Where Are All the Lesbians and Queer Women in Fashion?

Image: Chanel F/W2010 Ad Campaign

Image: Chanel F/W2010 Ad Campaign

Saturday, October 11 is National Coming Out Day, so I’m going to repeat a thing I’ve said hundreds of times already: I’m not straight. SURPRISE!

This is not a new or even very interesting fact. I’ve had serious relationships with both ladies and gentlemen in the past decade, and am lucky enough to live in a city and era where being openly queer ain’t no thang. But I’m consistently surprised by how many raised eyebrows this is met with in fashion, an industry that is still somehow perceived to be exclusively by and for straight women and gay men.

I’d like to assume this is ignorance and not any malicious assumptions about femininity or queer women. Not that there haven’t been unsavory incidents — “Just because you’re a lesbian or whatever,” a gay male boss once sneered while eyeing my (Margiela!) tote bag at a job performance review, “doesn’t mean you need to dress like one.” But for the most part, fashion folks are usually an open-minded bunch, except when it comes to the mental block surrounding this little triangle:  

Hint: You don’t have to pick two.

This persistent blindness means that I’m always outing myself to remind people that I (we!) exist. And since I tend to see the world through rainbow-colored glasses, I’m even more baffled by this. What was so confusing when model-of-the-moment Cara Delevingne recently dated Michelle Rodriguez? Jenna Lyons and Courtney Crangi, anyone? Photographer Tasya van Ree? What about Andreja Pejic, Lea T, Isis King — women who fall under the T category of LGBTQ? Or any of the dozens of models like Freja Beha, Cat McNeil, Ireland Baldwin, Tasha Tilberg, Jenny Shimizu and Kim Stolz

Contrary to popular belief, there’s no dearth of examples. So, why do I find myself, time and again, explaining to colleagues that fashion matters to people who aren’t straight women or gay men? It’s been a solid two years since made the ridiculous proclamation that “Lesbian Chic” was so in, and for plenty of us, this still isn’t a slouchy beanie or a pair of brogues we can just take off. 

So, on behalf of the myriad of not-straight women I know who work in or love fashion, let me say this: Hey everyone, we’re queer, and we’re definitely here, and we kind of wish you’d notice.