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Jonathan Van Ness from "Queer Eye" describes himself as "non-binary" and "genderqueer"

Gender - The Space Between

As resident hairstylist and ray of light on "Queer Eye," Jonathan Van Ness is unapologetically himself. In a recent interview with Out Magazine, Van Ness dug deeper into his identity, describing himself as "non-binary" and "genderqueer."

Van Ness, who along with hairstyling has also taken up gymnastics and comedy, is also the new face of Essie nail polish. During an interview with Fran Tirado at his Essie campaign shoot, Van Ness talked about being an ambassador to a brand that is predominantly marketed toward women. 

"It's really cool!" Van Ness said. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm non-binary — I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman."

The towering Van Ness — who often accentuates his height by wearing heels — said he takes any opportunity he has to break down binary stereotypes. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to," he said.

Van Ness is using his Essie partnership to show kids that they can express themselves however they want no matter how they present themselves. As a child, Van Ness hid a part of himself from the public, he said.

"Growing up, I definitely put on every nail polish, every heel, every scarf — I definitely had my mom's knock-off Hermès scarves in my hair and around my waist — those were my skirts, and I loved it," he said. "But when I was really young, I had really femme-shamey, gender-shamey [comments] when I would dress like that."

Netflix FYSEE "Queer Eye" Panel and Reception
Van Ness with his co-stars from the Netflix reboot of "Queer Eye." On the show, each uses their own personal talent to transform candidates in need of an internal and external makeover.  Emma McIntyre

That forced Van Ness to only wear such attire in the safety of his home. "As an adult, I really busted out of that," he said. Now, he's still dancing around in heels but "the only thing that's new about it is that I have a checking account now and I can buy hotter shoes and cuter looks," he said.

Van Ness said he didn't at first notice that he was gender non-conforming or non-binary. "I think I just thought that I loved skirts and heels and like a kind of 'Whole Foods face.' I don't love, like, a full lash on myself," he said of his personal aesthetic. 

Now, he has come to realize he is gender non-conforming. "Some days I feel like a boy and some days I feel like a girl," he said. "I didn't think I was allowed to be non-conforming or genderqueer or non-binary — I was just always like 'a gay man' because that's just the label I thought I had to be."

Van Ness, who uses the he/him pronouns, said he's always been this way, but he just didn't know the correct terms to use to describe himself. 

Identifying as non-binary means an individual does not fall within the two-gender system, or gender binary, of identifying as either male or female.

Gender non-conforming is a broad term referring to people who do not adhere to the traditional expectations of their gender, or whose gender expression is not confined to one category. And genderqueer is a term for people who reject static gender categories and instead embrace a fluidity of gender identity; this may or may not include sexual identity as well.

People who identify as genderqueer may see themselves as being both male and female, neither male nor female or as falling completely outside these categories.

Van Ness told Out that he believes everyone has both femininity and masculinity in them. "But I also think that this construct is like — strength is strength and whimsical is whimsical and rude is rude and everyone has all of that in them," he said. 

The "Queer Eye" star also said he hopes society becomes more sensitive toward different forms of self-expression. As someone who was "femme-shamed," Van Ness says he knows there is a lot of this kind of criticism within the community. "And either it's getting better or I just don't care as much," he said.

Note To Self: "Queer Eye's" Tan France
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