Heeling Society - Published Vancouver Photographer & Model - Artist Jessica Rae - PHOTOGRAPHER
Heeling Society - “walking a mile in heels is easier than a lifetime in the closet” Vancouver Model and Advocate, Chad Walters, talks fashion, stigma and "making ripples"
Heels, Gay, Pride, Gay Pride, Published Photographer, Male Model, Gay Model
51212
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-51212,single-format-standard,edgt-core-1.1.2,et_bloom,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,vigor-ver-2.2, vertical_menu_with_scroll,smooth_scroll,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.6,vc_responsive

Heeling Society – Published Vancouver Photographer & Model

“walking a mile in heels is easier than a lifetime in the closet”

Heeling Society – Published Vancouver Photographer & Model

I had the privileged of meeting Chad last year and since then we have worked and collaborated together on a few different photo shoots. I also have the honour of calling him my friend. Every one of our sessions together holds a special place in my heart and this particular shoot definitely ranks in the top.
We were honoured with securing cover on Issue 6 of Beauty Mark Magazine with this set and I couldn’t be more proud. When I first read Chad’s article, that was to accompany the images we took in Vancouver, BC of him showcasing his fabulous heels, it brought me to tears. Don’t take my word for it though,read for yourself …

 

 

My name is Chad Walters. And to self-locate, I am a 30 year-old, gender-fluid, gay-identified,

European-Aboriginal Canadian man. I did my undergrad in social work at the University of

British Columbia and am currently making my way through graduate studies in the same field.

I’m just some guy who wants to relax the rigid – and often oppressive – gender norms that run

rampant in our world. I felt inspired to write, and so here I am.

 

Artist Jessica Rae with Chad Walters LifeAsChad Heeling Society Beauty Mark Magazine Issue 6 Men In Heels Gay Pride

 

I remember a sociology prof at university encouraging us to push back against and defy norms

and social mores, if only to experience the awkward tension. He highlighted the discomfort that

is often felt when citizens do not follow the social “rules.” He used an example of someone

entering an elevator but not immediately facing the door, as would be expected, and instead

facing the back wall and the other riders. It confuses people by opposing what is known to be

normal. His teachings have stayed with me and I have since paid close attention to our

society’s norms and expected ways of behaving. Holding this attention throughout my social

work degree has provided me with a hyper-awareness of norms that are oppressive, and it is

these norms, particularly, that should be pushed back against… with vigour.

Artist Jessica Rae with Chad Walters LifeAsChad Heeling Society Beauty Mark Magazine Issue 6 Men In Heels Gay Pride

 

Our society defines what is normal and abnormal when it comes to how we look and what we

wear, and within this definition are strict gender boundaries, and god forbid we step beyond the

border. For example, only men should wear ties, only women should wear makeup, only men

should have short hair, only girls wear pink, only women should paint their nails, and, my least

favourite, only women should wear heels. Unfortunately, there are plenty more of these

unnecessary “shoulds” within our worlds. I am not a fan of this word “should;” it suffocates me.

Perhaps “should” shouldn’t exist.

Fortunately – acknowledging our privilege – in today’s Canada we are beginning to honour and

respect that gender and sexual identity are not the strict binaries we once presumed, and,

instead, that self-expression and self-presentation are more lax and fluid. More and more

people are presenting themselves to the world in more liberal, exciting and creative counter-

culture ways, myself included.

 

Artist Jessica Rae with Chad Walters LifeAsChad Heeling Society Beauty Mark Magazine Issue 6 Men In Heels Gay Pride

 

My journey to authenticity has been long, and every day I continue to sink more deeply into

myself. Owning and announcing my attraction to other men was a huge step towards becoming

authentic. Anyone who has struggled with and tackled their gender ad sexual identity has a

clear understanding of how oppressive our society and the people within it can be. It is tough to

explore what feels right and authentic when doing so causes social discomfort and provokes

negative responses. However, social discomfort is often an impetus for change… and change

is good. It is time, again, for me to explore what feels right.

Artist Jessica Rae with Chad Walters LifeAsChad Heeling Society Beauty Mark Magazine Issue 6 Men In Heels Gay Pride

 

I am writing today to share my experience of giving life to my desire to slap on some stilettos

and head out into the public. I have occasionally seen images of men wearing heels and I

always thought that it looked incredible. As someone who views the body as a canvass, on

which I can be artistic and expressive, the thought of diversifying my wardrobe and appearance

with heels has always been alluring. I often thought, “women are so lucky… look at all of these

amazing shoes they can choose from. I want to be able to wear heels.” Let’s face it, the

selection of shoes ascribed for men is more limited… bland, even. And who the hell says I can’t

wear heels? Society, with its death grip on what is and isn’t masculine.

This past year I was drawn to a fundraiser for Foundation of Hope, a charity whose mandate is

to assist LGBT refugees in their transition into Canada. The premise of the fundraiser was

“walking a mile in heels is easier than a lifetime in the closet” – a way to bring attention to the

torment of growing up LGBT in an LGBT-persecuting country. This fundraiser spoke to two

interests of mine… LGBT refugees and stilettos! The shoe fit, so to speak. It was time to buy

some heels… I suppose I needed that push, that justification.

 

Artist Jessica Rae with Chad Walters LifeAsChad Heeling Society Beauty Mark Magazine Issue 6 Men In Heels Gay Pride

 

I felt like a kid in a candy shop, as is often said, during my first trip to the shoe store. I instantly

saw the winning pair, neon with a 7-inch heel; I made the purchase. Naturally, I wanted to wear

the heels out of the store and so I walked out onto the street, feeling tall (for once) and

confident. I was surprisingly stable in those babies and walked with ease, mostly.

