Listen, I’m sure Zayn Malik and Gigi Hadid are a lovely couple. She lip-syncs his songs in the car. They have matching “his and hers” Nutella jars. They post photos of each other with nauseatingly cute captions. By all accounts, they have a “great” relationship.
They are also, by all accounts, heterosexual and cisgender. Which is why it’s curious to see the headline of Vogue’s August cover story: “Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik Are Part of a New Generation Embracing Gender Fluidity.”
Within the LGBTQ community, the term “gender fluid” has a distinct meaning. People who adopt it typically shun traditional “male” and “female” labels; they exist somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum, or beyond it altogether. So how do two straight celebrities become gender-fluid icons? Apparently, by wearing each others’ clothes.
“I shop in your closet all the time, don’t I?” Hadid, 22, flicks a lock of dyed-green hair out of her boyfriend’s eyes as she poses the question.
“Yeah, but same,” replies Malik, 24. “What was that T-shirt I borrowed the other day?”
“The Anna Sui?” asks Hadid.
“Yeah,” Malik says. “I like that shirt. And if it’s tight on me, so what? It doesn’t matter if it was made for a girl.”
Hadid nods vigorously. “Totally. It’s not about gender. It’s about, like, shapes. And what feels good on you that day. And anyway, it’s fun to experiment… .”
Further down in the story, Hadid elaborates: “‘One day you can be this,’ she says, watching as Malik is buttoned into a bedazzled Gucci blazer, ‘and another day you can do that.’” She goes on, “If Zayn’s wearing a tight shirt and tight jeans and a big, drapey coat, I mean — I’d wear that, too. It’s just about, Do the clothes feel right on you?”
And Malik wraps the whole thing up with, “It can seem like everyone’s doing the same thing. Gender, whatever — you want to make your own statement. You know? You want to feel distinct.”
The piece does include more in-depth commentary on the fashion world’s penchant for bending the gender binary, as well as quotes from queer activists like Tyler Ford and Richie Shazam. But context aside, people on Twitter couldn’t quite figure out why Vogue chose to portray a straight couple as gender fluid.
Update, [7/14/17, 4:20 p.m.]: In response to the backlash, Vogue released the following statement:
The story was intended to highlight the impact the gender-fluid, non-binary communities have had on fashion and culture. We are very sorry the story did not correctly reflect that spirit – we missed the mark. We do look forward to continuing the conversation with greater sensitivity.