8.29.2018

Stockholm's Style Feels Far Too Personal

Not like an invasion of privacy, but more like we're already best friends.



Approximately 18 months ago, I decided that I would move to anywhere in Scandinavia for at least a semester. My deep, insightful reason was that it just felt right, but in actuality, it was because I just finished watching the first three seasons of SKAM in only four days during my winter break freshman year. Norway seemed so cool! So me! I had never gotten a glimpse of what Scandinavian culture was like until the show—all I assumed was that everyone was blonde and that it was freezing year-round (both myths, I later discovered). After watching the Norwegian show three more times in the same year, I was not only infatuated with the idea of living there, but married to it. I began following far too many Scandinavian style icons on Instagram, becoming familiar with Scandinavian culture and lingo, and then eventually deciding to study gender and sexuality studies in Stockholm for a semester.

And guess what?

That semester is now!

Yes, I'm currently in Stockholm for the next four months if you were unaware and/or not paying attention to my recent IG posts. I stepped into this fascinating city about two weeks ago, and although I only know how to say about five words in Swedish, I feel like I've finally come home. My summer move to NYC last year doesn't even come close. The independent, reserved, and non-hierarchal nature of Swedes feels too familiar to my own personality, and the idea that fika, aka taking a break from your busy day with coffee, a bun (cardamom is my favorite, btw), and friends is a highly practiced event here makes me never want to return to the states where long work days and minimal breaks are very much a thing. And then I think of the evergrowing queer scene here, as well as its feminist policies and laws, and I feel like I should extend my stay to far longer than a few months. All I know is that returning home come December will be a hell of a lot harder than the depressing few days after a week-long vacation in Spain or France, as I probably will become that person who comes out of her abroad experience as a "changed person." 

But if I feel like my best and truest self here, am I actually changing or just shifting to who I'm meant to be?

Existential soul-searching aside, I also mean this in terms of style. As I say time and time again, style and identity are deeply enmeshed, so it would make all the sense that both my style and identity fit perfectly into the complex puzzle of islands that is Stockholm. After living here for a short two weeks, I've observed that Swedes agree with the notion that style and identity are inseparable. Answering the question of which came first, style or identity, is near impossible, as each consequently influences each other on a day-to-day basis. It feels that no one attempts to mask their true selves with what they put on their body; instead, it simply highlights who they are, or at least think of themselves to be. This theory of mine brings in a whole lot of style diversity, a lack of overplayed trends, and, most importantly, some really cool outfits. Even just during my commute from my apartment to class, I can easily make a long list of all the looks that both emphasize this style-identity dynamic but also that I could bring to my own style (personal style is destined to be influenced by others, if you forgot). Then I realized what exactly makes Stockholm's style so good, so personal, and so, so familiar—people simply dress to embody what they believe their best selves to be. That's the exact mindset I bring to my sartorial decisions, so maybe I really am Swedish at heart. Should I just call my family now and say I'm never coming home?

Dress and shorts are vintage. Shoes by Madewell.

While I already see myself dressing like a true Stockholmer when in the states, being here has brought this tendency out even more, where there are only two criteria I need to follow: a) comfort and b) unconventionality. It may seem strange to put these two antonyms together, but let me explain—comfort simply means to wear what I feel best in, while to be unconventional means to wear something unexpected from the norm. As I already stray towards weirder styles, these two requirements don't feel too difficult to follow. Another non-requirement, but something that Swedes definitely lean towards, is to wear mostly thrifted pieces, which is something I already do on the daily. Although I am in the home of H&M, both large-scale and boutique-style vintage stores greatly outnumber fast fashion. A wonderful, wonderful discovery, yet a curse to my bank account (which, by the way, is already dwindling, as Stockholm is one of the most expensive cities in Europe). 

So! To make my Stockholm style dreams come true, I did the unexpected, but also the expected for what I would typically wear—a vintage red '90s babydoll dress partially tucked into some denim Bermudas with a pair of white loafers. Summer is the peak time for Swedes to dress, as the long, warm days bring out the best in its residents. Color! Really cool shoes! Shorts cut at unexpected lengths! As temps are already dropping and short days will become a reality very soon, the time to dress is now. They'll spend all of their waking hours outdoors, even if it's raining, just to get the last bits of sun. So why not show off? It's never to show that they think they're better than others (they're non-hierarchical, remember?); rather, it's to show that they put effort into the sartorial side of their lives. Creatures of style, I suppose? And, once again, I already feel like everything I've been doing my entire life works too well with how the Swedes do it. This sense of familiarity makes this big move less frightening than it should be. Hopefully I'll be able to survive the cold and 3pm sunsets come December.



8.14.2018

My Gay Italian Summer Dream Is Still Calling Me by My Name

More than six months later.



I feel like I've run into something painfully sharp. A knife? Have I been stabbed?

Oh? It's just the end of summer, you say? I'd call that just a bit more painful than being stabbed. Dramatic, yes, but also entirely honest. The end of summer feels like all of my joy and success is instantly stripped from my life and I only have the month of August to blame. I dream of this season for nine months a year; how is it already over?!

