SJSU student blends the boundaries between men and women

by Apr 14, 2013 3:49 pm Tags: , , , , ,

Most people identify with one gender. Junior graphic design major Danny Villalobos is not most people.

Instead, Villalobos identifies as both male and female, known as gender queer.

“I identify as both because I have a little bit of both,” Villalobos said. “I feel like I’m in the middle or I’m not (of any one gender). I really don’t care, that’s why I identify as gender queer.”

His interests lie somewhere in the middle. He is not interested in stereotypical masculine male activities such as a sports, and he's not interested in the stereotypical interests of a feminine woman such as shopping, he said.

“Sometimes I dress up, and sometimes I don’t,” Villalobos said. “I’ll dress up as a girl, just because I feel comfortable, especially when I’m with my friends I feel comfortable with, and sometimes I just won’t. I’ll wear my boy clothes or guy clothes.”

Villolobos prefers to wear unisex clothing. When he feels like dressing like a stereotypical feminine female, Villalobos said his attire can consist of women’s high-heels, jeans, dresses, blouses or skirts.

“People think that I drag out, like ‘Oh you’re dressing up in drag,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I’m just dressing up as a girl.’”

Identifying one’s self as gender queer is not the same as identifying as transgender or cross-dressing, according to Bonnie Sugiyama, the assistant director of SJSU’s women’s resource center.

Transgender is identifying as the opposite gender, according to Sugiyama.

“Gender queer is where people feel they’re both male or female, either at the same time or at different times,” Sugiyama said. "(Sometimes) they may be mostly male, but at times feel female. So, it’s really just a blend of gender.”

Gender is a social construct and certain stereotypes form based on what society expects: this can include how someone may dress or his or her personality. One’s gender is not defined by their sex, according to Sugiyama.

Although there may be some blending of the two genders, transgender people often feel most like the opposite gender, Sugiyama said.

Villalobos said he is comfortable with his natural-born body.

Prior to attending SJSU in 2010, Villalobos was not familiar with the term gender queer. He said his sexual orientation is homosexual, but he did not discover he was gender queer until he learned it at SJSU.

“He learned from the people who are doing it," said former SJSU student Adan Gaona. “Hopefully he can help other people come out of their shell like he did.”

Finding identity

Originally from a middle class neighborhood in Pomona, Villalobos said the LGBT scene in San Jose is quite different than in his hometown.

“There weren't as many resources in Pomona as there are here,” Villalobos said. “Especially within the LGBT community, counseling and stuff like that, you really didn't see that. I was in high school, so I didn't really know about a lot of these things until I came here and I was exposed to them.”

Villalobos said growing up in Pomona as a gay teen was difficult, especially since identifying as gender queer.

“Gender queer is just a new term, they wouldn't understand what that meant,” he said. “(Being) gay was already marginalized enough. It wasn't something you would be proud of or you wouldn't go around parading. I would say it was more dangerous.”

Villalobos said his parents were strongly against his evolving identity.

Villalobos’ mother discovered his concealed identity on Myspace when he was 14.

The rejection from his family caused Villalobos to feel depressed and he experienced frequent anxiety attacks — a time he describes as being physically and mentally sick.

“She realized this when I started to get sick from it,” Villalobos said. “She asked me one day, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I (said), “I think you know what’s wrong. I've been sick for a long time, and its kind of like, a person can only take so much for so long until they start getting emotionally and mentally sick.’”

Since then, he said his mom has gradually shown support and has come a long way.

“It made me feel a lot better,” Villalobos said. “Now I can tell her things that I probably wouldn't have been able to tell her in high school.”

Villalobos has a space to openly express himself at SJSU.

He said he became actively involved in SJSU’s LGBT Resource Center during his freshman year and learned more terminology pertaining to sexual and gender identities, including gender queer.

Villalobos’ first experience feeling like a female was when he dressed up as one on Halloween of his freshman year.

“Someone just said ‘Wow you look really pretty,’ and I (said), ‘Thanks, I feel really good right now,” Villalobos said. “I think that’s when I was like ‘I feel good with where I am right now.’”

Since that Halloween night, he not only became comfortable with identifying as a female, he also created a new stage persona “Nautica.”

Creating Nautica

“Drag is a performance of gender," Sugiyama said. "So you can identify as however you want. But whatever you put on, whatever you’re acting, however you present yourself, that’s a performance of whatever you’re trying to get out there."

Sometimes the stage persona of drag king and queens is a small part of their personality that they bring out on stage, or it can be the opposite of who they actually are, according to Sugiyama.

Some people decide to come out after performing in drag, but it’s not always the case, according to Sugiyama.

Nautica was conceived when Villalobos wrote a fictional story based on his first exposure to drag in high school.

“When he’s dressed as Nautica, she has a whole different personality,” Sugiyama said. “Not a whole different personality. You can see a little Danny in there.”

Nautica is a very powerful woman who demands attention when she walks into a room, Sugiyama said.

Gaona said Villalobos has a deeper yearning for dressing as a woman than participating in drag shows.

“I see (Nautica) as my friend expressing himself and being creative and showing the crowd a very good time,” Gaona said. “It’s who he (likes) to be.”

Villalobos takes about one to two hours to transform into Nautica, he said.

Shaving is a must, in addition to heavy foundation and concealer, fake eyelashes and bright lipstick.

Heavy blush for contouring is especially necessary for men with strong cheekbones and prominent jaw lines, according to Villalobos.

Creating breasts is an entire process as well, according to Villalobos. Drag queens typically use nylons filled with rice or beans, socks or toilet paper, Villalobos said.

“I think my favorite part (of drag) is when you see a performer and they do something completely different,” he said.

After a total of almost two hours of preparation for Thursday’s drag show, Nautica was complete.

“A drag show is something you have to experience,” Villalobos said. “It is something you do learn from, because it’s something different and something unique. For some people its something unimaginable because (it involves) boys dressed up as girls, and girls dressed up as boys, men dressed as women, (and) women dressed as men. It’s blasphemous for some people, it’s unbelievable and, for some people, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s different (and) it’s new.”

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