Pride Month has arrived, heralding a celebration of spirit and living out loud, as well as a time for reflection. A symbolic expression of freedom and joy, Pride also represents an honest exploration of identity, sexuality, and gender, aiming to empower voices that too often go unheard. Visibility begets progress and demonstrates the resilience of LGBTQIA+ communities through the decades.
Equal parts parade and protest, Pride can be just as much about the party as about the politics, never forgetting the history behind its inception and the future still ahead. Through love, art, and style, Pride marches over the years have highlighted the collective individuality that makes up the myriad members represented in the rainbow flag and beyond, while making meaningful contributions to the fight for human rights. From opposing hateful legislation and registering people to vote in the 70s, to demanding a meaningful response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 80s and 90s, to rallying for marriage equality and trans rights in the new millennium. Pride has pressed for action and demanded change.
Below, some of the well-known artists in the fashion industry contemplate what Pride means to them and how to move forward conscientiously in implementing and honoring the contributions made by LGBTQIA+ creatives.
On the radical self-actualization of Pride:
Pride is much more than just a month to celebrate love, it’s a time to be proud of being able to be who you are without fear or embarrassment. It’s a time to remember that we are all equal, which must include equal rights, equal access, and full respect. I see it as mobilization to raise awareness about the importance of inclusion, equality, and the fight against homophobia around the world.
On being the first openly transgender model for various top brands and publications:
It filled my heart with joy because it was one more step toward greater inclusivity. I believe the grace and support of God has always guided me since I was a child. That faith keeps me going every day. Even now, sometimes it feels like a daydream.
On the growing movement toward broader LGBTQIA+ inclusion in mainstream fashion:
I am committed to growing and continuing to push boundaries for both myself and anyone who faces discrimination. I believe there is enough room in the world for all of us to exist in our own unique way—as long as there is respect and humanity. I would love to see people, brands, and companies become more open to fearlessly embracing the trans community with compassion.
On advice for young trans people:
Always look, live, and dream beyond your apparent challenges. Always be your true self. Be fearless. Every trans person is special and unique.
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On the meaning of Pride:
Pride month to me is the celebration of simply being, a moment of existing purely as you are. I celebrate it by ensuring I continue to show the world the beauty of black queer boys in unconventional spaces, and charting a world and safe space for everyone to feel safe, seen, and felt.
On how fashion brands can support the community:
The fashion industry needs to understand the importance the queer community has had and currently holds within it. We move, establish, and solidify styles and trends that continue to trickle into all forms of media—moments we are rarely noted for.
On being a true ally:
As for friends and allies, educate yourselves and hold a space for us. Be actively in our corners, championing our growth, but also acknowledging our realities. We need you.
On the importance of Pride:
Pride month is a time to look back at history and honor those who have come before us. I celebrate by getting dressed up and dancing with my friends.
On the intersection of fashion and identity:
On its own, fashion is a language that allows people to illustrate rather than explain who they are or how they feel. It’s that allowance that provides a haven for people who feel like they’re on the outside looking in. All fashion needs to do is protect that. Sometimes all it takes is listening when someone gives you cues of what they need.
On the evolution of Pride:
Pride month is really about remembering LGBT people and appreciating that it wasn’t always as easy for us as it is now. It’s about giving thanks. It’s also a time for celebration. For all my friends to get together and have fun. I really feel that it’s a great opportunity for joy and togetherness. Amongst all people. Straight or Gay.
On the fashion industry leading the way for inclusiveness:
I feel the fashion industry is already so inclusive of LGBTQ communities. It’s really so natural—I’ve never felt excluded or bullied. I don’t like putting ideas into people’s heads about what they should or should not do or feel, but the world has changed and in my experience, it’s now generally so accepted here. Obviously that isn’t the case everywhere, but I think you need to give people the opportunity and time to adapt their beliefs and feelings to the present times.
On advice for strong allies:
Keep an open mind, listen to people, and give them a chance. Everyone’s different. Everyone’s special. Try not to judge. Try not to take anything too personally. Don’t be afraid to still joke around and be playful. I worry that everyone’s going to become so scared to say or do what they feel, that the world will start going in reverse. I think if people just take the time to listen, laugh, and find what they have in common with others, there’s always some kind of positive connection.
On the deeper themes of Pride:
I have a special place in my heart for this time of year. Our accumulated histories, full of joy and pain, are most bared at Pride, and this creates space to connect. I’ve sometimes participated in large events, but some of the most special times for me have been with close loved ones, at home or in nature, diving into our selves and each other to learn more about love.
On the community’s influence on fashion:
Queer people have always been oracles of fashion and artistic possibility, but there’s a gap between our unique artistry and commercial realization; for queer people of color and queer femmes in particular. This gap is where so much exploitation occurs. The industry needs to open a space for us here. Collaborate with trans designers, make special collections with queer people, hire us at all levels of business. Do this outside of Pride month. Uplift our artistry and don’t fixate on our identity, except as part of understanding our beauty as a whole.
On changing the bigger picture:
Most of all, queer people anticipate the future outside of the present moment. For example, the fashion industry should look to us to discover possibilities that could potentially heal the earth and each other, rather than exploit and harm our collective home. When I see a brand incorporating queer ecology into their structure instead of just offering vague notions of sustainability, I’ll believe that they’re truly invested in queer people. And to be clear, an investment in queer people is an investment in all of us.
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