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24 Sep 2017

Toronto

By Gracie Carroll

What Queer Fashion Means to These LGBTQ Toronto Influencers

By Ama Scriver

queer fashion pride toronto

We need to understand one thing and one thing only: fashion for queer folks is more than just a trend, it is a social movement. At its very core, it’s more than being pretty but it is about representation within society. We reached out to some of our favourite queer folks and influencers in Toronto to discuss what fashion meant to them in terms of history, breaking down social constructs, resistance and of course, looking fly as fuck.

Andrew Combria

Andrew Combria queer fashion pride toronto

How has fashion helped you embrace your queer identity?

I mean, I’ve done a lot of style exploration, from wearing girls jeans and t’s in high school because they were the fit and colour I desired (that weren’t available in boy’s clothes), to traditional drag, to club kid inspired wear. The opportunity to explore all of these different selves has helped me peel away the layers and – in a way – “get it out of my system”, so that I could meet my true self, who so happens to be queer! My queerness is different from another’s, and that’s the special part of revealing your identity through style exploration.

We all have this exploration, whether we are queer or not, and it’s an important component of becoming, growing, and learning.

Why do you think fashion acts as social and political representations of gender and identity?

Fashion offers people a sounding board to express themselves. A physical manifestation of their internal identity; whatever it is.

What is something that you feel most at home in and why?

I have these black leather short shorts that are cut like a simple gym short, and I could live in them forever. They’re so comfy, and they go with pretty much anything.

 

Courtney Conquers

Courtney Conquers queer fashion pride toronto

How has fashion helped you embrace your queer identity?

Fashion has helped me embrace my queer identity primarily through drag, but there are a few ways in which I communicate myself as a queer person in regular dress (or “muggle clothes”) as well. In my daily life, my sense of style is quite simple; I like things that are covered in sequins or sparkles and I like graphic t-shirts that feature or show support for my favourite drag artists. In drag, my sense of style communicates my identity in two ways; I like to dress either extremely hyper feminine in a way that almost makes a farce of the social norms placed on women and girls, or I like to de-accentuate my daily gender and adapt a more non-binary image that makes people around me question what kind of person they’re actually speaking to (or, if they are used to interacting with non-conforming people as well, immediately interpret and understand in their own way) . I like that the way I dress can communicate essentially anything I want in drag; I can be girly and cheerful, dark and angry looking, purposely “unattractive” or intimidating, or genderless and more reminiscent of an object or concept. I also often use my time in drag as an opportunity to cosplay other artists whose work I respect; I will mimic their garments, hairstyles, and makeup techniques to embody the things I admire about someone else, regardless of their gender or identity. I love the way that I can use fashion to communicate however I’m feeling about my gender and sexuality, how society interacts with or interprets those things, and the people or things I support.

Why do you think fashion act as social and political representations of gender and identity?

In academic identity theories (for example, in the works of Judith Butler), gender is understood as a performative social construct. This means that it’s really just a set of ideas we’ve built based on our understanding of different cues (pieces of clothing, patterns of behaviour, etc) and we habitually perform certain duties each day in order to communicate to people around us how we want to be understood. For example, people who want to be understood as being women will wear things that are typically understood as being made for women (like dresses, jewelry, etc). For queer people, I think that fashion and clothing can work in much a similar way, but without prescribing to the normative gender binary. Instead, we can use fashion however we please regardless of those social “rules”, making it a tool to break down and transgress normative understandings of gender. We’re still using fashion to communicate how we want to be understood by other people, but the more creatively you use your clothing and accessories, the more uniquely you can communicate your identity and beliefs or the way you want to be understood to those you encounter, setting you apart from what they’d normally see.

What is something that you feel most at home in and why?

I feel at home in simple drag merch t-shirts because I am a huge friendship nerd who loves the idea of being immediately understood as someone who participates in some capacity in a particular facet of queer culture, but also by the concept of exposing everyone around me to the talented people I love. Depending on the day, however, I can also feel just as comfortable in things that are covered in glitter, sequins, and as much sparkle or holographic finish as possible, both in and out of drag, because those are things that make me happy and I’m most content and prepared to interact with people who might not understand why I choose to look the way I do when I’m happy and feeling confident. Finally, I actually also often feel extremely confident, comfortable, and at home in drag looks that show my body (especially if it’s also covered in glitter or rhinestones). This isn’t just because I feel confident about my physical shape or body image (although that’s also true), but rather because I enjoy the fact that my body is petite enough to be understood as female by some people, but that it also lacks classic “female” curves just enough that some people mistake me for male or simply cannot tell where I fall into their normative understanding of what male and female people look like. There are plenty of things that I feel comfortable in because I’m fortunate enough to be quite comfortable in myself regardless of what I’m wearing… but glitter is always a plus.

 

Hana Shafi aka Frizzkid

Hana Shafi Frizzkid queer fashion pride toronto

(Photo credit to Hamzah Amin)

How has fashion helped you embrace your queer identity?

I know it sounds cliché, but fashion really is one of the biggest forms of self-expression. Creating a look that you feel reflects your identity is a way of writing your own story. You’re taking something that’s quite intangible and fluid in a lot of ways and you’re visualizing it. For me that’s the biggest thing. This is my visualization of my identity, as powerful as any piece of art.

