Exploring Me: LGBTQ Style & Identity
BY SARA FABIAN
Identity is one of the most compelling and controversial concepts within human nature. Fashion is inevitably intertwined in the constructions and reconstructions of identity—how we represent the contradictions within ourselves in our everyday lives. Through style, individuals announce who they are and who they hope to become. Furthermore, they express who they do not want to be or become. Fashion is a metaphor for identity; it is a complex metaphor that includes physical features (skin, body shape, hair texture), as well as the sexual and gender identity you want to be.
Expressing in words who we are and are becoming can be very difficult; style, then, seems to offer a way of articulating a statement that is difficult to put into words.Therefore, a closet is filled with more than just clothes; it is filled with the ongoing practice of self love and who we strive to be.
Speaking of closets, the metaphor of being stuck in one has been a part of the mainstream LGBTQ dialogue for quite some time. However, some may never experience the “closet” mentality. Experience, much like fashion, is subjective.
Through the years, the LGBTQ community have had to hide their identities due to societal constructs and oppressive measures. Forms of dress are continuously explored, from ancient Egypt to the present day. All style is ultimately an expression of freedom to love and be who you are. That’s what makes fashion so appealing. As industries go, fashion may be the least closeted there is: No one can deny the massive impact made by the LGBTQ community in the history of fashion and costume.
I had the opportunity to interview two Evergreen students who are members of T*REX (trans* Resources and Education X-travaganza). Both Daisy Woodward and Masa Kawamura explained how their experience and fashion are a platform to express their own ideas of freedom, identity, and sexuality.
(for more information about T*REX you can email email@example.com and visit their office located within the stude5nt activities center 3rd floor CAB)
Sara Fabian: So tell me a bit about your sexual/gender discovery? How did you come out?
Daisy Woodward: When I was 14 I had got into a straight relationship that lasted about four years. 2 years into it, I started having sex with more people and then got into a relationship with a girl. So I didn’t really come out to my parents, they were like “you date everyone.”
SF: So they thought you were pansexual and something?
DW: I dated girls, and other trans* people, and thought, ‘Yes!’ Queer identities are better than straight ones. In the fall, I had a gender crisis like, “Ahh I’m not a girl anymore,” and everybody said, “That’s OK.” I thought about it and realized wait, it is OK.
SF: When you get dressed in the morning, do you feel like the clothes you pick out are a way of reclaiming your sexuality?
DW: I feel like I break a lot of stereotypes. I almost never wear a skirt and almost always wear pants, with a T-shirt and hoodie. But I love accessories, and overly femme-accessorize.
SF: How has T*REX helped you?
DW: T*REX is great, I really like that they are proactive. I like the events I get to organize, and I’m hoping to continue building a community.
SF: What advice would you give to someone who is finding their sexual identity/gender or going through transition through clothing; eg, like words of comfort?
DW: If you are comfortable already, it makes it easier to dress yourself. Wear the clothes that make you feel how you want to feel. Try utilizing thrift shops, the free store on campus and the free clothes in the T*REX office.
SF: What affirmation would you give someone who is put down by not being a part of a certain gender stereotype?
DW: The thing about other people telling you things is that it’s their problem. As long as you can let stuff roll off of you, and anger means I’m doing something right. If someone is angry or uncomfortable that means you are provoking some thought.
SF: Who is an important LGBTQ fashion icon for you?
DW: Laverne Cox. She is so perfect. She broke the trans* glass ceiling by both playing and being a trans* woman in “Orange is the New Black.” As a trans* woman of color and celebrity, she is in place to do a lot of great things.
Masa Kawamura: I want to preface by saying that my experience is as a trans* male who identifies clearly on the binary. I am not speaking for anyone else.
SF: Was it difficult for you to come out to your family and friends?
MK: Surprisingly, not that much. I wrote a letter to my dad because I thought it was going to be scary but he said, “I had a feeling all along, let’s get to work on your transition.”
SF: When you go into a clothing store, as someone who identifies as trans*, did it at first make you feel uncomfortable?
MK: Oh yes. I was very uncomfortable for a long time. I didn’t like to go alone, but that’s my personality.
SF: So it helps to have a friend who understands, someone to stand by your side.
MK: Especially if they were an LGBTQ friends they would get it. I didn’t have many, so anyone I could get was better than no one. A lot of times, I wouldn’t even go into a major store, I would just shop vintage.
SF: I could imagine if you were going to your average department store would make you feel a bit uncomfortable.
MK: I remember one of the first experiences I had at PacSun. They asked me all these questions because I was on the male side of the store. I hadn’t started my transition yet, and I was barely thinking about it at the time. It was just really awkward.
SF: What do you wear that is a reminder of who you are in your identity, and who you are regardless of sexual orientation/gender?
MK: Well, I can’t go anywhere without my wallet. It’s just not just any wallet; it’s a very special wallet. It has played a huge part in my transition, and is a reminder who you are.
SF: Are accessories important to you?
MK: As far as someone like me, who is on the binary, accessories and clothes can mean the difference between going out and staying home. And the difference between having a nervous breakdown and not. Gendered clothing holds a big purpose.