Young Thug's 'Jeffery' Cover Complicates Black Masculinity and Challenges Identity Labels
For Young Thug, it was a simple decision to wear a dress for his Jeffery album art; can't it be just as easy for the rest of us?

“So, here’s the thing: A black man in a dress is a political statement. Blame it on “masculinity too fragile,” blame it on “definitions of black masculinity are too narrow,” blame it on your Paw Paw, but it just is. So when Young Thug, or Jeffery as we’re expected to call him for a bit, dropped his cover art for the No, My Name is JEFFERY mixtape last night, whether he admits it or not, he knew it was going to kick up quite a bit of conversation.

Let’s be clear: Young Thug wearing dresses is nothing new. We all remember that Gucci dress he wore in Dazed Magazine and the ruckus that set off. Most recently, he was wearing a dress in his Calvin Klein ad campaign. And of course, he isn’t the only black male musician to step outside of what is thought to be traditionally masculine.  

In the section of the world we affectionately, and sometimes derisively, call “Black Twitter,” opinions were split. Some viewed Thug’s act as the latest in the stream of ways society has sought to embarrass, bring down, or “sissify” black men. Others view it as groundbreaking and boundary pushing, and a part in the larger “carefree black boy” movement that sees an expansion of ideas about and portrayals of black masculinity. 

As for Thugger himself, reports indicate that the choice was purely driven by aesthetics.  

That revelation brings into question whether Thugger was cross-dressing at all. Is a man wearing clothes made for men as much as they’re made for women actually cross-dressing? Can only queer men wear pieces by the likes of Trincone and other labels who shirk gender boundaries, like Duckie Brown? 

Increasingly, though, black men are widening the ideas of what black masculinity is. One of the most notable names to do so lately has been Jaden Smith, who can be found wearing just about anything, including skirts. For Smith, the choice to wear clothing traditionally designed for women has a specific purpose. “I’m going to take most of the blows for my fellow MSFTS,” the 17-year-old told NYLON. “So, you know, in five years when a kid goes to school wearing a skirt, he won’t get beat up, and kids won’t get mad at him. It just doesn’t matter. I’m taking the brunt of it, so that later on, my kids and the next generations of kids will all think that certain things are normal that weren’t expected before my time.” It’s quite a bold statement.

With any newness, there is going to be friction. With such a narrow definition of what currently constitutes black masculinity, one might be hard pressed to find ways of stepping into new territory without stepping on toes. Although there’s momentary discomfort, is there anything actually wrong with all men, not just within the queer community, fighting for the right to feel comfortable expressing themselves in whichever way they choose?

Thug hasn’t called himself queer. All he’s done is wear an outfit he obviously likes. If it’s that simple for him, can’t it be just as easy for the rest of us?”

Well said! Read the full piece and see a photo of the full outfit here

Cicada magazine is Seeking Young Adult Stories for Themed Issue - Pays up to 25 cents/word

Cicada magazine, an edgy cultural arts publication for young adults (ages 15+), is inviting writers to submit material for a forthcoming issue on the theme of DEEP. This issue will feature nonfiction articles that explore “things with depth”: the darkest ocean hollows, the outlying reaches of outer space, the obscure edges of the human mind, etc.

Fiction writers are challenged to share a tale about a person who is in too deep, without an option but to continue deeper. Or to spin a story of outlandish, inhuman things twitching around in the deep blackness of a basement.

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The Indians and the Frasers

@lynnialljohnson asked: How about Ian telling the other Indians by the fire the story of his Aunt and Uncle’s love. We know he thinks its “romantic”. How would he interpret it for them? Love your writing by the way. Thank you!!

This one feels a little wonky at the end. That’s probably just me being critical of my writing, honestly. But I like it enough to post it, so that’s good, right? Anyways. Hope you all like it!

“They want to know about you and Auntie Claire,” Ian said, leaning towards his uncle.

“What do they want to know?”

“How the Bear Killer tamed the White Lady.”

Jamie barked out a harsh laugh.

“They think I’ve tamed her, then? Have they no’ met her?”

Ian smiled and glanced over to where Auntie Claire sat with the other women.

“Well… No. But they ken that ye two are well matched. They just want to know how it happened.”

Jamie looked over to his wife. The expression that changed his face always made Ian happy, if not a little jealous. He wanted so badly to have a woman that way. He’d had Emily, once upon a time, but that hadn’t worked out the way he’d hoped. Perhaps there was someone else out there for him to love the way his uncle loved his auntie.

“Och, you ken the story well enough, young Ian. You tell it.”

“You dinna want to tell the story yourself?”

Jamie shook his head.

“No. Not when I’ll have to stop and wait for ye to translate it for me.”

Ian nodded and turned back to his Indian friends, who all stared at him in eagerness.

“The Bear Killer met the White Lady and knew that he wanted her for his own. But she belonged to another. So he waited, looking for the time to be right when he could have her.

“The time came that an enemy wanted her, to use her and bring her harm. This enemy sought to use her to get information on Bear Killer and his people. The only way to save his people and to keep the White Lady safe was to claim her as his mate. So he did.

“They were married, saving them both from this enemy. Together, they lived a life with both happiness and sadness, as all lives are. They conceived a child, but it was lost to them. Then, Bear Killer’s people went to war against another enemy. This war separated Bear Killer from his White Lady.”

A few of the younger men sat forward in shock, staring at Jamie with wide eyes. Jamie frowned at him, clearly curious as to what exactly he was telling everyone.

“Twenty years they were apart, never forgetting the other. The White Lady carried another of his children and gave him a daughter. Bear Killer didn’t know this, but prayed for his White Lady every day.

“One day, Bear Killer was tending to his life and business and the White Lady came back to him. He thought her lost to him forever, but she returned to him. She had thought him dead, after the great war and had not learned of his survival for many years.”

“Is this true?” One of his friends asked.

“Yes,” Ian answered. “It is. She was restored to him because of his great sacrifice for his people. The White Lady will not leave her Bear Killer, no matter what comes in their lives. Nor will he leave her.”

Ian glanced up at his uncle, who was again staring at auntie Claire. The fondness and tenderness in his eyes was nearly palpable. Someday, he would have a lass of his own that he could look at that way. If Uncle Jamie could do it, even with twenty years separating him from her, then Ian knew he could too.