A year ago, we committed to a range that celebrates multiple sizes and we asked our #mattertribe to be a part of a community shoot. One of the questions that often surface up for brands is how involved should we get in politics? As a team and brand grounded on the pillars of social change and equality, we felt we wanted to do our part in becoming more involved and vocal in the existing conversations of our community. June was Pride Month, a time to celebrate the impact the LGBTQIA+ community has had on the world and to commemorate the ones before who’ve fought hard for the progress today. Which is why for this year’s community shoot, we wanted to celebrate people who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community in Singapore, to celebrate their stories and spotlight the existing conversations here.
What’s your “story”? What do you need the world to know about you?
My name is Cassius. I am a trans-masculine, non-binary individual and I have just started to speak more about my experience with mental health and queerness. It took me a long time to come to this point in my life – I am so happy to be able to breathe in my own skin and my own scars. Mental health and queer rights issues are the biggest deals to me right now.
What I would love for the world to know about me is exactly what I’d love for the world to know about themselves: that our journeys take its own time and its own course. Society may tell us otherwise, but there is no one fixed way to exist. We are enough.
What was a pivoting point in your journey to self acceptance and celebration?
There were several incidents that permanently changed my outlook on life, but the biggest thing for me was realising that I was trans. Every single thing that came after my realisation was my fight within and with myself to accept my truth, and to live it without apology. I’ve come to accept that this journey to self-acceptance and celebration will happen throughout my life, and is a choice that I can make daily.
What is the best piece of encouragement you’ve received about yourself?
That I am making a difference, just by being myself. Wow. How amazing. Still blows my mind to this very day.
What are some materials (books, movies, articles, or otherwise) you’d recommend for people to engage with to learn more about LGBTQIA+ culture?
I think the first piece of advice I would love to give is this: to know your sources. The Internet is a labyrinth of misinformation, and being aware of your sources and who is dishing out knowledge is essential. For example, the recent box office hit about the love story of two men and a peach (the main leads as well and the director are not queer) would not be a film that I’d recommend. It utilises queerness as a means to profit from as first priority. I’d say authentic representation wasn’t high up on their list of priorities.
The second piece of advice is to be discerning. LGBTQIA+ experiences are diverse and to assume that, a trans woman’s experience is similar to that of a lesbian, for example, is extremely naïve and damaging to our community. Some voices tend to be louder in representing queerness, and as a result many voices of transgender, non-binary individuals are left underrepresented. I love the fact that this shoot featured Rachel, Div and Nor and myself as a diverse and inclusive representation of LGBTQIA+ individuals in Singapore.
So, I suppose, I’d love for us to be more familiar with our own queer voices here in Singapore first. This is something I’m learning to do too!
1. Div’s multidisciplinary work
2. Zeha’s work/ poems
3. Nor’s upcoming exhibition at Objectifs (“MAT”) – you can see all her past works on her website
4. Your head lah! Magazine that focuses on mental health that includes queer content
5. Rachelpangcomics – queer and mental health content
6. Alfian Sa’at and Cyril Wong’s poems (available in many book stores here)
1. Anything by Audre Lorde (amazing, amazing books)
2. Pose by FX (showing on Netflix) on trans visibility
3. Alok V Menon’s (they/them) poems on being a visible, gender non-conforming person of colour in the US
4. Paris Is Burning, a documentary
5. Amateur by Thomas Page McBee (book)
6. Gender Failure by Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon (book)
Section 377A is an unjust law that punishes the LGBTQIA+ community, and it is an extension of all other forms of discrimination the community faces in Singapore. In your words, why should the Parliament hold themselves accountable in repealing this law?
We, the people and your only resources, deserve better. Many in society mistake the law as an indicator of morality, but little is spoken of the history of these laws. The rich history of humankind and its wide spectrum of gender and sexuality are hidden from the masses. The colonization of gender is hidden from the masses. Our visibility as queer, powerful and strong individuals is censored from the masses. Section 377A is complicit in all of this.
To repeal these laws would signal internationally to other nations that you value your people regardless of race, language or religion, and that you have decolonized yourselves and are really, finally, an independent state worthy of celebration.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability, to me, means giving more than you take. It means being mindful of what you need out of necessity instead of convenience. It is about being intentional in whatever you do, regardless of it being the consumption of food, plastics, or fashion.
What is the relationship you have with your clothes?
I recently realised that most of the clothes I have are second-hand clothes. For some reason, I take comfort in the fact that the clothes I have on my back now have once been on somebody else’s back, and that there is a story that exists there, unbeknownst to me. I feel like my second-hand clothes provide me with a confidence, because of their story, and also because clothes in previous eras were much more well made, and more importantly, made with love.
#ChangeBeyondTextiles is breaking the cycle of fast fashion by sourcing, creating, and celebrating in an ethical manner. It is political, and it uses its power in privilege to speak.
What is one thing you stand for and believe in, and why?
I believe that we are the change that we want. Regardless of what we are doing or where we are, the change we want always starts with us. The work starts with us first, before others.
What’s your advice to ____? Fill in that blank, and then fill in your advice.
My advice to people who have the capacity and time to inform themselves about politics, but don’t, because politics “isn’t their thing”:
Your decision to not partake reflects your privilege. Your deliberate choice to stay ignorant of the things that are happening around us reflects your decision to continue to oppress those who are marginalised by the system. Many of us live these injustices from a day-to-day basis. Please, do better, because existing in a vacuum is not doing justice to yourself.
Be an ally. Ask. Care. Grow. It can be anything that you care about. Mental health, queer rights issues, addressing racism, global warming, migrant workers or even homelessness.
Have love for yourself; allow yourself to be challenged. Hold yourself accountable in the midst of practising self-love, because you deserve that much. That, my dear friend, is my advice.
We are proud to have Cassius Ting as a Fieldtester, a group of inspiring individuals that test MATTER products in their everyday journeys of passion, to help us improve durability and design. Cassius is wearing our Wrap Skirt + Zalya Jungle in size 2, and Work Jumpsuit + Mystic Mountain in size 2.