But then I remember—with summer ending also comes my ~*~big move~*~ to Stockholm. Yeah, that's happening today, and I'll be residing in a beautiful European city for the next FOUR MONTHS! The sharp knife turns into a dull one, maybe even just the corner of my notebook that leaves a tiny papercut. Papercuts suck for about five minutes, but they heal so quickly that I'll forget I even had one in two hours. Kind of like the end of this summer—I'll dearly miss the blistering sun and lazy, sweaty days for only some time, but then my transition to greater things acts like a band-aid to that temporary pain. I guess we should all move to trendy European cities post-summer break to relieve our sadness. 

But still, my bittersweetness lingers on the bitter part, as I have to say goodbye to breezy outfits and sunburns and getting freckles in spots that wouldn't normally get them unless they're exposed to sunlight for at least five hours. Also barely-there dresses, ice cream, and dancing to '80s pop (outdoors, obviously). Basically this entire list, or alternatively the narrative of Call Me By Your Name, the book and movie you thought I would stop talking about five months ago. Surprise! I actually still think about it at least three times a week since I saw it last December. My strange Timothée Chalamet phase is somewhat over (I, being a lesbian, was very confused with this infatuation), but my infatuation with this narrative isn't, and now that I was able to bring this into an actual, real-life summer, it feels all the more significant.

No, I didn't spend my summer in Italy and I definitely didn't fall in love. BUT! I did become more confident in my queer identity (thanks to Pride and my newfound interest in writing on queer topics), spent hours by a pool reading (and eating peaches, how on brand!), took a bus for quick weekend trips not once but three times, and had this strange sense of adventure that Elio and Oliver definitely had but I used to lack. Sounds like a gay Italian summer dream, if you ask me, minus the Italy part. 

But my style! That's what I've been looking forward to all these months—to bring that sense of effortless summer that each character perfects in the film to my clothing. I want to wear button-ups with only one button buttoned, damnit! Maybe a floral dress and easy shoes, maybe some Bermuda shorts. I want to show as much skin as possible! Go topless on a beach! Wear as much stripes as possible, and master the art of summer layering. I want shoes to be optional, and I definitely want shirts to be unnecessary. I sometimes even scroll through screencaps from the film while shopping, which can go so far (too far?) to imitation.


The shirt I'm wearing above was not only on my body at least once a week since I bought it in June, but it also directly imitates my favorite shirt that Elio wears (again and again) in the film:


The best part? It's vintage, so it probably is from the '80s. How authentic! But the worst part is that imitation is not personal style. How can I dig deeper?

Shorts are vintage and cut by me (find similar ones here). Top is from Urban Outfitters. Mules are by & Other Stories

Shorts are probably the staple of this film, do I just wear shorts more often? Trade in my mini dresses for shorts and billowy tops? Feels too easy, and too overdone—I own a single pair of denim cutoffs that I cut way too short and a single breezy top that I throw on whenever I'm too lazy to think about my outfit. I guess that means I have to raid some thrift shops until I find a pair that can actually act as acceptable pants, maybe swap the loose top for some loose shorts, even? 

I stumbled upon these hot pink and linen AND knee-length shorts while thrifting in Brooklyn when I was there for NYC Pride. I instantly purchased them after successfully trying them on as they were a) only $3 b) would be perfected with a quick DIY hemming and c) the perfect finish to my Pride outfit that I would wear two days later. A month after Pride, I saw these hidden in my closet and decided that they would transcend their single purpose for Pride and become the way to make all my gay Italian summer dreams come true. Paired with a tan tube top and my go-to mules (that I desperately need to replace), I felt inspired by the film but not imitating. I felt my personal style shine through the mix of feminine pink and masculine, well, Bermuda shorts, of all things. But most importantly, the essence from Call Me by Your Name that I loved so dearly is very much present. 


After taking this fashion risk I would have never attempted until now, even after reading countless Man Repeller articles on how groundbreaking the Bermuda short is, I felt that I could only wear shorts of this length for the rest of my life. CMBYN really knew what they were doing! I promptly bought some denim ones and cut just a few inches off:

Photo from my Instagram

and have officially decided that I would like to wear these throughout the fall and even winter, even though that will be fully impossible in the freezing winds of Sweden.

So, I guess my breakup with a dreamy, breezy summer is bound to happen soon. But, as always, one can always dream.

7.26.2018

Janelle Monáe Showed Me What a Queer Space Should Truly Look Like

Her music extends far past hard-hitting vocals and catchy singles.


Photo from her Instagram, @janellemonae.

The first time I was introduced to Janelle Monáe was at a different time than most—no, it wasn't with "Tightrope" that practically soundtracked every commercial in 2011 or even with the release of Dirty Computer this year that changed everything I once knew about pop music. It was in 2009, the year that my dance teacher decided to only use songs from Monáe's first album for the competition jazz group dances for each company at the studio. I vividly remember dancing to "Violet Stars Happy Hunting!" and the older company dancing to "Many Moons"—two songs that portray Monáe's motif of space and Afrofuturism that we continue to see throughout the rest of her work. As a mere ten-year-old, I only thought this tune was catchy, a bit strange, but also fun to dance to. Now, ten years later, I view Janelle as the artist that not only made me hesitantly crawl out of my indie shell and actually enjoy pop music, but also as someone I look up to as a musical genius and a queer icon. Thanks, Ms. Audrey, for sprouting my obsession!

