Growing up as a rather femme gay boy, my clothing choices were often weaponized against me before I even knew I was gay. I got teased for the tightness of my jeans, wearing pink and pretty much any physical manifestation that did not align with masculine ideals. It didn't stop me, but it didn't embolden me either. Instead, it was the beginning of my awareness of clothing's power to signal facets of our identity. Now, older and for the most part wiser, I — along with many of my LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers — use clothing as a means to affirm or express my identity. It's sometimes for us, sometimes for those outside of the community, and largely for each other, to say “I’m here with you.” Below, several members of the community explain what clothing means to them...
STYLE AND CULTURE
HOW LGBTQ+ USE FASHION AS EXPRESSION
By Evan Ross Katz, June 25, 2019
"The way I express my queer identity is by wearing what I think looks great on my body without worrying about the binaries of fashion's gender roles. Clothing plays a huge role in my queer identity because not only does my bright, funky aesthetic help other queer people feel like they can have the space to express themselves, but it also helps me realize how far I’ve come in my journey. A couple of years ago I would never wear heels or even hoop earrings out in public. I would leave the house in things I normally wouldn’t wear and would feel so self-conscious, but the more I did it, the more comfortable and powerful I felt."
"Our community is constantly changing, evolving and redefining itself and I feel as a modern gay man I have the freedom to experiment with how I experience that. I don’t feel like I have to confine myself to the menswear sections of stores because heteronormative society decided clothing should be separated by labels. If I see it and like it, I don’t think twice about the fact that it was made for a woman. During Pride Month I feel even more emboldened to show out for my community — it’s a time to celebrate who we are and how far we’ve come. It's an opportunity to pump through the streets like a runway in Paris and let the world know WE’RE HERE AND WE’RE QUEER."
"For me, my entire LGBTQ+ identity comprises of equal-measures conflict and celebration. Younger years were spent blending into professional environments in a wool sweater over a pale blue shirt and a pair of dark check suit pants. A bit sad, no? So as time has progressed, my personal and professional style have wonderfully merged into a single ideal. While a full rainbow ensemble with glitter Converse and glow sticks may not be to my personal taste, it still warms my cold little heart and reminds me that we all display our identity in unique ways — that's the fun of it."
Tommy Do, 29 Pronouns: he/him
"Clothes used to be so segregated and truly only to serve the purpose of telling the difference between a man and a woman — and in some ways and in some parts of the world, it's still like that (why do you have to know who is a man and who is a woman other than to treat them differently, right? RIGHT!). But as of late, there's been a really exciting shift in fashion where the lines between what is 'acceptable' attire for men and women are blurred. The goal is to create a space and a world where everyone feels safe dressing however they want and to be able to express themselves however they want."