By Sarah Hannan
Social media platforms can become a toxic place for creative people, especially if they decide to style themselves in a manner where people cannot assume the gender they belong to. Recently, one such artist shared her experience where she was cyberbullied for the way she dressed and carried herself in her videos posted online.
Emo Shaz became popular through her Tik Tok videos, but with that popularity came a backlash on her appearance. “Guys mistook me for a transitioning male and left comments saying ‘don’t you want to grow a beard and look manly’. But little did they know that I am a woman who dresses this way because I feel comfortable wearing a shirt and a pair of jeans. I have always dressed this way; even as a child, I preferred wearing jeans and shirts and would pair it up with a cap.”
According to Shaz, many women have given positive feedback on her appearance and have even shared their despair stating that they do not have the freedom to dress in such a way, which would make them look like men. “They’ve told that I am an inspiration to them and they are unable to dress in a style they prefer due to social pressures and conformity. Before I became a social media personality, I was a hip hop dancer, and the attire I wear reflects the hip hop style.”
Sharing her views on how many people are afraid to dress in a way that reflects their personality, Shaz stated that many Sri Lankans are often closeted as they do not want to upset their parents and relatives, and also fear that they would be marginalised by society, should they dress in a certain way.
“In my case, my family never had a problem with how I attired myself. Therefore, I really haven’t bothered about what society says about me or my dressing style. Just because I dress like a boy, people should not assume that I am a transgender person as well.”
Since Shaz gained wide popularity across various social media platforms, the level of cyberbullying that she had to face has been high. However, when it comes to comments that are directed at her alone, she said that she does not get upset over them.
“In one instance, a page went to the extent of disrespecting my mother and used abusive language on the post they shared. It really affected me, but then again, I thought to myself that I wouldn’t let such people dictate terms of dressing to me,” she said, adding: “People shouldn’t question another person’s style or their way of life, since it is their personal choice. While I have no intention to transition, if a person decides to transition, it is their personal choice and we have to respect that.”
Shaz also clarified that there is always a section of society who would be totally satisfied with their biological appearance and would not want to undergo medically induced changes but would always go and cross-dress. “One cannot label a person based on their outer appearance, and I cannot stress enough that based on a person’s attire or style, no one has the right to rudely question about their sexual orientation or gender identity in a demeaning manner. It is more disheartening when they drag the family into it and start insulting them because their child appears to be of a certain personality.”