Although I didn't consciously decide to make note of her again until I first heard her single "PYNK" earlier this year, she has continued to stay at the back of my mind throughout my life. I saw her perform at the first Women's March on Washington with the mothers of Black men who lost their lives due to police brutality which brought me to tears. She was also referenced in my American music and culture class last fall in a piece on Afrofuturism in Black musicians, where I finally understood her political significance after all these years. My younger self knew she was onto something, but when I watched the entirety of her emotion picture Dirty Computer and sobbed for 48 minutes and 37 seconds, I finally realized that maybe, just maybe, pop music could mean a lot more than making music that's easily-digestible (a reason I always avoided it). The minute I finished the film, I instantly bought tickets to see her perform this summer, knowing that if those 48 minutes affected me that deeply, seeing a live, two-hour set would change me for the better. Spoiler alert! It did. No surprise there.



If you're unaware of Dirty Computer (both the album and the film), a) do you live under a rock? and b) if you have 48 free minutes to spare, click play right now.

Did you watch it? Good. If you didn't, at least watch the below first, which is only a little over four minutes.



"PYNK" is just a glimpse into the wonderful beauty that is Dirty Computer, but it is a fantastic depiction of her first time openly discussing her sexuality through her music, where she used to only stick to themes of race and class. Now, there's all three! 

Do you now understand why I, as a certified Indie Girl who has never stepped foot into a concert of a pop musician, although I've seen well over 150 shows in my lifetime, had to go to her concert in D.C. last week?

Photo from Time Out, by Colette Aboussouan.

As Monáe drastically helped me be true to my gay self with her latest album,  I was expecting to see a large queer audience, especially filled with queer minorities who are not always visible in mainstream queer spaces (like queer Black women). My expectations were not only met, but heightened—the crowd was filled with rainbow flags and all genders and queer couples galore. It resembled the two Prides I attended this year, but better. Yes, better. Whereas Pride mostly feels like a party for able-bodied and white queer people, her show was composed of a majority people of color, of all gender presentations, of all identities. It felt transcendent to be a part of that, as every other show I attend is typically filled with straight white men, or, to make things a bit better with my new fascination with indie music performed by queer women, queer white women. Obviously, diversity is definitely not a key feature of the shows I'm used to seeing.

Monáe didn't only make diversity a key feature, but she made inclusivity and the concept of queer spaces a requirement for her show without having to say a single word. Her recent pride about being a pansexual Black women, or, as she calls it, a "free-ass motherfucker," not only shined through her performance of both her new songs off of Dirty Computer and her older classics, but also through what she spoke to her open audience who all felt a sense of communal love for those two hours. She would take time between her songs to show us her membership in the queer community as well as her openness to all identities by telling us "because no matter who you love, or how you love, you are welcome here tonight." I've heard mantras like this at other shows, where Thom Yorke of Radiohead would take ten seconds to briefly mention political issues in the United States, but usually, these shows are dedicated to the music, nothing more. Monáe brought this mantra to every song, to every move she made, to every time she made a heart symbol with her hands, showing us the radical love she has for herself and for her fans. It transcended past the performativity that some musicians with large fanbases feel obliged to show, as every song she performed held themes of not only this radical self-love, but also of anger and political injustice.

Her performance of "PYNK" showcased the beauty of womanhood but also of women loving other women; "I Like That" told us that yes, we can like that, no matter what gender, race, or class; "Don't Judge Me" transitioned Monáe's dancey bops to a personal and emotional one, where she fears her identity as a Black queer woman won't be accepted by people close and distant to her. She doesn't only want to create a queer space for herself that also allows visibility for all, but she yearns to make note of the injustices that continue to happen to a minority like herself, both personal and systematic. "We are all dirty computers," she repeats over and over again before she closes with "So Afraid" and "Americans," stating that although the gay people, the Black people, the trans people, the disabled people, or the people that are all of the above have a free space to exist in that music venue that night, they are still seen as a flaw to society. Perhaps a miscoding that can't function properly according to the hate crimes and trans women of color that are murdered daily and the Black lives that end due to police brutality. While some queer spaces only focus on loving one another unconditionally, she made sure to intersect these issues. Pride shouldn't be pretty and easily-digestible; it should openly discuss issues that continue to disproportionately affect all of us—the "dirty computers."

Photo from her Instagram, @janellemonae

In the moment that Monáe was belting the lyrics to "So Afraid" while various clips from the Black Lives Matter movement were displayed on the screens behind her, my previous joy from the show turned to tears. Not tears for myself, but tears for the thousands of Black and queer bodies next to me who face the oppression of being Black, of being queer, and of being Black and queer. I cried because she knew exactly how to navigate this struggle through her own experiences and through her art; I cried because I had the privilege of sharing these intense emotions with so many other queer individuals in which Janelle gave us the platform to do exactly that. And the realization hit me—music is so much more than music; pop music can be and should be more than a top 40s hit. But most of all, live music can work magic and form spaces that exude inclusivity and truly allow anyone to be their most authentic selves with only a few lyrics. And Janelle Monáe did exactly that (and more!). Dirty Computer was able to speak for the lives of queer individuals on our complex experiences in a singular album and, as she calls it, her "emotion picture," and her performance just put this work into a live experience we could share with others who also hold the same identities and feelings. And the best part? She did it so effortlessly, like this is what her entire career as a musician has been leading up to—a dive into her personal life. The personal is political, yes, but sometimes the personal is emotional, the personal is queer, the personal is Black, the personal is about being a woman in the age of Trump. The personal is complicated and messy. And because of this, queer spaces should be complicated. Monáe somehow made hers both seamless but, at the same time, extremely complex. And apart from all of this theory talk, her performance did make for a damn good time.

Listen to Dirty Computer and the rest of Monáe's work here.


7.19.2018

My Entire Summer Wardrobe is Filled with Pink

The most shocking sartorial decision I've made, well, ever.




My entire life, I've played with the idea of femininity—through my actions, through my identity, and, most prominently, through my style choices. Probably every 20-something woman would say the same thing; in a world where femininity is both praised and demonized, questioning how much is too much, or if none at all is acceptable, feels like a staple of every woman's coming of age story. But when that woman (like myself!) is also questioning her sexuality, or if she even fits into the ideals of womanhood at all and wishes to experiment with different types of gender expressions, the concept of "what it means to be a woman" is very, very confusing. As carrying a deviant sexuality or gender already goes against all notions of what that truly means, at least based on the patriarchy's definition, my adolescent self who had no clue she would be labelling herself as queer ten years later used her femininity to overcompensate with what she was subconsciously yet also deathly afraid of.

We're talking long, blonde hair, dresses practically every day, and the liking of only so-called "girly" things—Cinderella was my favorite Disney princess, and I spent the entirety of my young, adolescent, and teenage life dancing ballet. I also only pretended to like camping and outdoorsy things when my family would force me on those trips, and sports still, to this day, only disgust me, unless you want to call competitive dance a sport or if you invite me to watch Olympic figure skating (which I will transform into a full-on fangirl for the latter, btw). I took these feminine tendencies into high school, too, where I became so feminine that I wore a bright pink tutu when I was Sugar Plum my senior year and decided to entirely swear off of pants when I turned 15 because they didn't fit with my girly style.

(We could also go into my darker past, where I forced myself to like unattainable boys from age 12 to 18 and called an attraction to a girl as simply a "friend crush," but I digress.)

Then, upon understanding my queerness, I suddenly hated everything feminine. I decided to stop dancing, I didn't wear a dress for six months straight, and I changed my 20-minute makeup routine into an under-five-minute one. I omitted every piece of color from my wardrobe, because apparently color is a so-called "feminine" attribute of clothing, and instead stuck to neutrals and muted undertones, especially come the winter months—how depressing is that? My old self had been obsessed with throwing bright hues into an outfit, maybe to overcompensate for not knowing who the fuck I was at the moment, but looking back, at least I was having a blast getting dressed in the morning

And then, it hit me—I've liked the art of style for over a decade mostly because, as I said above, getting dressed should be fun. Avoiding certain styles solely because they seem to clash with my identity is not only complete bullshit but also just downright boring. I attempted to rid all the femininity in my life for many complicated reasons, but mostly because it felt like a betrayal to my personal identity and style. However, it is possible to wear a shit ton of color and still carry a sense of masculine energy in one's style.

Apart from carrying a wonderful mess of androgyny, playing with color is simply an enjoyable sartorial choice to play with whether you want to experiment with the idea of femininity or not. I did a test run on this a few months ago, and I continue to throw in a splash of color with (almost) every 'fit this summer because a) #lovesummerhateeverythingelse and b) resembling different colors of the Pride flag during the queerest summer (aka June through August of 20gayteen) seems like the best way to showcase my membership.

But why pink?

Why?


Shirt is vintage, from The Break. Dickies pants are from Urban Outfitters (find vintage ones here). Sneakers are Vans.

The last time I remember myself consciously choosing to wear pink was in 3rd grade, when I had declared pink to be my favorite color. I soon abandoned the idea simply because my girly side began to fade at age 10 into middle school, where pink was replaced by greens, blues, and even purples, which I decided would be my new favorite color as it still carried femininity but was cooler, a little subtler. And then I ditched color altogether, and soon reclaimed it as a staple in my wardrobe only two years later. I went through a lot of style evolutions, as you can tell. 

But again.

Why pink?

You could pinpoint it to the moment when I impulsively bought these pastel pink Dickies last summer days before NYC Pride because I was in desperate need of finding colorful pants to go with my 100% Human shirt for the parade on Sunday. I thought they would exist in my closet as "those pants that I wore to Pride in 2017 but have not touched since," but they soon become a staple in my closet that I constantly slipped on. However, always with neutrals—never would I pair the pants with a bright red top, of all things.

But obviously, I've changed since.



Only recently did I stop associating color with gender and the divide between masculinity and feminity. Seeing men wear hot pink and women wear army green and everyone in between wear whatever they wanted gave me the realization that of all things, why the hell was color a gendered phenomenon? The concept of gendering most anything is strange—why are we labelling boats as women and why do some people simply refuse to respect people's they/them pronouns? Can't color simply exist as a way to express oneself without being sorted into the rigid binary of gender?

Yes, all of this is true—but I realized I've been shifting towards pinks and reds and other pieces like floral mini dresses because maybe I miss that feminine side that I used to be so heavily attached to when I was younger. I abandoned her because I was in a strange battle with my sexuality and felt that my previous connection to all things feminine was simply me being too afraid to admit to myself my true queerness, but now I realize that I loved that feminine side. Looking back, it felt like overcompensation, but now that I'm the surest of myself that I've ever been, all I want to do is reclaim that femininity as my own, as I now am redefining womanhood by being a lesbian but also deciding that I will always hold a strong tether to femininity. I still love dance, but I ditched ballet for a postmodern style that ignores antiquated gender roles seen in the more classical style. I could care less about sports and still find the outdoors to be a dark and scary place that I'd rather not partake in, and makeup, although I wear far less of it, excites me beyond belief. The above 'fit shows that I'm obsessed with so-called "feminine" colors and details like ruffles, but still throw in my personal style to the mix with my Vans, style of pants, and short hair.

And then came my final epiphany: it is possible to simply dip into the pool of femininity instead of diving head-first.

Should I make that my Instagram bio?


All photos shot by the WONDERFUL Geordon when I visited NYC last month.



6.29.2018

Pride: A Reflection

It shouldn't simply cease to exist with the end of June.


Photo by Simon Chetrit, featured on Man Repeller

Happy Pride month! This June, I've decided to only write on queer topics to both celebrate my own lesbian identity and to add to the (small) pool of existing queer content. Earlier this month, I contemplated the inherent queerness of my favorite bisexual musician, Michelle Zauner. Next, I took you all on my journey of discovering my queer style. Finally, for the end of Pride month, I reflect on Pride, what it means to be queer, and why it can't simply end here.

I'm happy with my gayness.

No, not happy. Ecstatic. Out-of-this-world delighted, filled with joy and pride with my gayness, of my gayness, for my gayness. For those who are also gay, lesbian, queer, trans, gender nonconforming, agender, asexual, bi, pan, etcetera, I am also ecstatic for your queerness.

I see you. I hear you.

I might not live the same experiences as you. I don't know what it's like to have severe cases of gender dysphoria that lead to dramatic bouts of anxiety and depression, and I will never understand the contradicting subjectivity of being a queer woman of color. Nonetheless, I see you. I hear you. That's the beauty in finding pride with our queer community—no experience is identical, yet we are still able to be visible and form our own queer space in a world that tries to tear us down. In a political environment that strips our rights and identities through toxic policy change. In a society that views us as unnormal, as deviant, as straying from the default of the heteropatriarchy. Most importantly, we create a community that, although holding differing experiences and lives, works together to be radical against the idea of straightness, of conforming to typical gender ideologies, of conforming to gender or sexuality at all. 

And at the end of the day, finally finding pride means that

We exist. We exist. We exist.

This is why pride month this year has been both so groundbreaking for me, but also why I've been so outward about my queerness this June—after 20 years of living, I finally feel like I exist as my most authentic self, like this is where I've been trying to be my entire life. Maybe I realized I needed to be that person when I was nine and was the only one of my friends who didn't have a crush on any 4th-grade boys and didn't develop "feelings" for one until three years later when some of my boy-obsessed friends started ~dating~ and I forced myself to like this tall, mysterious boy only because he had good music taste for a 7th grader. Or I could have found it when my crush on Naya Rivera from Glee emerged in 8th grade, and I felt my world collapse after watching her character come out to her abuela and I cried then because I had an empathetic nature but now I realize I felt such heavy emotions because I was worried the same thing would happen to me. But no, I found it at age 20. At age 18 I was married to the fact that liking girls wasn't a one-time-thing, at age 19 I understood that only liking girls wasn't a one-time-thing. At 20, I feel the sun for the first time as it hits the skin that I finally feel comfortable in, and I feel an equal sense of exuberance and calmness when not only I call myself a lesbian, but I say it to others—not in a way that implies coming out, but in a matter-of-fact way. Yes, I like girls, and no, it shouldn't come as a shock or be a big deal, but still, I will be radical about it until it is like this for everybody, for all races, for all genders, for those who don't wish to conform to gender, for those who don't have the privilege of being out. 

I attended not one, but two prides this summer because I wanted to find pride in every way imaginable. I spent the past 20 years learning and living and understanding that this form of joy can really be found everywhere—in the streets, in the home, on the screen, in our words, in gestures and policies and movements, miniscule to radical, and in the slightest of actions like the happy tears we cry because we are loved, and we are living. I wanted to manifest these into physical events this Pride month—DC Pride and NYC Pride—because one just isn't enough, especially after experiencing my first official Pride last summer in New York and feeling the world shift beneath my feet because for the first time in my life, I felt visible. 


In DC, the place I've called home for the past two years, I got to experience Pride for the first time with all of the people I hold close to my heart. I got to share the masses of joy we have for our identities with my queer friends, and my non-queer friends allowed me to be seen, to have my own space. I found pride in the new friends I made, in the old friends I cherish. Sharing my most authentic self with the people that see me for who I am is crucial to my well-being; experiencing Pride alone feels not only futile but, in the simplest of terms, downright lonely. Even if you do experience it alone, make friends! Share the love! Hug a stranger who needs one, kiss a cutie if you're feeling bold. It is our day.

A post shared by emily ciavatta (@emilyciavattaa) on

In NYC, my experience was drastically different, but I've been thinking about this day nonstop for the past five days. Last summer, I attended my first NYC Pride, but this year, I felt that I truly experienced my first NYC Pride. It's difficult to put into words the happiness and pride I felt, so I'll instead discuss those feelings in moments, in images, in memories.

