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The Vital Importance of Queer Style

The Vital Importance of Queer Style

The Vital Importance of Queer Style

Wearing the dress, the hairstyle, and the looks that express who you are is a triumphant expression of LGBTQ+ identity in the face of political vitriol.

In our new interview with Sasha Colby — a frontrunner on RuPaul’s Drag Race at the time of this letter’s writing and a champion of the pageant circuit — she recalls her first gender-affirming experience. The Hawaiian native was 17. It was Halloween. And a friend named Lindsay helped her dress in drag for the first time. “We all walked around Waikiki and I just felt like…‘I’m a girl.’ It was so empowering. I was finally seen but not gawked at,” Colby marvels in her fashion retrospective. “I was really awkward before I transitioned, but as soon as I started presenting [as] how I actually felt on the inside, a lot of people were like, ‘You just seem so much happier now…. It’s so nice to see you.’”

LGBTQ+ people have a special relationship with clothes. For the closeted, they can be a costume, a means to masquerade. But they can also be a declaration of identity and empowerment. Coming of age in the early aughts, I wore the expected uniform of a millennial teenage boy: baggy shirts and pants in unassuming colors. I’ll never forget the experience of walking into Structure — a former menswear branch of Express — for the first time to try on a pair of fitted jeans with a scarlet button-down. There in the dressing room mirror, I observed my silhouette, my butt for the first time. How nice to finally see me.

This issue is themed Fashion and Beauty. And we could think of no better cover star than Billy Porter, an indomitable multihyphenate whose presence and style have transformed Broadway, Hollywood, and now, with a new album, the music industry. Porter has a complicated history with clothes. The onetime Grease star recalls one famous but fraught “Beauty School Dropout” performance: “They put me in 14 inches of orange rubber hair and a space suit and made me prance around like a Little Richard automaton on crack.” He estimates it took him 25 years to recover professionally from Broadway’s attempts to sartorially caricature his race and sexuality.

Today he’s reclaimed his power. When Porter strut into the 2019 Oscars in a tuxedo gown designed by Christian Siriano, he kicked open the door for gender creativity on red carpets and in the broader cultural landscape. “I was just trying to do something fierce,” he tells us in our interview. “I had no idea that it was going to change the face of fashion forever.”

Of course, queer people have always been at the forefront of fashion. Gayborhoods are incubators for the styles that will soon be worn by Hollywood’s biggest stars (hello, harnesses!). To gain insight into the latest trends, we consulted celebrity stylist Brad Goreski and his Real Friends of WeHo costars Curtis Hamilton and Joey Zauzig. In our fashion spread, they show off their Sunday Funday best while reflecting on the first season of their MTV reality series, which sparked some heated debate within the gay community.

Style isn’t all about clothes. In the art world, illustrator Salem Beiruti brings his love of myths and mermen to Marvel. In another epic film, bisexual badass Michelle Rodriguez discusses how she advocated for her Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves character to have armpit hair. Not into hair? Our new grooming guide offers products to help trim, pluck, and prep for a smooth date night. Of course, food is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Chef Ronnie Woo shares some recipes from his new cookbook while breaking down what it means to be an Asian American culinary star in media. What’s a great date without the perfect space? Josh Jessup and Matt Moss offer tips for bringing color and whimsy into home décor, which helped them cultivate a vivacious relationship. And NPR journalist Ari Shapiro reflects on how politics intervened in his own love story — and shaped a breathtaking career in journalism.

The honeymoon has just begun for Out. For the first time in years, we’re welcoming Out Traveler back into our pages. In this section, editor in chief Jacob Anderson-Minshall takes us on island adventures to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and beyond — while reminding us of the importance of sustainable tourism that honors Indigenous communities. Save up for your travels with a financial guide to side hustles. And reevaluate your relationship to alcohol in the latest Last Call column, which explores how the sober-curious movement is impacting LGBTQ+ society.

These are sobering times, dear reader. There’s war, economic uncertainty, and renewed assaults on trans rights and LGBTQ+ equality. But in the face of this darkness, so many of you bravely put on the jeans, the hairstyle, the dress that declare who you are. As Sasha would say, it’s so nice to see you.


Daniel Reynolds
Editor in Chief

This article is part of the Out March/April issue, now out on newsstands. Support queer media and subscribe -- or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor-in-chief of Out and an award-winning journalist who focuses on the intersection between entertainment and politics. This Jersey boy has now lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade.

Daniel Reynolds is the editor-in-chief of Out and an award-winning journalist who focuses on the intersection between entertainment and politics. This Jersey boy has now lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade.