Mandy Dean – Washington, D.C.
June isn’t just for poolside BBQs, extravagant summer travel and sangrias in the sand. June also marks the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Manhattan, a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement here in the United States.
“Gay Pride Day,” originally a single celebration observed the last Sunday of June, has sparked an expansion of the holiday itself— and we now have series of events celebrating the LGBTQ community.
Parades, picnics, workshops and concerts attract millions of rainbow flag-waving LGBTQ people and allies to furthernational acceptance and recognition of the LGBTQ+ community. Parties abound of course, but dozens of memorials and vigils are also held in honor of those who have been lost to HIV/AIDS and the numerous and tragic hate crimes committed against the community.
While we have a looong way still to go in achieving LGBTQ equality, let’s take this time to come together underneath the great rainbow of solidarity, and consider specific achievements members of the community have accomplished since that fatal night at the Stonewall Inn.
Meet Sonny Oram:
Classically trained viola player. Trans rights activist. And editor-in-chief of an internationally acclaimed style blog, here to help members of the LGBTQ community look and feel fabulous.
Sonny’s brainchild Qwear is an online community center where users are encouraged to experiment with their personal style and chat openly about fashion, fun and flair. Founded in 2011 as a platform and resource for LGBTQ folks seeking community, the site today offers fashion tips, provides tools for self-expression and even hosts runway shows featuring the trendiest queer styles. Sonny has brought a new body-positive meaning to the phrase, “suit yourself.”
“When I started Qwear, the [LGBTQ] community was starved for fashion inspiration, so they all flocked my way. It’s an honor that I’m able to help raise voices and expand representation on this powerful platform,” Sonny said of Qwear’s success.
Under Sonny’s leadership, Qwear has experienced tremendous growth as a young company, and is now a popular lifestyle brand and comfort to many who define their styles outside of the mainstream fashion culture.
“The queer experience is hypersensitive to society’s inflicted gender roles,” Qwear’s mission statement reads, “Our presentations challenge the racial, ethnic, cultural, age, beauty, and size norms set forth by the fashion industry.” This purposefully non-monetized and activist-oriented blog represents those traditionally excluded from spaces that too often promote messages of diversity, inclusivity and progressivism, but fall short of actively involving LGBTQ voices and appearances.
Promoting not only the latest in queer fashion, Qwear also encourages visitors to unite as one community through the elevation of those largely shut out of cis platforms on the web. Qwear contributors “insist upon the beauty of queer bodies and expression,” showcasing stylish trends and featuring designers representative of all sexualities, genders and identities.
“We aim to represent the styles of those who are facing erasure,” Sonny explained. “We reject thin, white, young standards of beauty that mainstream fashion culture [nearly exclusively] promotes. Our fight for LGBTQ visibility is what makes queer fashion so sophisticated and layered.”
Qwear is as much a haven for those struggling within the Pride community as it is a hub for those who simply seek a network of fellow queer individuals with whom to befriend and stay connected. Visitors can submit personal “Qwearies,”—an advice column of sorts, access style profiles featuring hot brands and up-and-coming designers and share reviews of their own favorite outfits or biggest fashion mistakes for the benefit of other Qwear readers.
Catering to an underserved and often invisible community, Sonny understands the importance of this work to be far beyond promoting the latest vogue trend. Qwear provides a crucial platform for the marginalized and too often victimized members of the LGBTQ community. As queer individuals grow into their true identities, Qwear can be used as a trusted guide and safe space for all.
“It’s really just about confidence and experimentation. Wear what makes you feel good, both physically and emotionally. If you see a style you like on Qwear, you can’t really know if it’s right for you until you see how you feel wearing it,” Sonny advised, “It’s all about the process of trying [new] things and seeing what makes you smile.”
So during this month of celebration, by all means— break out that rainbow flag, sashay down Main Street during your city’s Pride Parade, chant “Love, not hate, makes America great!” until your voicebox gets sore, but it it just as important to actively engage with and support the LGBTQ community the other eleven months of the year as well.
Qwear is the one-stop-shop (literally) for those who are dismayed to find their closets full of clothes that don’t represent who they really are. With a company mission to elevate silenced voices by promoting all body types, all fashion senses, and truly all members of the LGBTQ spectrum, Qwear is worth a click or two or your time.