Overcoming the fear of being different through style

Fabijus Kasperavicius explores how he learnt to find, accept, and express his identity through fashion against the backlash of never fitting in. Moving through heartwarming stories from Lithuania to Ireland, in home and public life, Fabijus captures an uplifting mentality of owning what makes you happy, even when it goes against what others might not understand.

When I was growing up in Lithuania, I was taught to be boyish in a very traditional sense; dress like a ‘smart boy’, or dress in very boyish clothes like shirts with cars on. Surprisingly, that didn’t seem wrong to me at the time, although I always wanted to be a designer and had a love for clothes and fashion, I never thought about my own look.

In Lithuania, growing up is very closed-minded, you are all pushed to be the same: the boys were pushed to be stronger, to act tough, play fighting, whilst girls were pushed to play with dolls, to love pink, have big bows in their hair and classic things like that. I grew up being extremely different to those prescriptions: I would only play with ‘girl’ toys, all my friends were girls, and I would play only the role of a girl when we played games. However, although from the start I was very different, I never noticed I until I moved to Dublin when I was ten.

At the age of ten I moved to Ireland with my Mum and sister, and this was the stage I noticed I was very different: very quickly people in my new school were calling me a girl or calling me ‘gay’. At the time, I’d never thought about being ‘gay’ – that word was never in my head before, I’d never even heard it. When I learnt the meaning, however, I could immediately tell that it was something I related to, but as the feelings started to get stronger it all scared me so much. It eventually took me three years of overcoming the fear of being gay before I came out to my mother and sister, a few months later to my grandparents, and then my Dad. They all took it hard at the time but now they have understood and love me the most!

That was actually the easiest part in my journey to finding my difference, the second part is my style, which really gave the most shock to my family. I started changing my style at fourteen after coming out and finding a world of free expression. The LGBTQ world was an escape: watching Rupaul’s drag race and just seeing the fashion, the make-up, and the happiness, I started to really think about what I was; what is my style, what do I want to be in this world, so I begun the journey to find it: my style, and the true me.

It started very lightly, little changes in my style like wanting to have more edgy pieces like platform shoes or more black or trendy clothes. Then my style started to develop more; I started going to the women’s section for shoes, then for a t-shirt, then jumpers… This new place, ‘the women’s section’, opened a whole new world to me, it gave me the freedom to dress like me. This also, however, started some big fights in my family life.

I would have huge fights with my mother about me wearing ‘women’s’ clothes, but this only made me want to rebel even more! That summer I decided to start dabbling in make-up, I talked my mother into letting me get make-up by telling her I was going to put it on my friends (this was a huge lie).  I used to do musicals so every morning I would leave an hour early to go to my friend’s house, do my make-up and rush to rehearsals. Then, after the rehearsals I would be walking to the bus stop with my friends and at the same time wiping my face with a make-up wipe so I could go home without my mother knowing! This went on for 3 months until she realised what I was doing, which set off another huge fight, resulting in my first ever panic attack.

After that day I started to get short tempered and mean. I’d make mean comments and generally have a mean attitude, which just caused even more fights at home. After all those fights I eventually got bored of being put down for doing something I love, so my rebel spirit came back! I was fighting back with my style: I started to get creative with my make-up and clothes, I started to dress a lot more feminine, I started to shop in every gender section of the store (but mostly women’s!). This really didn’t help my relationship with my mother, but I felt happy with what I was doing, which is how I got into modelling, giving me an even bigger space to be creative!

I found friends and people around me who loved who I was and supported me in everything! Lately, I still fight with my mother on my looks and my fashion, but I’ve accepted that people like her don’t understand how make-up and style can help me be a happier, more positive person. So, now, I leave you with this: keep fighting for what makes you a better, happier, more positive person, even when everyone can’t understand you yet.