Pride & Joy Day 29: Golden Gladiators

[Today’s donation was made to Sylvia Rivera Law ProjectClick here to see my Pride & Joy Project 2020 Daily Donations List.]

My mother is a very modest woman. She doesn’t wear make-up or high heels or even dye her now grey hair. But there was a time when she did have lipstick and a pair of stilettos. And I may have something to do with her giving those up.

I’ve always been very feminine, and quite vocal about it. When I was five, I tried putting on my mom’s lipstick and walked around in her shoes. They were nude patent pumps with 3″ stilettos. When my mom saw me wearing them, she only said, “those heels kill my feet.” I ran up and down the stairs with them, so proud I was able to do that. In hindsight, since my feet only filled about half the shoes, their height was practically only 1.5″, making it obviously manageable for me.

I loved the clicking and clacking sounds they made. I felt accomplished. Maybe this is why To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar speaks to me: Vida, Noxeema, and Chi-Chi aspire to be career girls and so I did I.

About two weeks after I started wearing them, the heels disappeared and my mom stopped using makeup altogether.

“They broke,” my mom said. I swore they were just fine the last time I wore them.

Twelve years later, during hazing weekend at university, at the climax of hell night, I was told to shout, “I can be gay but I can’t be feminine.” Well, they made me say it in Indonesian and then I had to translate it into English. I was blindfolded so I have no idea who made me say it, but it was a he.

I wish I’d said no. I wish I’d told him that being feminine was my identity and if he saw there was anything wrong with a feminine guy then maybe he had to check his own misogyny. But this was twenty years ago and I was exhausted and desperately wanted to go home, so I sacrificed my integrity.

That incident still haunts me, even after spending four years flaunting my femininity at the same university.

Now that I have a semblance of independence, I’m able to express myself more than ever, through make-up, and through fashion. And that includes getting these thigh-high, gold gladiator stiletto boots.

I’ve written about and shown how much I love gold (and glitter). Ever since I saw Meryl Streep with gold gladiator sandals in Mamma Mia, I wanted to have a pair of my own. And I did. And they’re technically stilettos and not flats, and they’re technically boots and not sandals, but they are gold, vegan, and they cover my scar.

Photography by Yuska Lutfi Tuanakotta.