nikkiesha mcleod, What's Underneath
The Gentle Lone Rider of the Masculine and the Feminine

We asked musician and writer Nikkiesha McLeod (“Nikkie”) to be a part of the What's Underneath Project because she has so much love and light to express despite growing up in a world that largely and, at times, violently has told her she is unacceptable due to her beautifully singular androgyny. Soft-spoken and a passionate drummer, Nikkie defies “the polarity game of extremes” by creating her own personal combination of masculine and feminine with a flattop, a red Chinese-emperor jacket, a yellow feather earring, and classic brogues. Her feelings of personal self-worth are all the more heroic considering all of the discrimination she faces from our gender-parochial culture. Just for using the public restrooms -- men's or women's -- she has been shoved against the wall by security guards, as well as verbally abused by macho men and boyfriends alike. We’re obsessed with how Nikkie's gentle demeanor belies her audacious spirit and how she's a tranquil force that says NO to the hatred that permeates so much of society and YES to loving yourself.

"My style says that I have guts and the audacity to continue to exist while everything out there is telling me I shouldn’t: 'What are you? Are you a man? Are you a woman? Where are you in this spectrum?' I was offended by people who called me a he when I felt in my own self that I wasn’t fitting in as he or she, but as both. I was in a relationship with a woman who assumed that I was aggressive and masculine because I kind of exude that. I’m not that masculine, so that didn’t go off really well…. People don’t want women to express the masculinity that’s in them because they find it confusing. There’s never any middle ground….  When I was younger, I was attracted to a lot of women. Once I gained that language and realized this is who I am, then it became: How do I express this to my family? My sister is awesome; she was actually trying to set me up on people…. It’s hard for everyone, because you’re told that there’s just one way to be. If I relied on what’s outside then I really would disintegrate…. I don’t see the need for me to have boobs, dude. I don’t see myself breast feeding anyone anytime soon.... Which public bathroom is safer? The women’s or the men’s? Neither are safe. One time, a woman got her boyfriend. I guess she told him that there’s this pervy dude in the bathroom. He came in: ‘What the fuck are you doing?' I’ve also had a security guard push me up against the wall. I started thinking that it’d be better if I just went to the men’s bathroom, but then this dude tried to beat me up…. There’s this unspoken language, courage, strength, and commitment when I play with my band. We know each other’s weaknesses and help each other out…. I would tell my 12-year-old self, 'You’re awesome,' because I didn’t think I was awesome when I was 12. I would say to her that you’re doing the right thing even though you’re being told that you’re not…. Being in your body is sitting with what’s happening outside, hearing it internally, and saying, ‘No, that’s not true; I’m going to love myself.’”

Your Style is Your Story & Nikkie's is the above episode of the What's Underneath Project!

Visit Nikkie's blog
Follow her on Twitter: @Cocoyea
Nikkie's video was edited by Andrea Cruz
What's Underneath is produced by Elisa, Lily, & Mona

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