing Up With Gender Dysphoria & How I Found My True Identity // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

This article is part of the Morning Content Challenge, where I write a blog post each morning before going to work. It’s an exercise in imperfection, timing, and self-discipline. If you have any questions or topic suggestions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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