Prizm News / August 1, 2018 / By Staley Munroe

Photo by Matt Reese

For many LGBTQ+ people, fashion isn’t just a wardrobe of items from which we pick and choose our look of the day. It’s our armor, freedom and idenity.

 

Commentary by Staley Munroe

I’ll never forget times growing up glued to my screen watching Glinda the Good Witch in her peach regalia, or the starlets from “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” twirling in their petticoats, or the breathtaking vision of Deborah Kerr in her iconic lavender-gold ballgown in “The King and I.”

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Growing up transgender, my first cathartic outlet for coping with my gender dysphoria was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s silver-screen leading ladies. I would wrap myself in a bed comforter, pretending it was a dress; when discovered by my father, I would shamefully and rapidly recoil as if I was just tossing about a blanket.

Later on, I would pretend to be sick sometimes for weeks on end so I could avoid the bullies at school (including teachers) and instead dress up in my mother’s Sunday dresses, meticulously returning them before she came home from work to find me “asleep” in bed.

As a teen, comic book heroines with great power and perfect figures had me trying desperately to utilize Halloween to come as close as possible to Storm’s silver catsuit—excusing to my uncomfortably perplexed family that I was really “just a robot.”

After many years of endless bullying, taunting and tormenting, I got to a hyper conservative college in no-town Indiana, where I bucked the administration by going goth, rocking fishnet gloves and black eyeliner out to my temples, again in an attempt to be as feminine as possible with a societally “acceptable” screen of masculinity, however transparent.

Finally came graduation and independence. Free to dress as I pleased, though with no less judgment from those around me, I’ll be damned if I didn’t whip my thick-skin and love for fantasy movies out of my survival tool-kit and at last began unapologetically wearing women’s clothing.

Now at 32, I’ve found the mermaid, elf-goddess, wind-spirit ethereal style that is home for my soul. And this whole journey, while mental, spiritual and physical, is all implicitly manifested through clothing.

Fashion for many LGBTQ+ people isn’t just a wardrobe. It’s armor, freedom and identity. Our clothes can symbolize coming out, our political alliances or our gender identity.

Sometimes our clothes say important truths before our mouths can say them—that we are strong, beautiful and unique—even when everyday society or political leaders tell us differently.

Even when we ourselves struggle to believe it.

A long flowing dress to a Transwoman might mean a great deal more than to a cisgender woman, just as a suit and tie can mean more to a once-homeless LGBTQ+ youth-turned-college-graduate, to say nothing of the feather boas and sequins that dazzled the first underground queer balls.

A person’s style is extremely personal, born of their loves, influences, culture, privilege or lack thereof. Individual expression through our appearance is intrinsically tied to our sense of self: to tattoo our skin, to bind our breasts, to choose the bright red glasses over the classic brown.

We go designer, we go bargain bin, we make it ourselves. No matter how we choose to style our lives, for better or worse, our personal dress is often the first glimpse we give others into who we are or what we like, because we get to CHOOSE what we wear and the message it sends!

Staley Munroe is the creative director of Prizm. A Columbus native, her career spans from New York to Los Angeles, where she has worked as a photographer, art director and coordinator within the creative/fashion industries. You can follow Staley on Instagram @silverwindrider or email her at StaleyMunroe@PrizmNews.com.

Bob Vitale
Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, he has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Contact: BobVitale@prizmnews.com