Take it from someone who's known they were gay since birth: Clothing is a manifesto. It's a mission statement, a mood, a public declaration of self and intent. For some, fashion is a means of definition; for others, it's a small part of a very big, colorful picture. No other time than during Pride month will you see the connection between fashion and identity so coherent (and multicolored). But, as anyone whose had to come out can tell you, it hasn't always been that way.
There's this idea that fashion can act as an armor, a shield that protects us from outside judgment and misinterpretation. And it does. But depending where you are, it can act as a marker, too; an "outing" tool, so to speak, in areas where flamboyance and full expression of personal style aren't as accepted or encouraged. It's part of why LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be targets of hate crimes than any other minority group. And the statistics for transgender people, especially of color, are worse.
In the slideshow ahead, we asked members of the gay community to tell us stories about an item of clothing they couldn't wear until they came out — for fear of being outed or ridiculed for dressing "too gay." Coming out is the first step to living one's truth, much as the act of getting dressed in the morning and having the courage to walk out of the door as you are can be, too. At least, that's the fantasy that fashion can provide to self-discovery that, in harsher conditions, may not manifest as easily as we want it to. But when it does come to fruition, it holds a lot of power — a power that allows you to live exactly the way you were born to.
Welcome to MyIdentity. The road to owning your identity is rarely easy. In this yearlong program, we will celebrate that journey and explore how the choices we make on the outside reflect what we’re feeling on the inside — and the important role fashion and beauty play in helping people find and express who they are.