Without the parades, Pride looks different this year—but that just means that LGBTQ people across the country are finding new and innovative ways to celebrate and honor their identities. Pride Inside & Out is dedicated to amplifying these stories, from the queer couples taking care of each other through a pandemic to the folks using quarantine to come out to those they love.
In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and current social distancing efforts, many Pride marches and parties have been canceled this June. But while the LGBTQ community can still plug into Pride celebrations virtually, this leaves out one crucial component of the events: Pride month outfits.
Style is an inherent way we express ourselves, regardless of how we identify. But fashion and presentation have always been a major part of the queer community in particular. During times when same-sex sexuality was illegal, fashion was used by some LGBTQ people to covertly signal their orientations. For trans women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, style acted as a way to boldly subvert gender norms and unapologetically claim their identities. Of course, while outwardly expressing queerness can be empowering, it can also be a risk. Androgynous dressing may be marketed as a “trend” in high fashion, but blurring gender lines for queer and nonbinary folks can often result in violence. Trans folks who’ve dared to present as their gender have been murdered for their identity and expression, and countless queer people who’ve worn simple rainbow pins or pink triangles have been verbally or physically assaulted by strangers.
At gatherings like Pride, however, many members of the LGBTQ community have used the comfort of being around their peers to dress as their truest selves. During these parades and celebrations, queer people can turn up the camp with their Pride month outfits and wear their loudest looks, knowing that Pride is built on radical acceptance and expression. The color and joy expressed through style is part of what makes Pride so special.
So this June, we asked members of the queer community to dress up in the outfits they wished they were wearing to Pride—and to snap photos in the spaces they’re quarantining and celebrating in—to show the 2020 version of Pride month outfits. Here are their images, along with their thoughts on the role that fashion plays in both Pride and their own lives.
Meredith (left): “We’re our most visible during Pride, both to each other and to people outside the LGBTQ community. Through our outfits and makeup, queer pride flags, and signs representing our many different identities, we show that queer and trans people don’t always look like stereotypes portrayed in the media. We show the true diversity of our community and how queer people encompass so many unique identities and experiences.”
Kassie (right): “To me, Pride feels a little like Halloween. Typically, I’m a grandma-sweater-over-jeans kind of person, but on Pride, I pull out my most colorful makeup, my fishnets, and tiny crop tops, and I even glittered my eyebrows one year. It’s like a costume party where everyone is the queerest version of themselves—it feels so freeing.”
“Normally I’d go for something ‘extra,’ but this year I would trade the glitter onesie for this Audre Lorde hand-printed vintage tee that my girlfriend, Gio, made. Also, these giant heart hoops that say ‘queer.’ My cousin Mikey got them for me at Brooklyn Queer Flea; the designer is @ejager.nyc. For me, Pride is about celebrating people of all ‘colors’ of the rainbow, but this year (more than ever) the Black community needs our support. It is because of our Black and Brown allies that we can celebrate Pride in the first place. Don’t forget, the first Pride started as a riot.”
“Dressing up is heavy at times; it holds a physical memory of violence against myself. I remember the bullying, the harassment, and the physical abuse at the hands of members of my closest circle. I find it impossible to not think of the history of violence against people not as lucky as me, people who were killed for dressing like this. People who never were able to dress like this because they feared so deeply being killed, cast out, and hurt. And I can’t shake the feeling of inviting violence and action against me and the community. I know that the safety and the comfort I feel in my expression of queerness is still not a reality for a disproportionate amount of people who are Black, Latinx, and Asian…This is to say that a revolution of gender, fashion, and queerness should not be watered down. We should not be complacent and celebratory of the freedoms we can flaunt without understanding that it’s not a reality for all people, and we should be ready to fight for a system and a world that honors and protects everyone as hard as we prepare to turn up and celebrate ourselves.”
“Queer fashion is the essence of letting your Pride flag fly. My fashion sense has always been inspired by the cool girls of the ’90s and early 2000s, which may have been a hint to my bisexuality. I still admire every look Katherine Heigl wore in Wish Upon A Star, I live for Lindsay Lohan and Brenda Song’s wardrobes in Get A Clue, and I love the looks in Spice World. One-hit-wonder, bubblegum pop artists and groups influence me to this day, like S Club 7 and Billie Piper; even Belle Perez’s aesthetic in the ‘Hello World’ music video represents my queer style. But none of those women were Black nor fat, and that’s why I’ve made my online presence about ‘fatshion.’ Black women aren’t afforded the space to be fat and cutesy. We’re not allowed to be soft or ditzy and charming like our whiter and skinnier counterparts are. I wanted to make my style reflective of those cool girls from the ’90s, because if I don’t normalize thick thighs, ass, and cellulite in a pink mini skirt, who will?”
“There’s a lot of isolation that comes with occupying a trans body and growing up, and that isolation instilled insecurities in me. These are insecurities about my body, my womanhood, and my gender expression. Pride is the day I feel most safe in my body. In D.C., there’s usually a large party in the center of Dupont Circle. Everyone dances, everyone is free, and it seems like, for once, everyone is body positive. Under the hot summer sun, shaking my body in a sea of queer folks, my insecurities melt away and I feel comfortable. Other days of the year, I struggle to feel secure in my body and my fashion. I often feel misunderstood—like my style doesn’t make sense, like it’s too loud. My style is informed by the relationship I have with my body and my gender. That is what makes me so comfortable in my clothes, and during Pride that feeling is exaggerated. I wish for the day when every day feels like Pride.”
“Pioneers such as Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and countless others devoted their lives and made sacrifices so I could live a life without fear. As a cisgender gay male, I have the privilege of walking the streets of New York in 2020 without fear, knowing my expression is not only recognized but celebrated. My style, wherever on the gender spectrum it may fall, is an effort to help others in the queer community be recognized as equal citizens. Queer style is a daily celebration of one’s self, and it welcomes others to celebrate you in all your colors.”
“I think Pride is all about being unabashedly yourself. Even though I’m able to celebrate my pride year-round, we can’t forget about the efforts of those before us that got us to where we are today. The LGBTQIA+ community is constantly growing, and Pride is a way to nurture that growth through example and to always remember to lead with love. I like to wear this top during Pride because the colors resemble the trans flag. I personally don’t identify as trans, but I think it’s a section of the community that is still struggling for a lot of the same rights that the rest of the community already has. So this top is a go-to every year for at least one of the days of Pride week!”
“Pride is about giving a voice to the voiceless, being true to yourself and to those around you, and accepting all people as they are. For me, Pride is being a queer single mom and raising my daughter to never judge any person based on their gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. My daughter, Savannah, loves rainbows, and while she hasn’t been to Pride because she was too young, we hope to go together next year. Pride is living every day in color, and she always wears as much color as possible.”
“Pride fashion to me is being able to express yourself however you want—whether that’s a crop top, fairy wings, latex and leather, a full spandex speed suit, or anything in between. I feel like I’m able to express myself through my clothing even more than usual. I generally try not to ‘make noise’ with my clothes, but during Pride, I’m less concerned with the public perception and more concerned with supporting the community and making our voices heard. I’ve worn the same crop top for three years now for a few reasons: a) It’s a staple and something I don’t mind sweating in and marching/dancing the day away in; b) it reminds me of my first Pride in New York and has sentimental value; and c) I like the way I look in it.”