I saw pride by the thousands of people who took over NYC, who queered NYC, who made the space their own for at least that single day. I witnessed pride when passing two girlfriends kiss freely in public, when passing a group of teens who couldn't be older than 15 and decked out in queer gear, unbashedly showcasing their identies at such a young age, when watching a young, trans person waving their flag with a huge smile on their face, watching the parade alone but feeling the joy of everyone around them.

I felt pride when witnessing the kindness of strangers—at a bar while waiting in line for the bathroom, on the streets when trying to find friends that were packed into tight crowds, on the subway when people would ask me for directions then, before leaving, happily say "Happy Pride!" to me. "Happy Pride" doesn't cover the full range of emotions I experienced. I felt pure joy for myself and others who are out and proud, relief for those who are not out but could still be their authentic selves and partake in Pride this year, sadness for those who are not here today due to hate crimes, police brutality, sexual assault, mental illness, and how all of these disproportionately affects LGBTQ+ people.

I remembered the people who brought us Pride—Black, trans sex workers that did not want marriage equality but simply wanted the radical right to live and exist and to not be affected by these systems of oppression. I saw the corporatisation of Pride, I saw police roaming through the streets, and I only felt disappointment—this is not what Pride is about. It is, as I said earlier, about the radical right to exist, to go against these structures that only harm us and others in the community. It is not about assimilation, it is about simply being, no changes necessary. But in a world where being queer is not necessarily accepted we have to be radical, we have to be loud, we have to be angry. If we have privilege within the community, we must let others who have less speak, and we must listen. We must stand up for the rights and well-beings of all members of the community—the people of color, the poor, the ones kicked out of their homes, the trans members who are not cispassing.

Pride is not a party. Pride is not a corporate celebration. But most importantly, Pride does not simply end here. We not only have to be loud and proud of our identities all year long, but we also have to speak out about these issues all year long. We should be able to take up our own queer space 12 months of the year, for all years of our lives. I find pride in everything, all year long. If you identify as someone in this queer community, you should do the same. Pride is not a month-long celebration where all of our proudness and loudness about our identities are shoved into 30 short days. Pride is year long. Pride is lifelong. I make pride a crucial part of my identity that lives on no matter my circumstances. Are you doing the same?


6.22.2018

After Four Years of Blogging, I Finally Understand My Personal Queer Style

A journey just as difficult as my coming out process.



Happy Pride month! This June, I've decided to only write on queer topics to both celebrate my own lesbian identity and to add to the (small) pool of existing queer content. Last week, I wrote a feature on one of my favorite queer musicians. Next up: a personal essay on my own journey with discovering my queer style. 

It took me six years after my initial fascination with women to finally come to terms with the fact that I not only would never be in a relationship with a man, but also that my identity is inherently tied to this fact and that queerness will always be a crucial aspect of my life.

Whew. Glad I got that out of the way.

Obviously, it took a lot more than a simple realization to make it to where I am today. Who knew that the coming out process wasn't a linear and singular narrative?! Nonetheless, I made it. Meaning that I finally feel comfortable in my own skin, finally feel comfortable about writing to the world about a part of my life that I feel so strongly about.

While sexuality has always been this minuscule detail in my life that I never paid much attention to until a few years ago, style has been there since day one. When I was ten, I cared more about my outfit than I did having friends; at 13, I thought I was the coolest kid in middle school because I solely shopped at Urban Outfitters; three years later, I understood that style was a huge part of my identity and I started this blog to celebrate that realization. For four years! It's insane to think that I've been so into my personal style that I've been constantly writing about it for that long, especially when it's taken so many turns that it's hardly possible to track every phase I've gone through. One could argue that my journey with discovering my real style has held far more challenges than actually understanding my sexuality. A bit exaggerated? Maybe. But when I finally realized that my style and queerness are so heavily connected, maybe saying that the two have been difficult journeys is accurate, as so much overlapping has occurred. 

Let's look into my dark, dark past, shall we?



This is when I was 16 and thought pants were the devil. I also thought that I would have long hair for the rest of my life and wear a full face of makeup until death. My cringe-y, junior-year self, aka my peak of femininity.


17-year-old me did a little better: she discovered bleach for the hair and sneakers for the feet! Also, the dress carries some qualities I'd wear today—we love a good button-down dress. Femininity still there, but it feels a bit cooler.


She discovered her first article of clothing that would hold a lot of queer power, but she didn't know it just yet. She also discovered short hair! This is two weeks into my freshman year of college, thinking I was super cool because I was wearing a dad shirt and had a bob, but I still felt v femme by wearing a denim skirt that I no longer own because I can hardly move in it. However, this shirt is what made me give up bras for the most part, and today, I wear it whenever I want to feel like my gayest self. Very queer, right?

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Me in NYC, I'm 19. A few months before this photo was taken I had ~officially~ started calling myself and telling other people that

*insert dramatic pause*

I am a LESBIAN!!!!

BUT! I didn't know how to incorporate this wonderful, wonderful identity into my style just yet. I was struggling with the fact that I was gay but was head-over-heels in love with fashion and knew how heteronormative the industry is and that liking clothes isn't a typical thing that lesbians partake in. Toxic ideas, yes, but they were also very relevant ideas that I could not get out of my mind. I knew I didn't necessarily feel like a typical femme lesbian—all of the representations I was exposed to were very invested in lipstick and wearing skirts, and I learned to hate the two but was still attached to a personal style that was not high femme but nowhere near butch.

