Fresh style insights, tips and commentary by Michelle Tea, Michael Braithwaite, Leo Plass, Page McBee and Carrie Leilam Love.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Queers Fuck Shit Up (thank god)



And so we have another National Coming Out Day. As such, I'd like to out queers as having a history of smooth fucking style. You all know who that is above, right? That's Peaches. Peaches doesn't give a fuck. That's why her style (bizarre as it is, eat your heart out, Lady GaGa) kills it. Her real name is Merrill Beth Nisker and prior to being an icon, she was a drama teacher. I never took drama in high school, for fear of emotional trauma, but I don't recall the drama teacher looking ANYTHING like Peaches. Lucky Canadian drama students get teachers who eventually write lyrics like "big trouble in little mangina." Bitches.

But I digress. With all the newish visibility of a wide array queerness, there's been an intense (and expected) backlash--from homophobic bullying that's led to a rash of teen suicides, to an uber-phobia driven slew of trash talk by an ever-ill-informed and  frightfully galvanized Right. Walmart--stalwart friend of the queer community that it is--will be carrying a book all about curing the gays of gay, and Target--responsible corporate community member--recently gave a whole hunk of cash to a business group that supports a notoriously anti-gay gubernatorial candidate. I'm not sure where to buy inexpensive bath products or festive holiday decor anymore. It's all very disorienting.

This mess of dominant culture makes it seem like queers just showed up a couple of years ago and started fucking shit up. Uh-uh. Queers have been fucking shit up for centuries and one of my favorite ways in which it's happened is through... FASHION! What. You expected I would say politics or something? Booooring.

You know what's awesome about fashion that queers have always understood? It's performance. I know, Michael's a broken record, but unhitching oneself from the culturally static is what makes life fun. Think about what makes a person a person. You can't pinpoint anything specifically. It's all fluid from day to day and decade to decade, with constant attempts to communicate the ever-changing "truth" of one's identity, interests, background, gender, etc. It's performance. Otherwise, you'd still be dressing the way you did when you were five. Which some of us do. And that's ok, though kind of eyebrow raising. I also think queers have a history of fabulous fashion because Western culture at large has never extended a welcoming hand. The thing about invisibility is that it offers a great vantage point from which to fiddle and create. 

Have you ever gotten a used book with mysterious hand-written notes in the margins? In some way, the marginalia is even more interesting and dynamic than the book. The book might be the point, but the marginalia is what makes the book breath, expand, and come alive. I'm not expanding the metaphor anymore.

And now, my favorite queer fashion/style icons:

Christine Jorgensen (1927-1989) 




Sadly, Christine Jorgensen didn't leave me those sunglasses or that coat when she died. Because she had no idea who I was. 


Lili Elbe (1882-1931)





Before transitioning, Ejnar Wegener (Lili) was married to painter, illustrator and Parisian fashion designer, Gerda Wegener. Lili was Gerda's favorite model for women's high fashion.


Gertrude Stein (1874-1936)




I know, I know. You don't usually think "Gertrude Stein and fashion," but I've always loved the no bullshit look that she maintained. She had a great selection of vests, and I love that coat and hat in the first photo. Besides that, she always wore an expression of self-assurance, and style is as much about eye contact and confidence as it is about clothes. Learn it, y'all.



Alison Mosshart (1978-Right fucking now)






That's right. I put three pictures up of Kills front woman, Alison Mosshart. Because I've always had a huge crush on her. She's like Audrey Tautou meets, I don't know, someone I could actually meet and have a bad ass conversation with. Over liquor. Before getting into a bar fight. Where I put my cigarette out on a bitch. Sorry, where was I?


Grace Jones (1948-Now)




I'm going to be honest, I couldn't find any clear proof that Grace Jones is queer apart from Wikipedia, but I'm going to put her in here anyway because, HELLO. Also, she said this intense thing: I’ve looked the devil in  the face, and god, and somehow I've found a balance. But being extreme is at the same time a balance - one extreme balances the other.

Peaches (1966-Now)




Nuff Said. 



Monstah Black (I don't know)






Monstah Black is fucking awesome. And since this whole post is about queers, fashion, and performance, what better person to close my list of icons than with a performance artist? First, I want the glasses in the last picture. What. I look at men's fashion as much as women's for ideas. Second, see how MB owns the space? That's STYLE. He and Peaches don't give a fuck.  If you don't know who Monstah Black is, let me give you a little peek. Here's how MB described a recent project: I'm interested in channeling the middle passage to address issues of gender fluidity as well as violence and bullying. I imagine it resembling Fela Kuti meets Sylvester while sipping champagne with Prince and Grace Jones in a lounge on the bottom of the ocean.

Queers: fucking shit up through fashion and fun gender performance since forever. Sorry you're so booooring, Right Wing.

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