This Style Blogger is Fearlessly Shaking Up Gender Expectations

There are a lot of things to admire on Jonathan Acosta Abi Hassan’s Instagram. There are the plus size, genderfluid style blogger’s eyebrows, perfectly filled and arched above dark eyes. There are the struts and the poses, ranging from the coquettish cocked head to the casual glance over the shoulder with full smize (it’s a style post; I was gonna mention smizing if it killed me). And, of course, there are the well-styled garments and accoutrements, which include Jeremy Scott kicks, a lot of ASOS, and Pull&Bear.

But, though the aesthetics matter to Hassan, the larger drive behind his blog and social media accounts is creating an encouraging community for people who don’t feel well represented.

“I want people to know that my blog and my photos and everything that I do is not just to show my style as a fashion influencer but also to tell people that it’s good to be themselves,” Hassan tells me when we speak on the phone.

A fashion merchandising student living in South Florida, Hassan is driven to increase his voice, so he can better project his message of acceptance. Currently, he works full-time creating content for his blog Jonny On The Go and for brands in Miami and abroad, attending events, taking fashion photographs, and making fashion videos. He doesn’t have any assistance running his tiny corner of the web, so he has to wear many figurative hats, smoothly transitioning from one role to another.

This flexibility is also a marker of Hassan’s gender, which he terms gender fluid. People who identify thus are sometimes called genderqueer and non-binary as well. It means that they exist outside of cisnormativity or the gender binary. Simply, they don’t identify as solely female or solely male. For example, he/him and they/them are Johnny’s preferred pronouns. He explains that he is “not just somebody who only connects himself to one gender but mostly to the fluidity of both or all of the genders at the same time.”

In celebrating his own style and who he is with Jonny On The Go, Hassan hopes to inspire others to do the same. In part, because he knows what it’s like to be forced to hide or conform. Born in Venezuela, Hassan was taught to be uncomfortable with himself; in order to promote heteronormative behavior, his mom would hide or burn clothing deemed “too gay for a man to wear.” And then, there was the overarching pressure of Venezuelan society to contend with.

“When I was living in Venezuela I never got the chance to express myself fully,” Hassan tells me. “I couldn’t actually wear high heels in the street because I know that it would be something that would not only create a social problem but also political arguments.”

At sixteen, after finishing high school, Hassan moved to France, where he lived in Nice for two years. Though the gender expectations of Venezuela were lessened, Hassan still found himself having to hide who he was in order to protect himself. “Many times, I went out to a party and after the party ended, when I was coming home, I’d have people follow me in the street, screaming things at me, and I knew it was only because of the fact that I was dressed differently than the usual people that they see over there.”

After moving around a bit more (he spent time in Boston for school, and then Rome), Hassan settled into Miami, all the while developing his signature Jonny On The Go style core.

“I always have collections of street styles with creative aspects of the queer community,” Hassan says. “What I usually do is mix normal street wear and suit style with something glamorous and extra, like a necklace, a hairpiece, or a turban and something to just amp up the usual runway look.” He likes to take normal street style into a gender non-conforming space.

Some days, he tells me, he wants to rock nine-inch heels (like those he recently donned to be included in a collaboration between queer-run, Brooklyn magazine Posture and PAPER) and other days, he is all about sneakers. His Instagram features shorts, dresses, pants, and overalls. There is an artful juxtaposition of the feminine and the masculine, with no single ensemble perfectly replicating the expectations of either.

It’s no surprise that a person so comfortable with the concept of performing gender would be inspired by drag queens — about whom Judith Butler said “Drag is subversive to the extent that it reflects on the imitative structure by which hegemonic gender is itself produced and disputes heterosexuality’s claim on naturalness and originality.” Essentially, drag is revolutionary because it calls attention to the manufacture of the dominant view of gender, and it argues against the idea that heterosexuality is the default. When I ask about inspiration, Hassan immediately asks me if I have seen RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“I’ve been inspired by a lot of the things that I’ve seen on the latest season of the show, as well as different queer artists that I have met recently. I just get inspired by seeing people doing exactly what they want to do or what they love to do,” Hassan explains. “I recently met, for example, London Jade, a Miami artist. And she is a trans woman and she’s a rapper, and she’s hard working in her own art. That’s the kind of people that inspire me the most.”

Hassan is stimulated by the struggles these people face because their ability to exercise their creativity and passion to overcome obstacles mirror what he is doing with his own style. “It sounds kind of cheesy and all that, but I always tell people that there’s a point in your life when you learn how important being yourself is. And people reach that point at different stages of their life, and it opens up a different world and a different perspective.”

Hassan finds the strength to continue being himself by drawing on his community. He advocates creating an intentional or chosen family

“Everybody in the world should have a chosen family or somebody who supports them and loves them for who they are,” he says. “Those people are the ones who’ll get you through those moments in life where you think you don’t have somebody else around. I have been blessed to find best friends around the world that all love me and support me for who I am. They have taught me to always be that person, not to be somebody else just to please somebody else or not to be myself just to please society in the moment, but to be me and to be happy with being me.”

Through his multiple social media accounts and his website, Hassan is serving as a chosen family for followers across the globe. “Every time I post a photo of myself it’s like ‘Yes! Thank you for being you!’,” he says. “It’s weird at the beginning, but it’s real because I understand that I never saw somebody like me either. So, maybe they see me, someone who looks like them, and it’s just relatable.” He absolutely resonates with the nearly 12 thousand people who follow him on Instagram, liking his images and leaving positive affirmations in multiple languages. It’s easy to understand why. In speaking with him, there is a special brand of sincerity that’s completely charming.

In addition to developing a space for people who don’t conform to the gender binary, Hassan is using his sartorial choices to change gender expectations. He’s working to spread his message of being yourself, hoping that people will begin to be more accepting of what others wear — regardless of their preconceived notions. Through his own trailblazing example, he’s showing that it’s okay to be exactly the fabulously stylish person that you are, even if it isn’t what others expect.

“I’m pushing that line a little bit.” he says. “Trying to tell people ‘It doesn’t matter. It’s just a guy wearing high heels. It doesn’t matter. It’s a girl with a tomboy outfit,’ you know? I feel like just me being myself is always encouraging people to be themselves.”