Before I dive into spilling the T on the fashion industry and whether it really embraces the queer culture, I think it’s important to let you know whom you’re talking to (or ‘reading’ – no shade, just pink lemonade please!).
My name is Aaron and I am an Editorial Stylist / Image Consultant from Buckinghamshire (yes I don’t live in London, and that’s become an important construct for my experiences) I am also Editor In Chief for Boyfriend Magazine, which is a magazine that explores themes of masculinity and femininity, a recurring theme in my life.
As I reach the end of my 20’s, I’ve explored and experienced a lot of this world, and I’m still learning each and every day – which I find absolutely amazing and beautiful.
I now sit back and see a lot more queer agenda being pushed into the mainstream, for example, RuPaul's Drag Race has really taken the art form of drag and LGBTQ+ culture into the spotlight and is now enjoyed by millions across the world.
Even ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ has brought the 16-Year-Old Drag Queen story to the stage, and don’t even get me started on incredible make-up talents like Jeffree Star who don’t leave the house without the whole makeup counter plastered on their face – but I remember a time when I still had to wait for the cover of darkness before stepping out the door with my eyeliner and a pair of 6 inch heels.
When I grew up, being gay was just beginning to become accepted, but it was still very under-represented. We only really had Will & Grace and Queer-Eye (the original with Carson Kressley) really defining peoples opinions of gay culture, so I had a lot of fighting to do with society to make people accept me. As I reached my teens I started exploring more of my sexuality, and I dabbled with drag, and it wasn’t until I put on a pair of heels, that I felt more like a man… and whilst not everyone will understand that, the fundamental message is what I found out that day ‘DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY’
I have turned many looks over the years, and my style very much straddles the fine line between masculinity and femininity (we’ve heard that line somewhere before haven’t we?) and when I reached my early 20’s, we were in a space where I would walk around in daylight wearing whatever I wanted to – and was I heckled, abused, bullied, harassed for it? ABSOLUTELY! But did it ever stop me from feeling powerful in whatever I was wearing – NOT AT ALL – because it wasn’t really about what I was wearing, it was about the feeling it gave me on the inside and how it helped shape the person I wanted to be.
I started this internal conversation with myself (one that still exists in my mind even today), that no matter how hard the punches came, I would simply stand there and take it, because I am me, and I won’t defend my actions, instead, I’ll allow the abusers to use me as their outlet for their pain and fear, and hopefully I will save some poor young boy who wants to wear heels like me the pain of having to deal with this – yes, I started to get political and tried to become a martyr for my community.
I am so proud today to see so many more people express themselves, and now actually, my looks aren’t considered extreme enough anymore, and that’s a fascinating concept considering when I was turning the looks almost 10 years ago, it was shocking – you need only look to amazing queer talents such as Jamie Windust and Aquaria who re-define the gender rules and limitations in a beautifully inspiring way!
I have worked in many corporate environments, and as I carry around a handbag, long nails, whatever I feel like really, I’m pleased to say that I have never really been contested on my style choices – and I think that comes from a place of professionalism and respect, but the one industry that you would expect to be the most accepting would be fashion right? I personally think you would be wrong… and she’s here to tell you why!
The fashion industry explores new ways of setting trends and styles, and ultimately it’s all about selling clothing and accessories right? It’s a commercial market after all, so it’s interesting that whilst most of the
individuals in the industry accept and understand the queer culture, the industry itself is still holding queer culture back.
There’s not a magical formula to fashion, if you want to sell something to someone, just consider the audience - femininity is generally attracted to masculinity and vice-versa – but the queer space in between where genders are non-binary, and sexuality is explored into areas and themes that are not fully understood, how can the industry sell items to those people whom they may not fully understand?
The answer has been here all along, they need a punching bag like I and many others were and still am – and thankfully they have a plethora of strong queer advocates to choose from – but I don’t see the major mags jumping at the chance to shoot them – and even my readers still demand a certain level of ‘normality’ if that term even means anything anymore because what is normal nowadays? I have to ‘conform’ my content to a place which rides the editorial and commercial line carefully because that’s what sells, and ultimately I’ve got light bills to pay!
Take Moschino’s most recent collaboration with H&M – the newest winner of Drag Race, Aquaria, was one of the leading models from the campaign. Aquaria is known for her gender-bending fluid style, but the looks in the campaign were overly feminized for her, thus giving her a more commercial look – now don’t get it twisted, I’m super excited that our trans and drag queen brothers and sisters are now being even asked to represent and model for major brands, but are they having to conform to a commercial archetype in order to be considered?
Some would say these are the small steps we have to take in order to push for further acceptance, and I would likely agree – but it doesn’t stop me from fearing the sheer power the media has over influencing the public's perception of us, and I’m grateful that people like Ben have created safe spaces and platforms for us to celebrate one another and push the agenda to a place of acceptance in our own way.
Overall, we’re in this for the long strategic play, and these small triumphs, however much we criticise them, are important in the long term, but let’s not forget that we are in the water with some vicious sharks, and if we’re not careful, we will get bit, so let’s band together and keep swimming because we are making headway.
We just need to remember that not everyone who calls themselves our ‘friends’ is there out of loyalty… and as dark and sobering as that may seem, it’s a reality we face and one that I have faced all my life, but it does remind us that love needs to come from within in order to survive in this world, as a gorgeous talented lady in a big wig once taught us ‘IF YOU CAN’T LOVE YOURSELF, HOW IN THE HELL ARE YOU GONNA LOVE SOMEBODY ELSE?’
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