I knew I loved pants, especially of the baggy type, but also liked tight tops and fun feminine shoes that seemed to define my style even though I had no idea how to put that concept into words. And that resulted in the above 'fit: a look that did not resemble my queer style at the time but, after some analysis one year later, might just be the mirror image of what I internalized with my newfound queer sexuality.

After (sadly) leaving NYC for school came a long year of some heavy soul-searching. You could say that my year as an 18-year-old was when I spent hours, days, even weeks trying to figure out what I identified as, and that my year as a 19-year-old was when I rethought everything I once knew about style. I ditched trends and prototypes that I assumed queer women to look like, played with the idea of masculinity and femininity a lot, I realized that I hated the concept of dresses unless I felt like my most authentic, queer self in them (like this one). I fell in love with pants and graphic tees and realized that I equally liked sneakers and heels, depending on my mood. I kept cutting my hair shorter and shorter but still felt an attachment to feminine pieces, but would only be able to wear them paired with masculine pieces—think open-toed mules with Levi's or a midi dress with Vans.

I've always known since day one that my personal style was constantly shifting, but now that I connect this phenomenon to queerness, I feel like I've unlocked a mystery I've been trying to figure out my entire life. Identity and style are connected, but what happens when the two are constantly shifting?

Does one impact the other, do they move together, does one change while the other stays the same?

The answer that might be frustrating to some is all of the above. The beauty in style is that it can perfectly match your internal identity, can partially match it, or just be a completely different vessel that showcases a whole other aspect of your life. You don't need to present yourself in a way that society expects you to—the whole point of queerness is to be authentic to yourself, and this is evident in what we choose to put on our bodies.

So I finally figured it out. Some days I like masculine looks, other days I like feminine ones. Most days I like a mix of the two. I feel really good in my short hair, I feel on top of the world when I wear what feels comfortable and true to my identity. That's what personal style is all about, no?

And to give photographic evidence of my final form:







Top, jeans, and sunglasses by Madewell (yep, still working there). Shoes are vintage.

I could get into the science of this whole look: I finally feel like my true, lesbian self with my new hair, double-denim is a look that makes me feel gayer than ever, and I have a perfect mix of masc and fem features to make myself look like the queen of androgyny.

But technicalities aside, this outfit feels like the epitome of my queer self, at least for now, just because, to put it simply, I feel like myself. It feels good. Not much more to say on that one. I wish I could write a dissertation on this singular outfit, but style has always been a visual vehicle for the ideas that I can't seem to put into words. The outfit says it all!

TLDR: if you're queer and have not taken a second to think about your style, stop and think. Truly think. Are you presenting in a way that you want to present, even if it doesn't match up with society's expectations? Or are you letting other queer representations do the work for you instead of carrying a style that you wish to carry? I've said it once and I'll say it again: to be queer is to be your most authentic self, so your style should also be only what you want it to be. It's that simple, even in a world where sexuality and gender get more complicated each day.


To my fellow queer readers: do you feel that your style and queerness are inherently connected? Let me know in the comments—I'd love to chat!

Photos shot by Lucy.


6.11.2018

Japanese Breakfast, the Queen of Bisexual Lighting

The woman that changes every mindset you once had about queer music.


Photo courtesy of Out.com

Happy Pride month! This June, I've decided to only write on queer topics to both celebrate my own lesbian identity and to add to the (small) pool of existing queer content. First on the list: an ode to one of my favorite musicians, Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, and how she breaks all the boundaries set up for her as a queer female musician.

When listening to what we would today call "queer music," there lies an abundance of expected requirements that should be checked off before ever deeming it to belong in that category. First, at least 85% of the music has to be about sex, and this sex (obviously) has to be with the same gender. And of course, if we're on the topic of gender, the sexual and/or romantic interest's gender has to be explicitly stated. Names, pronouns, the whole shebang. Apart from the music, the presentation of the said musician must fit into queer standards. If she's not butch in the slightest, can she really create queer music? If she's not currently in a relationship with a woman or gender non-conforming person, or at least not trying to be in this sort of relationship, how can she both be queer and fit under the category of "queer musician"?

Well, if you were unaware, the entire idea of queerness is to break boundaries, diminish set categories, and, most importantly, muddle all ideas that we once assumed were true. Sure, some of my fav queer musicians are what I described above, like Syd from The Internet who solely sings about her explicit desires and relationships with women. But it's inaccurate—and 100% not necessary—to explicitly bring your queerness to everything you do, especially if it has to fall under these rigid expectations that the general public wishes to see. 

Upon seeing Japanese Breakfast, the solo project of Michelle Zauner, last week, I realized that she not only is an excellent musician and performer who breaks boundaries for women in indie rock, she also extends past everything we ever thought could compose the typical prototype of a queer musician. She doesn't outwardly say she loves women in all of her music—what's the fun in that? Of course, we always love an artist who does just that (talking about Syd again, and maybe also Hayley Kiyoko), but the beauty of music, and especially queer music, is that not every single part of a musician's life has to be put on display through their art. We don't expect straight musicians to be transparent on all their personal tea, so why should we expect queer ones to? And yes, while I do love a queer girl anthem that I can play on repeat while going through the motions of crushes and relationships with women, something about those songs that are implicitly queer are even more fascinating, more mysterious. Maybe Zauner doesn't do the same work as my other favorite gay ladies, maybe she is married to a man, making some question her authenticity as a queer woman. But her blurring between private and public spheres is an inherently queer act in itself. Let me explain.

