How to write an article about someone who defines herself — or himself — by his or her lack of gender, if there is no neutral pronoun you can use to describe him, or her? This was my question when I interviewed Rain Dove, face of Sisley‘s new campaign, poster person of the battle against gender, and spokesperson for that portion of the population that doesn’t define itself as male or female. Rain was born female, with a very feminine body and very clear female characteristics, but with a face characterised by very strong features, which might be considered conventionally male. Until the age of 18, Rain saw herself as an “ugly girl”: after a misunderstanding with a model agency that actually hired her to work as a male model, Rain understood she could actually be quite successful as a man, and that also got her thinking about how gender definitions are completely insensitive to human nature. We discussed this together, and Rain told us about what it means to feel genderless, and about how we all are genderless, and about how the only thing that can really define us is our essence.
Hi Rain, can you tell us more about what it means to feel ” genderless “?
We all are, actually, I tell you, because gender and sexuality are two different things. The latter identifies all the biological elements within our body that define our sex, while gender is a category we choose to define ourselves — but that category is completely arbitrary. If you think about it, what is feminine or male changes so much according to the country you are in, and what culture you are immersed in. The truth is that choosing to define yourself as genderless is the most honest choice you can make: it means being true to yourself, rather than following those social conventions that define what kind of clothes we should wear, what colors we should like, and what kind of haircut we should have. It means asking yourself, do I like this? Is it representative of my style? And only choosing to wear something if the answer to these questions is yes, and not because we are influenced by what we were taught to think.
So this has nothing to do with sexual orientation? Is this more about society?
It’s about living your life the way you want to, without worrying too much about what society expects of you, just because you were born with one body type rather than another. Wouldn’t it be great to meet somebody, and get to know him or her without any preconceptions? Wouldn’t you like to be able to go shopping without having to choose which department to go to? We are all different, and our body is just a shell, made of parts we can substitute. The only thing you cannot change about it is your essence, what makes you unique. So, defining yourself as genderless is a choice: the choice to be yourself, and nothing else.
When did you start thinking of yourself in these terms?
When I moved to Colorado. When I first got there, somebody thought I was a guy and that was my lightbulb moment: why be an ugly girl, as I always thought I was, when I could be a cute guy instead? I played this card, and got hired as a firefighter. I worked as firefighter for 11 months without anyone realizing I was a girl, and then I thought: why do I have to pretend to be something I am not just in order to have an easier time in my life, and to get this job? And that was when I rebelled against the whole idea of gender.
What about sex, then? Because you may define yourself as genderless, but sexual orientation is clear, and sometimes it can be pretty rigid. For instance, I like guys. Even if I meet a wonderful person, as much as I like him or her, if there are feminine traits, or boobs, I think I will just never feel attracted to this person.
It’s two different things: being genderless doesn’t mean being attracted to everyone in the same way. The truth is, you don’t like men as a category, you like people with certain characteristics, with certain aesthetic traits: people with a penis, for a start, perhaps even a penis of a certain size, for instance, or maybe people with a beard, people who are taller than you, who have lots of hair, or who are completely hairless, maybe. These are all very precise beauty features, and we feel attracted to those, not to the “male” or “female” general category.
How do you dress to feel sexy? To take your lover’s breath away?
Well, if I want to seduce my partner, I l’ll just wear nothing at all! (Rain laughs) Jokes aside, clothes are like costumes, for me: I decide what to wear depending on the occasion. For instance, if I’m out on my own at night, I prefer dressing like a man, because it’s safer. If I wear a dress, I feel it makes it likelier I get attacked. If I have a photo shoot for a magazine cover, instead, I choose to wear a female outfit, because it’s generally just more wow. In general, though, I choose to wear comfortable clothing, I like bright colors and most of all I like quality: I hate low-cost, chain fast fashion. My clothing has to be lasting, like armour.
What’s your favorite item in your wardrobe?
I have a beautiful magenta blazer that works with everything, with pants and a shirt, or with a sexy dress.
Last question: I need to write this interview, and I don’t know what pronoun to use.
Pronouns are just sounds to me: use whichever you like, as long as you use it positively. I hope there will be a neutral way to describe people in the future, without having to pigeonhole people into stereotypes. The world is changing, and hopefully that will change the way we express ourselves, because we are what makes society, and we are the ones who should change it, to make it more suitable for us, for how we actually feel.