Something unique happens to me when I put on a pair of heels. Firstly, I begin to feel sexier. It

is my belief that heels are intrinsically linked to women and her sexuality. It is not news that

many men find heels sexy, and that men’s behaviour can be influenced by a woman in heels.

Perhaps this is why most men cannot bear the thought of another man in heels… if heels are

linked to sexual attraction then a man seeing another man in a hot pair of heels will really

confuse him and challenge his whole idea of masculinity… “Wait, that kinda looks good. Am I

gay?!” …probably not, no. Of course, there are boundless opportunities to dig into the blaring

symbolism of women walking through the world supported by teeny tiny phalluses – but that is

for an entirely different article. Collectively, we connect the word “sexy” to a woman in heels – it

is written into our collective coding. It is for this reason, I believe, that I begin to feel sexier.

That, and because I feel confident, and confidence is super sexy in and of itself.

Artist Jessica Rae with Chad Walters LifeAsChad Heeling Society Beauty Mark Magazine Issue 6 Men In Heels Gay Pride

 

My confidence and self-esteem go through the roof when I am wearing heels; I feel like I can

take on the world. If you look at any strong, sexy and confident women in film, she is probably

wearing heels… even while running away from dinosaurs as was the case in this year’s Jurassic

World. Part of this confidence may be connected to the height status factor – women who are

taller or the same height as men are often perceived as more assertive and powerful. Height =

Power. Simultaneously, beyond my increase in height power, I feel the confidence that arises

from the basic awareness that I am pushing back against a nonsensical norm. I feel purpose

and that purpose provides me with confidence to strut my stuff like no other – #werk. Stick it to

the man.

Artist Jessica Rae with Chad Walters LifeAsChad Heeling Society Beauty Mark Magazine Issue 6 Men In Heels Gay Pride

 

Also, I feel happy when I am in heels. Why happiness? Because I am exploring new ways to

bend gender, new fashions to spice up my appearance and new interactions with the social

world around me. It is fun! Getting dressed up is always entertaining, whether for some special

occasion or themed event… it is a blast to evoke new characteristics, and sexy stiletto sass just

so happens to be the latest characteristic to wake within me. Furthermore, I am an activist at

heart and stimulating social change is part of what brings me joy. Being counter-norm in our

misogynistic and heteronormative society appeals to me and speaks to my passion, and any

passionate engagement is always fun. As I walk and dance around in 7-inch heels I am

activating something… conversations, a paradigm shift, new norms, etc.

 

Artist Jessica Rae with Chad Walters LifeAsChad Heeling Society Beauty Mark Magazine Issue 6 Men In Heels Gay Pride

Beyond what it feels like, personally, I think it is appropriate to share some reactions with you,

dear reader. One of the most surprising things about my heel experiences, both while shopping

and strolling, is how frequently I was called, “Girl.” Some of the comments were as follows (I’m

relying on your mental intonation and emphasis to make these comments come to life): “Work it

Giiiiiirl!” – “You’re looking fab, girlfriend!” – “Guuuurl, you look so good!” This started to bother

me. Why? Well, because I am not a girl. I am a man, I just happen to be wearing different

shoes. It fascinates me how a simple article of clothing became reason to re-ascribe my sex.

Of course, “Girl” is just a word… but words make worlds. This, to me, was a blatant

representation of how gendered our world is, and, in turn, how restrictive and oppressive that

can be. A woman is no less a woman for not wearing heels. A man is no less a man for

wearing heels. In simplicity, the person is merely taller or shorter.

Artist Jessica Rae with Chad Walters LifeAsChad Heeling Society Beauty Mark Magazine Issue 6 Men In Heels Gay Pride

 

On the sidewalk, and in the heart of the city, I walked past what I presumed to be a mother and

her two daughters. As we passed each other I saw the mother smile and say, “girls, check out

his heels!” Little “wows” followed suit. It was positive and upbeat; there was acceptance. It

wasn’t a scoff or a shake of the head. Maybe those girls have never seen a man in heels

before, and maybe, just maybe, they now feel a tinge more confident to be bold themselves. I

want to live in a world where difference is celebrated, and I believe that as we normalize gender

fluidity the following generation is going to be so much more welcoming of the people who do

not fit into tiny gender boxes.

Artist Jessica Rae with Chad Walters LifeAsChad Heeling Society Beauty Mark Magazine Issue 6 Men In Heels Gay Pride

 

Trying on heels in stores is very interesting. In one store, a clerk ask if I wanted to try a pair in

my size – 10, p.s. It was truly a powerful moment for me. It was powerful because it was so

casual and normal. It made it clear to me how much progress we have made as a society and

how fortunate I am to be living here. I could not leave the store without voicing my gratitude for

her acceptance. Sometimes I can feel the looks and the stares, the chuckles and the respect. I

can see the daggers of the impatient husbands, perhaps daggers of jealousy over how stellar

my calves look in a great pair of stilettos – #ownit. Whatever the reaction, i view it as a good

reaction. It means something is happening, and I believe that it is a positive “something.”

As I bring this to a close, and dream about a pair of heels I want to order from Australia, I feel it

is important to leave you with a question: what have you always wanted to wear, and, what is

stopping you? Go out there and throw your rock in the pond… it’s time to make ripples. Push

back.

Chad Walters

Vancouver, BC

 

Get your own copy of Beauty Mark Magazine Issue 6

No Comments

Post a Comment