Photo courtesy of Under the Radar
  • She's a Korean-American woman living in a culture that doesn't seem to understand her identity... so she named her project Japanese Breakfast instead. She says that American culture fetishizes Japanese culture, making it a more interesting name, and that, more interestingly, Korea and Japan have a painful history, and that, finally, people constantly assume her to be Japanese because of both their own ignorance and of the deceitful name. And it shows in her music: 



  • Speaking of the above music video, it can be implied that she's singing about loving a woman based on the few scenes of her riding on the back of a motorcycle with another woman. BUT... the beauty in the song is that gender is not a significant part of the song itself; it's actually never mentioned. Zauner could be singing about anyone, which is all the more suitable, as it's clear that she might be bisexual (or at least queer, which she's been public about in the past).
  • She might not publicly use the term bisexual to identify herself, but it's obvious that she's a big fan of bisexual lighting. Janelle Monáe showed us the beauty of that aesthetic in her "Make Me Feel" video, a song that makes it quite obvious that Monáe is into all genders, and Japanese Breakfast uses it on more than one occasion: in many of her photoshoots, like the one above, in much of the lighting she uses while she performs, displayed below,


          and also in my favorite music video (and song) for the artist:




  • The above song and visual are a mixture of both musical and artistic genius and pure evidence of the queering of love music today. How, you might ask? Well first off, that blue, purple, and pink lighting combo displayed over an overly heteronormative school dance has to mean something. And the three girls, walking into the gym wearing full makeup and men's suits, automatically disrupt everything we once assumed about school dances and gender roles. Are they sad that they're coming in alone? Are they longing for a certain boy, or for a certain girl? We don't know. What we do know is that the lead falls in love with herself at the end, which is something you really don't see with representations of women in music, or even more prominently, representations of women of color.
  • Finally, Zauner's style of music carries a duality that, once again, makes us question everything we once imagined about queer music. She knows how to shred it on the guitar, she knows how to hype a crowd with her intense vocals and on-stage dancing, yet she also is really good at making her audience feel "tender", as she described two of her songs ("This House" and "Triple 7") which she performed near the end of her set. However, this isn't a set binary—she likes to sing about marriage in a way that is only depressing, and one of her songs is solely about falling in love with a robot (robots are genderless, correct?). Pretty queer indeed.

Photo courtesy of Teen Vogue.


Existing as a queer, Korean-American woman in the rigid world of indie rock is already difficult enough, but creating music that doesn't fit the mold that was already set up for her is near impossible. And that, my friends, is how you flip the scene.


6.02.2018

Love Summer, Hate Everything Else

The hashtag that swept the nation.

As I lay by a pool, preferably a rooftop one in NYC but realistically my campus one in DC, feeling the sweat drip down my back and the humidity cling to my skin, sipping on preferably a cold glass of Provencal rosé but realistically some good ol' H2O to stay hyrdrated, wearing nothing but a bikini and cat-eye sunglasses that keep falling down due to the constant stream of sweat on my nose, I have realized that it is summer.

Finally!

I dreamt of it for eighteen months, I looked to cinema to calm my winter blues, I endlessly scrolled through Instagram just to catch some inspiration and to keep my hopes up while I dreadfully waited for the season to come. 

Now that it's here, I'm surprisingly not sure how to feel. The East coast skipped straight past spring and right into the heat of summer, going from 40 degrees to 85 in the span of one day. The lack of a transition period completely threw me off, and my summer dreams 180ed into an entirely different plan. My NYC rooftop instead became the same DC campus that made me hate winter, and the dream of summer became its sticky, sticky reality. DC humidity is real. But! I knew I had to continue dreaming the summer dream. I waited what felt like years for the three months of sweat and sun, so I was going to make it count.

Then I stumbled upon the hashtag #lovesummerhateeverythingelse, thanks to my fashion role model Leandra Medine Cohen who coined the term and started a revolution. I immediately started noticing all of the wonderful, wonderful perks of summer: 
  • My birthday practically kicks off summer (May 31st, if you were curious). Also, Gemini season is arguably the best, right next to Cancer.
  • It being 100% acceptable to eat ice cream every day, even when you're trying to be dairy free.

  • It also being 100% acceptable to not wear pants or an actual top, especially when drinking rosé.

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  • Or just ditching the top altogether.

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  • The ability (and freedom) to spend days reading. And not for school, but just for the sake of reading.
  • Way too much color, both because why not, and because Pride month is here!
  • Those barely-there dresses that require nothing but a body but really only work between the months of May and August.


  • Those tiny sunglasses that seem to hardly protect our eyes from the sun but look really cool.

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  • Drinking approximately five La Croixs every day, and always having a backup in your bag. 
  • The ability to finally play those songs that make you dream of summer without being sad, because, my friends, the wait is over.



If you've enjoyed my other playlist posts in the past, get excited, because they are officially becoming a regular thing! Once a month, that is.