“If I had to sum it up in two words, it’s about education and empowerment.”
That is how Trans Fashion Show Co-Director and theater senior Rotem Drori described Saturday night’s Trans Fashion Show. The fashion show, hosted by the Pride Center and featuring Cal Poly students who identify as transgender or genderqueer, showed students different styles of fashion that can contribute to gender presentation, and gave the models a chance to feel accepted in the safe space of the San Luis Lounge of the Julian A. McPhee University Union (UU). The different looks and performances of the night highlighted the importance that gender and acceptance for people who don’t conform to typical gender roles and identifications play.
You could feel the support of the audience as they cheered on each model. Though not professional models, each one of them walked with an air of confidence. Presenting looks that fit their idea of what their gender would express, it became apparent that it is more than just articles of clothing that can define a person’s gender expression. From professional wear to summer attire, the colors and fit of each outfit played a role in defining their preferred gender. The fashion showed that there is so much that goes into choosing an outfit, and even more for someone who identifies as transgender.
For one model, the show was a chance to have a lot of fun. Architectural engineering junior Andy Muncey wanted to show people that drag and trans are two different things.
“With trans fashion, it shows a wide range of presenting oneself and changing what you look like,” Muncey said.
The Trans Fashion show has been going on for several years at Cal Poly. Drori spoke proudly of the development it has had over the past four years. From attending the show as a sophomore to directing it, Drori wanted to show that people who are transgender or gender nonconforming shouldn’t feel misunderstood, and that the key is educating people about the fluidity of how we express gender in day-to-day life.
Part of the show featured poetry written by transgender students. The pieces were about the angst and frustrations they felt about the way they expressed their gender, and how people reacted to it. The importance of pronouns was a prominent theme in the poetry; it is often overlooked in everyday conversation. But for someone who is trying to identify as their true identity, being called by their correct pronoun can be a daily struggle. Though when it happens, it can have a lasting effect on them. In attending the Trans Fashion Show, the frustrations and triumphs of the trans community could be seen.
An exciting presentation of the night was a makeup tutorial by business administration sophomore Richie Kelly.
“Makeup is gender neutral,” Kelly said. “It is a tool people can use to play with gender expression.”
Little tricks, like the placement and colors used on a person, can make all the difference in passing as the gender that they identify as. While it is not absolutely necessary, for those that wore makeup that night it provided them with additional confidence in the way they looked.
As the show’s popularity continues to grow, the education they provide becomes even more valuable. While people who are not transgender can never completely understand the struggles that nongender conforming people face, the fashion show was a great opportunity to hear about their experiences and show support for the community. The audience received invaluable education about the importance of gender expression, and the models had a chance to strut their stuff, empowered by acceptance and support.