During a recent Delhi pride parade, someone remarked, “If only those guys stopped dressing up weird, especially during their parade. Maybe that’ll help them gain acceptance.”
Needless to say, the person passing such a comment is neither a member of the community nor an ally. However, it got me thinking, "Why is the LGBTQ community always defined by what they wear?"
Unfortunately, a common way of marginalising and discriminating against the LGBTQ community has been by stereotyping them on the basis of their appearances. Lesbians: butch, unkempt and tomboyish. Gay: Effeminate, stylish and well-groomed. These are some of the popular perceptions that were peddled by society in the last few decades, but now, with the bright colours of pride parades, LGBTQ members have been reduced to 'individuals who dress up in loud and quirky clothing'.
Hannah Gadsby, too, pointed this out in her show, Nanette. She said that when she went for Mardi Gras she saw 'her people' (members of LGBTQ community) for the first time. And she wondered, "Where do the quiet ones go?". That's a valid question.
Queer non-binary writer and theatre actor Lavanya said, "Not everyone comes dressed up flamboyantly. People have been coming to the pride parade in muted clothes too."
"They don't attract the photographers but they're there. Dressing up is a choice and the last thing people, be it queer or straight or whomsoever, need to be told is how to dress," Lavanya rightfully added.
Unfortunately though, isn't that what we are always told to do by our society? Women are told to wear 'feminine attires' and men are expected to wear 'masculine colours'. If you think of it though, how do you decide which colour is masculine or feminine?
Since the day we were born, we have been told to dress according to our gender. Girls: dresses, nail paints, and hair accessories. Boys: pants, tie and shirts. Whether straight or members of the LGBTQ, we have all been told to dress and act according to our gender.
Just because a girl dresses in pink clothes doesn't mean you can 'assume' her to be straight and it is not at all okay to 'assume' a tomboyish girl is a lesbian.
Talking about fashion and gender, drag queen Betta Non Stop said, "People always look down upon femboys (biological males who tend to express themselves in a feminine manner). Patriarchy and toxic masculinity have taught people to not accept them. Drag is such a slap on their faces. Do you have a problem with my feminine nature? Wait here while I add more glitter and feathers and come back."
One of the reasons why pride parades see so much variation in fashion is because these parades are more inclusive and far less judgmental.
"Pride Parades are like festivals for the LGBTQ community and like in traditional festivals we celebrate our culture. During pride parades the LGBTQ community celebrate their culture of inclusiveness and diversity. That is another reason why even the pride flag is full of vibrant colours."
"There are so many of us and we love our festival. When we are part of a society and we have never asked people to change the way they celebrate, why should we change ours? Who is to decide what is normal or what is not?" said Betta.
According to drag queen and androgynous model Randy Scarhol, "Queer culture and queer fashion have always existed. It's just that no one ever paid attention. We have always pushed boundaries when it comes to fashion, art or any other creative expression."
"In fact, the choice to wear any attire lies completely with the person. Lady Gaga once wore a satin gown and nothing else in below 0-degree temperatures in Paris. My point is, I think it's iconic that someone would freeze to death just to serve a look. That's badass isn't it?" says Randy.