We asked nine Queer Leaders from our community about how fashion and personal style interact with their queerness - from finding strength in uniqueness to the comfort of embracing the ordinary.
Fashion has always played a role in queer culture - across history queer communities have adopted different styles and uniforms to communicate and signal their identities to each other. But in a world where we are increasingly open about our queerness, fashion and personal style have become our playgrounds of self expression and a space to challenge gender and beauty norms.
Maddy Reid (she/her)
"My queer identity has been a part of me since forever – I remember having crushes on girls and boys from as early as primary school. I’ve always just liked what I like, or who I like, regardless of gender identity. I think the same can be said for my sense of style, and as I’ve grown up and become more confident in my queer identity, I’ve also become more confident with my style, wearing and pairing what I like together regardless of trends, colour-clashes or mis-matched branding." - @artschoolcliche
Barry Brandon (he/they/her/ze)
"Fashion for me is more expression and my expression is an ingredient for my power, activism and freedom so for me, though I love fashion as a construct of beautiful garments, jewellery and other accessories, I am never viewing the lens through “what is fashionable”. It’s what makes me feel the most me, so that the outside world can see pieces of my soul in an outward way, similar to that of some of my tattoos." - @thequeerindigo
Ben Pechey (they/them)
"Clothes are a terrific tool of self-expression, as they act as a canvas for personal exploration. I have long seen fashion as a key to unlocking my desires, using sartorial choices to form a language of self that is undefinable yet also quintessentially me. We don’t experience our queerness in a linear way, so to begin with, my style did most of the talking for my identity. It opened new opportunities for who I could be, allowing me to experiment with the plethora of ways to express queerness. Now it is a familiar friend that holds my hand and secures my sense of self when I need it.
To look overtly neither one thing nor another makes you a target for the brunt of discontent that others tend to forward your way when you represent a lack of order or disregard for the ‘rules’. I love my identity, and how it has manifested and enveloped my style. Even though objectively it is the reason I garner negative attention, it makes me feel more connected to myself, stronger, and more capable of flexing with the anxiety that being trans can cause right now. Fashion is art and commerce, but also it is passion, joy and fun. Fashion is a reminder to us all to look for joy - whether we're queer or not - to have fun, and enjoy our existence on earth." - @benpechey
"Fashion for me is getting how I feel on the inside reflected on the outside. It's something that always came through naturally for me until I conformed in my teen school years to my surroundings rather than my true self. I’m glad I found my way back though!" - @florence.uk
Yasmin Benoit (she/her)
"I've been drawn to alternative style for most of my life and that kind of self-expression made me become accustomed to standing out, attracting backlash, and sticking to my guns. It's what comes with queering standards when it comes to how you should present yourself, especially as a minority. But navigating alternative spaces as a Black person prepared me for navigating queer spaces as an asexual person and navigating the world as an asexual person. It doesn't make people react to me better, but it's helped me to handle those reactions and stay true to myself regardless of what others think." - @theyasminbenoit
Radam Ridwan (they/them)
"Fashion can be just as freeing as it is restrictive. We all have uniforms we have to put on to fit in, to some degree. Fashion is a way to put our culture, our individual expression on show - which transcends the boundaries of uniformity.
As a 6’5” trans fem non-binary mixed race queer, I’ve always stood out no matter what I’m wearing. These intersecting elements of identity and community come together to form my individual style point of view. In turn, I hope my expression inspires others to do it in their own way.
I refuse to be controlled by external perceptions of me, so what I choose to wrap around my body is a shoutout to my queerness and ethnicity, but more importantly, a show of uniquity within the constraints of identity." - @radamridwan
Aaron Whitty (he/him)
"For me a statement shirt, or blouse as I like to say, is always a win. It’s impactful, eye catching, has movement and can be dressed up or dressed down, just like me. It’s a bit like being an exotic bird while you wear it. It personifies aspects of me that wouldn’t usually be so obvious if I were just wearing a T-shirt; it’s rare, flamboyant and sometimes wild." - @aaronwhitty
Yaz Senghor (she/her)
"My personal style is all about play. I often say that my aesthetic is “Children's TV Presenter Chic” or “A Toddler Who Has Been Allowed to Dress Themselves for the First Time Realness”. It might seem totally unserious, but every element of it is meticulously, haphazardly chosen.
My style is about exploration but also liberation. I want to feel free in all that I wear, entirely for me and no one else. I spent so much of my life feeling ashamed of parts of me, like I had to dress for someone else's approval or blend into the background and not draw attention to myself. The more I learn to not only embrace but actively adore myself and shake off the shame - the more I want to stand out. Not because I need or want attention, but I simply refuse to hide any single glorious part of me.
Someone severely lacking in taste once told me that the way I dress was obnoxious. Quite right hun. Being able to be bright, visible, open, flamboyant and very very silly is my way of challenging expectations, taking pride in the things I was told I should be ashamed of and taking up as much space as I possibly can by demanding that you look at me. It is about signalling to the others who were made to feel like they should hide - I know you see me, and I see you too." - @bigblackbutchbitch
Ryan Zaman (he/him)
"As I’ve grown in confidence with my queer identity, I definitely feel this has been reflected in the clothes that I wear, especially in my work in fashion. My queer identity is, in a way, teaching me to be more care-free about what I wear, especially if it draws attention to me - and not to worry about other people’s perceptions. Even if I wouldn’t wear something “in real life” I feel really privileged to have the opportunity to embody a different part of myself that I wouldn’t normally.
That being said, me being an introvert, I also really value being comfortable and wearing clothing that’s more nondescript when I’m just going about my business. In a funny way, it helps me switch off and not stress about things so much. It helps me feel closer to myself - the guy who never thought he would be doing any of this - and my the queer parts of my identity are teaching me the invaluable lesson of giving grace to all parts of myself, too." - @ryan_zaman