Meet The Radical Queers Of NYC Who Refuse To Be Defined By You

We finally live in a pop culture universe that's starting to embrace the idea that sexuality is a spectrum, rather than two poles. Beyond small screens and short sound bites, even the "real world" has moved toward equality and acceptance, with same-sex marriage legalized across the States. But, not everyone in the queer population wants to assimilate into the culture at large. Especially in New York, a historical haven for distinction and difference, there are plenty of self-proclaimed "radical queers" who continue to challenge the status quo.

New York-based photographer Michael Bailey-Gates, whose work has been featured in Vogue and Bloomberg, set out to showcase the exuberance of this community. First published in i-D (and shared now with new photos), Bailey-Gates' series is a tribute to what he calls a collective desire to go “against the grain, doing what you think is right.”

As Bailey-Gates explains, there is no one form of “radical queerness.” Some people pioneer new forms of political activism. Some host underground queer parties. Mars Hobrecker and Leah James plan complex performances. Others just get up, get dressed, and walk down the street in clothes that declare themselves to the world. After all, visibility can be the boldest move of all.

Ahead, we talk to Bailey-Gates about his work, his community, and what radical queerness means to him.

For more ways to "Fuck The Fashion Rules," click here.
1 of 7
Photographed by Michael Bailey-Gates.
What is a fashion subculture? What separates it from a trend or a fad?
"Subcultures are created out of community — trends have always been more for profit."
2 of 7
Photographed by Michael Bailey-Gates.
What sparked your interest in this facet of the queer community?
"It’s not a subculture for me. These people in my work are just my friends [and] people I admire."
3 of 7
Photographed by Michael Bailey-Gates.
What is radical queerness?
"I can’t answer this alone. Look at the work of Leah James, Mars Hobrecker, Peter Cramer, Go Go Graham, Juliana Huxtable, Jack Waters, Serena Jara, Josef Astor. [There are] so many people creating great work."
4 of 7
Photographed by Michael Bailey-Gates.
In a word, how would you describe your relationship to the movement?
5 of 7
Photographed by Michael Bailey-Gates.
How did this photo series develop? What did you want to capture?
"I was shooting this series for i-D magazine. Rory Satran and I talked about something we both wanted to do. She did an amazing job interviewing everyone and giving the photos a voice. I just got to shoot people I admire all day, which was great!"
6 of 7
Photographed by Michael Bailey-Gates.
Why do you think art is so important to this community?
"Art is important to all communities. Art brings queers together. It’s an event — something to be celebrated."
7 of 7
Photographed by Michael Bailey-Gates.
How do radical queers use fashion as a medium?
"Controlling how you’re seen is a powerful thing that takes courage."

More from Trends


R29 Original Series