Dousing the flames of a paralyzing narrative of gender roles, firefighter turned androgynous model slash activist RAIN DOVE breaks the straightedge line of the runway and goes beyond the binary.
Charging the hose into a reality set ablaze by the crack in our society’s synthetic blueprint, Rain Dove knows how to water the heat down, but never lets her fire to represent her truth extinguish. With the media and fashion industry’s skilled precision on pricking models where it hurts, the agender model isn’t afraid to tell them where to stick it as she snips off the raggedy threads of systematic judgment like a bad patchwork. Walking without any constraints on her size and genitals, Rain finds freedom by counting the measure of her honesty instead.
“Being a woman had very little to do with our survival.”
Reflecting the narrative of her childhood, Rain stayed hungry to patch up the gender disparity between people and challenge our monochromatic perspective by posing behind the lens as both genders for magazines such as, Vogue, Elle, Cosmo, and W as well as become the face of Dove’s beauty campaign, Kenneth Cole men’s clothing and H&M as both. “I wore hand-me downs from my parents because we grew up really poor. Like if you wanted to eat something, we never really had snacks in the house so you had to go to the barn and get some eggs for you to boil. So I grew up with a different self-provision, and the things that were important to me as a young person were also different because of the environment of poverty or labor, and we’re really just trying to survive,” she shares as we retrace her steps back to the farm she grew up in, a thousand acres of space where her strength was tested and nurtured. “Because we were farm-oriented, it wasn’t so much about playing the role of male or female. It was about being able to do chores and pull your own weight. The only way gender roles played any part was in the dating world, where your only option is really heterosexual and that was it.”
They say to reap more than you sow, and Rain definitely planted a seed of thought that branched out to foreshadow her future. “Being a woman had very little to do with our survival, and that definitely affected my future because going into me being later on a firefighter, I got to experience the male side of the world, how a lot of male politics worked and how men engaged with each other. I realized how at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to do our best and find our sense of purpose in this planet and make the most of this existence,” Rain recounts of her strong backbone and crystal clear vision on the division, or supposed lack thereof, gender. Running through burning walls to strutting on the catwalk, Rain proves that she can easily switch lanes from grit to gloss and blurs the lines of androgyny while she’s at it.
“I realized how at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to do our best and find our sense of purpose in this planet and make the most of this existence.”
“The thing is, I never really thought that I would be an advocate for identity,” she admits. Yet here she is, from a seed to a full-grown tree, deeply uprooted in society as a renegade and simply a person you can count on to have your back. “I never thought I would be the voice for it, but I never let my body be my limitation. Other people have tried to limit me based on my sexuality, but I always found a way to get around it emotionally and I never allow it to impede on my experience. It’s really hard, but I think the reason why I keep on trying and fully chucked behind the role of being able to talk about identity on the level that I am now is because a lot of people reach out with these messages on how they’re afraid of literally being stoned to death, of rape, and they don’t understand why they’re even alive,” she painfully shares, a mental swipe on our clouded lenses as we see the world in blurred vision.
She’s no super hero that can save the day – but she’s a fighter just like the rest of us, and chooses to walk down the road carrying the best of both worlds. Riding high on the fumes of her emotions, she fills up her tank with experiences to drive herself forward. “I spent a lot of time homeless, eating food swept from people’s tables and their left lunches. I spent a lot of nights sleeping on cardboard with clothing stolen from Salvation Army where they drop off their donations outside, but these negative feelings push you to be better, and as long as you have those feelings of negativity and your body telling you that you deserve better, then you still have the capacity to change.”
What do you think about the fashion industry and it’s approach to genderless fashion? Some are genuine, some do it as a fad – either way, what do you think is its impact with the community?
Rain: I think we’re in this complicated time where there’s so much politics in our bodies, and the idea of being genderless is political. Personally, the problem isn’t the label, but it’s the limitation. So when you limit other people’s ability to purchase a particle garment, based off of your expectations, then you’re limiting people’s potential progress. The idea of genderless fashion has long ways to go, but it’s still great to see people trying to create dialogue, even if some of them are just gimmicks, at least they’re trying and garners visibility, and that visibility deserves to be applauded and encouraged to go to the next step. But I think that the ultimate step is not have the reason to call it genderless, like people don’t need to fucking announce it. Why not just say, here’s our clothing line, and it’s for anyone who wants to buy it.
“As long as you have those feelings of negativity and your body telling you that you deserve better, then you still have the capacity to change.”
What’s your advice for people – the genderqueer community, all people really, who are in some way oppressed and want to break through society’s limitations on them?
R: What I would like to tell people is that the whole world is trying to limit us. But the only thing that really makes us free is being honest with ourselves. So even if you live in a place where people dictate your life, people can only control so much. But they can’t dictate your truth or your honesty, and you will never lose that. Life is just an experience, and we can’t prove what will happen to our existence in the future.
By: Bianca Serrano
Photographers: Mark Anthony Chen and Shena Lee.