Why do you think fashion acts as social and political representations of gender and identity?

As much as we can try to pretend that fashion is purely aesthetic and somehow devoid of social and political connotation, we all know it’s just not true. Fashion is very intrinsic in body politics, in cultural representation, and as a form of resistance. Fashion acts as a social and political representation of gender and identity because it’s accessible; I’m not talking about expensive clothing, runway stuff, I’m talking about just the act of wearing clothes. Most of us do it, and in that sense, it’ll always be a platform for social change.

What is something that you feel most at home in and why?

I love my band and movie t-shirts. Most of them were like $10 bucks and I love a good bargain. They reflect my tastes in pop culture and they’re comfortable, so naturally I feel very at home in them. I also feel really at home in sports bras. I stopped wearing a wire bra a few years ago and my boobs feel free!

 

Lauryn Kronick

Lauryn Kronick queer fashion pride toronto

Photo credit to Yuli Scheidt

How has fashion helped you embrace your queer identity?

Fashion is how I’ve most connected to my queer identity in terms of my gender expression and femme identity. In my early 20s, I was really into the vintage dress pin-up look, and when I came out in my mid-20s, I began experimenting more with bright colours, black pants, glitter, mesh and leather. I cut off all my hair into a very queer-centric asymmetrical style with an undercut or a side-shave. Now in my 30s, I have recently come out as genderqueer, and my style has taken on a more androgynous feel, with button-down shirts, blazers, graphic t-shirts and belts. But, I still integrate the pieces of my femme identity that are essential to my personal style, such as sequins and sparkles, leopard print and anything fierce that can be incorporated as a stand-alone item.

Why do you think fashion acts as social and political representations of gender and identity?

For many queer and trans folks, fashion is the way we feel at home in our bodies. It’s a way of outwardly presenting the gender we want to be known for, or it’s a way of putting our queerness out on the streets to symbolize that we’re out and proud. Style is a way to intersect our identities, whether it’s gender, sexual orientation, and whatnot. I like bringing all the parts that I love about being queer and displaying that through my style.

What is something that you feel most at home in and why?

Hands-down, glitter. Glitter has been a way to express myself through make-up, through simple accents, or by going large in sparkles from head-to-toe. It’s a pick-me-up for when I’m feeling down or a way to ground myself if I’m not feeling at home in my body. It’s my way of showing that I’m here, I’m queer, I’m fabulous and don’t fuck with me.

 

Julio Reyes

Julio Reyes queer fashion pride toronto

How has fashion helped you embrace your queer identity?

Fashion and definitely the subculture and the underground scenes like circuit parties, raves, drag shows and being involved in the industry have allowed to recognize that clothes are what you or I make of it. We’re marketed a product or the illusion of gender-specific clothes by marketers that are reaching the masses to sell something to a large audience and that blanket marketing was something that never resonated with me. As a stylist, fashion has allowed me to really understand how pieces whether menswear or womenswear, fit different body types and that can happen successfully with either. And has subsequently allowed me to recognize not only my queerness & sexuality but that of others to be fluid and subjective to whatever they wear or not wear.

Why do you think fashion acts as social and political representations of gender and identity?

Because fashion can be subversive or paint a “perfect” picture of greatness or happiness. Fashion allows the wearer, or viewer to make it what they want. A man or woman wearing a suit can be interpreted as them having some sort of agenda, that they want others to take them seriously. With direction and vision. For some it borders a fetish, sexualizing those in a position of power. A man in heels or a woman in heels, for myself, evokes a sense of arousal and provocation.

What is something that you feel most at home in and why?

Jeans and a T Shirt. There’s something something so neutral, erotic whilst practical in the pair. Especially if the T-shirt is white; I’m in.

 

Syed Sohail

Syed Sohail queer fashion pride toronto

How has fashion helped you embrace your queer identity?

The fashion industry is an incredible space with a larger amount of people who identify as queer than most other industries. When I started my foray into the fashion industry, I was young and still was hiding a huge part of my life. The industry was the first time I could feel completely free and like I could be myself. This was through the meeting of people who identified themselves as LGBTQ and I truly was able to connect with the community.

Why do you think fashion acts as social and political representations of gender and identity?

Fashion is a form of self expression, and for many people – it allows us to really extend parts of ourselves that most people cannot see otherwise. For many years outside of the menswear space, I met people who would consider certain styles of garments to be too effeminate or even labelled as “so gay”. However, as fashion started to become a larger part of culture, the industry was able to shift the way people thought of fashion. The rise of influential fashion industry members into mainstream culture finally allowed other people to change their outlook on what fashion meant to them, and thus allowed them to see fashion as self expression.

What is something that you feel most at home in and why?

I LIVE for a good ol’ denim shirt! But I like putting a fresh spin on it by pairing it with garments that wouldn’t be the typical way of wearing it! You can rock it with a neckerchief to give it a fun nautical vibe or even dress down a suit with a denim shirt.

Happy Pride!

xo

@EDITSEVEN

(Story by Contributing Editor, Ama Scriver)

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