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Queer is Fashionable

“Dress Code,” a queer fashion show held at the Brooklyn Museum, was a digital space created to highlight masculine and femme presenting gender-nonconforming individuals. PHOTO/ Dag Images

By Assibi Ali

Published: September 26th, 2018

We are queer, we are here, and we always have been. These last few years have tested the resilience of marginalized groups all throughout the country with the growing political divide which burdens America. Cultural norms have been evolving with the passing of time and there is an increase in visibility for queers throughout the world. A look through our history illustrates the fear queer people have had to hide alongside their identity. Violence against the LGBTQ+ community has occurred for centuries and still remains an issue; the National Coalition for Anti-Violence Programs reports that homicides resulting from  antiLGBTQ+ hate crimes have seen an increase by 86%. They last reported 28 homicides in 2016, a number that had grown to 52 in 2017.

The transgender community is especially prone to these vicious hate crimes, having constituted 27 of the 52 queer people killed in 2017. When our lives are at stake, being queer is seen as a form of political rebellion within itself. Evolving fashion trends are beginning to take into account the freedom that the queer identity represents. SS2019 NYFW  was revolutionary in pushing the boundaries that formerly took precedence within the industry.

Designers, curators, and models alike are pushing the envelope, taking what they can work with and using it to inspire an uprising.

The Brooklyn Museum recently hosted the largest queer fashion show last week, “Dress Code,” curated by Anita Dolce Vita of DapperQ – a digital space created to highlight masculine and femme presenting gender-nonconforming individuals. Dolce’s mission this year was to honor the progress already made in the fight for representation by taking it to the next level. She brought together ten less accredited designers dedicated to presenting work that caters to the gender-nonconforming audience.

“Queer style pushes, pulls, challenges, and blurs heteronormative, binary gender expectations … ‘Dress Code’ examines clothing as a coded language & one of the first visible markers of our identities,” says Dolce. Visibility is a key component to explaining how queer culture has developed over the years. For G.N.C. individuals, physical appearances are of the utmost importance due to the dysphoria that comes with feeling out of place in your own body. It helps to shape the identity of the individual and exemplifies the diversity of the gender spectrum, which is more nuanced than the common perceptions of it.

Refinery29 reported last week on the welcoming of transgender, disabled model Aaron Philip to the Elite New York modeling agency. Aaron Philip, who identifies with she/her pronouns, has a large social media presence, having amassed over 20,000 followers on her Twitter account and over 32,000 on her Instagram. Philip has spent the greater portion of the past year making physical changes that would lead to a rise in confidence to guide her through her budding career. She dyed her hair blonde and amassed an entirely new wardrobe, with the intention of going viral and catching her big break. She’s advocated for more inclusion in runway shows and fashion editorials, while regularly defending non-binary people of color from hateful comments online. Being signed to Elite Models has helped further push her goal of revolutionizing the industry that she craves to be a part of. Assigned male at birth, Philip has been open about her desire to have her identity recognized. Formerly identifying with they/them pronouns, Philip posted on her Twitter account September 1st that she will be going exclusively by she/her, having felt that “they/them gives [people] an excuse to not acknowledge or view me as the girl I am.”

She proudly represents her cerebral palsy and aspires to see more disabled trans people of color pursue careers in fashion. There are hopes that her recent signing will be inspiration for other modeling agencies to associate themselves with other disabled trans people of color. The standard has always been tall, petite, white, and light. Not just within the fashion industry, but it has been ingrained in our culture as a whole. The fight for representation is forever on-going. “Dress Code” and the expansion of Elite Model’s roster to include Aaron Philip give hope that it’s a fight we can win.

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