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The Pride Aisle: Stylish influencers from the LGBTQIA+ community on gender neutrality in fashion (part 1/2)

5 stylish influencers from the LGBTQIA+ community break down their sartorial identity for Cosmo, and share why gender neutrality is the future of fashion.

On the surface level, fashion and personal style may seem to be about the clothes you wear and the brands you buy them from. But when you dig further (as you should) it unlocks all new definitions that speak of expressionism and art. It's all about crossing those gendered lines and slipping into whatever makes you feel like the best version of yourself. You don't need us to tell you that the distinction between 'womenswear' and 'menswear' is rapidly blurring as more and more androgynous silhouettes take over the scene. One glance through your Instagram feed should do it.

But the big question is how do you get to the second level? The one where you fully understand your personal style and how to embrace it. We're just going to be blunt—it's not easy. It takes time, persistence and a lot of trial and error. After all, masterpieces aren't created overnight. To act as your north stars, Cosmo spoke to stylish influencers from the LGBTQIA+ community (the very people who are trailblazing the gender-bender clothing movement) about their own sartorial styles and what influences them. 

PS: This is only part one of a two-part story! 

Jason Arland, actor, model, and singer  

Jason Arland

“I think my sense of style is sexy—it is a celebration of who I am. I love to play ‘dress up’, highlighting both my feminine and masculine sides. What I am wearing in this photograph (by Polite Society) is very ‘me’. I love pieces that complement my body, and corsets are my favourite thing right now. I like when fashion is a little uncomfortable and yet comfortable, and has a ‘campy’ element to it. I have always considered myself a performer first, even before I got into modelling and acting, and pop culture has played a huge role in shaping my aesthetic. However, I would like to give credit to my family for encouraging me to experiment from a young age. As a queer person, I don’t think gender neutrality is a trend—it is a part of who we are and how we express ourselves. So I don’t think the onus of breaking the rigid fashion stereotypes associated with the LGBTQIA+ community is on us...because we did not make these strict codes. I am just glad it has sparked a dialogue, and that everyone gets to experience it.”

Joan Dominic Rai, digital content creator 

 

Rai

“Growing up, I was inspired by rock culture and art, and I found my voice through fashion. My sartorial picks are a visual representation of who I am, and as you can tell from this photograph, my style is very androgynous. I believe in transcending boundaries of gender codes through my ensembles...and a blend of masculine and feminine pieces play a key role in that. It is important to find your style language and own it—and that comes from knowing your body and what works for you. I am inspired by designers like Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Yohji Yamamoto, Marc Jacobs, and Rei Kawakubo, and I am in awe of icons such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Madonna. When it comes to representation, the way queer individuals have been portrayed in films, media, and other platforms that I grew up watching is rather comical. It creates a very stereotypical image of what a queer person should wear or how they should behave. It is a primitive understanding of the community, and we need to make a conscious effort to evolve.”

Maitrayanee Mahanta Artist, activist and content creator 

Maitrayanee

“My style is easy, comfortable, and approachable, and could be labelled ‘androgynous’. I enjoy pieces that help express my thoughts and emotions. No matter what the final outcome is, all my looks have an element that speaks about my true self. I was seven-years old when I first realised that I have a very specific style. Gender-neutral fashion has challenged society’s perception, and with so many identities prevalent today, I believe one should be free to choose how they want to dress up, from a young age. That will help open up people’s minds and break away from the stereotypes that have plagued us for decades.”

Toshada Uma, model and social media influencer  

Toshada

“My style is ever-evolving. I think my mother’s freespirited approach towards fashion helped me experiment with my style from an early age. I was encouraged to pick my own wardrobe and wear whatever I felt comfortable in. But I found my true identity during my late teens. If I had to pick the most treasured piece in my wardrobe, it would be my late Amma’s (maternal grandmother) sari. It has the most beautiful colour—a blue pea tea—and the softest fabric. Gender-neutral fashion is simply how we (read: queer folks) dress. It’s cisgendered and heterosexual people that think of it as us challenging the norms. Queer fashion is incredibly varied, and that’s the reason cis-het stereotypes are largely rooted in the ‘othering’ of the LGBTQIA+ community. I truly believe these stereotypes will shatter as soon as straight people resolve their biases and start considering queer folks as people just like them.”

TJ Gil, model  

TJ

“I believe everyone is capable of inspiring you in some way. I have picked up different things from different people, and my style is a blend of everything that has inspired me over the years. And even though it has taken me a few years to find my voice, I have reached a point where I am comfortable with who I am. I do not think I can define my style in a word, but it is constantly evolving. It’s really beautiful and freeing to see gender moulds being broken, and everyone being so comfortable with themselves. I am happy that we are in this era where everyone is free to express themselves and others are not just accepting, but also appreciative, of it.”

*Creative Direction and Coordination By: Manveen Guliani