Jonathan Van Ness of ‘Queer Eye’ says he’s nonbinary — and has been gender non-conforming since he was a kid
Everyone’s favorite member of the Fab Five (sorry, Karamo) has just come out as gender nonbinary — he says that he doesn’t identify as a man or as a woman, but something in between. And we think that’s fabulous.
Jonathan Van Ness, famous for his totally cute gender-bending outfits and impossibly silky long brown mane on Queer Eye, told Out Magazine that gender is a social construct, and he wants no part of it.
“The older I get, the more I think that I’m nonbinary — I’m gender nonconforming,” the Emmy-nominated Van Ness said in an interview. “Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman. I don’t really — I think my energies are really all over the place. Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I’m here for it.”
Van Ness says that he’s always felt like he doesn’t completely fit with either gender, but he just didn’t know that there was a word for how he thought of himself.
“I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It’s this social construct that I don’t really feel like I fit into the way I used to. I always used to think ‘Oh, I’m like a gay man,’ but I think any way I can let little boys and little girls know that they can express themselves… I just didn’t know what the name was. I’ve been wearing heels and wearing makeup and wearing skirts and stuff for a minute, honey. I just like didn’t know that that meant — that I had a title.”
He also said he prefers he/him pronouns, but doesn’t mind she/her pronouns, either.
Van Ness joins a significant number of people over the past few years who are rejecting that there are two genders and finding a cozy place in the middle — where they can express all of their feelings and be exactly who they want to be. For Van Ness, that means wearing lace tops and waxed mustaches, and we are totally here for it.
He also opened up about what it was like to be nonbinary (even though he didn’t know that word yet) as a kid growing up.
“I definitely put on every nail polish, every heel, every scarf — I definitely had my mom’s knock-off Hermès scarves in my hair and around my waist — those were my skirts, and I loved it. But when I was really young, I had really femme-shamey, gender-shamey [comments] when I would dress like that. When I would play with those things, I knew it needed to be before the sun came up or after the sun came down, like, in the basement and it needed to be something I couldn’t wear to school — like when I would do it, it had to be behind closed doors.”
As he’s netting some confidence, perspective, fame, and status, it was easier for him to break out of the mold and look exactly like he wanted to look — without worrying about what anyone thought of it. These days, he can be caught on red carpets and just walking down the street, with any combination of looks.
“As an adult, I really busted out of that, but it didn’t occur to me that when I was doing dances in heels — nothing that I’m doing now — the only thing that’s new about it is that I have a checking account now, and I can buy hotter shoes and cuter looks,” he says. “My old shoes were just from Payless so I had to wear them more infrequently and doing Beyoncé dances on Instagram — but I didn’t really put that together with “gender nonconforming” or ‘nonbinary’ or owning that as an identity until recent because I think I just thought that I loved skirts and heels and like a kind of Whole Foods Face.”
He found a ton of support on the web, and nonbinary people were thrilled to have another out and about celebrity to get support from.
We couldn’t be happier that people like Van Ness are out there teaching straight guys not only how to have more confidence, but also how to reject the toxic masculinity messages that society forces down all men’s throats since they are born. Maybe these guys don’t want lash extensions or heels, but maybe they do want to try something other than cargo shorts and drab colors. If gender is more of a rainbow than we thought, maybe Van Ness can help people be more like themselves.
“I just want to show people that you can change your circumstances, you can just make your own lane,” Van Ness said in the interview — and it’s a lesson everyone needs, regardless of gender.