by Dominique Michelle Davis
The mass murder in Orlando at Pulse Nightclub, which claimed the life of 49 people, had me feeling less than optimistic about the future of our country, although I believe that love has a true power to heal pain and hurt. I tread lightly with the following words as not to unintentional offend anyone. I am not trivializing or trying to marginalize the LGBTQ community to a world of fashion and the arts, we know that LGBTQ people are and bring so much more to the world than that, so know that I get it. Still, the recent murder of all of those people, and the target specifically of the LGBTQ merged with a due date for a article. Unable to mourn without writing, and grieve without mourning, I thought I would try to find a way to accept the clear synthesis of the two for me over this summer. So this column is dedicated to members of the community that identify with the LGBTQ community as allies or otherwise. People have dedicated their life’s work to our society whether embraced or not.
As a member of the human race and being doubly oppressed as an African American woman, I was floored by the inhuman hatred that we still harbor toward our fellow humans. The human existence is thought to be one of the highest levels of transcendence as we have the ability to intellectualize thoughts and act beyond our worse instincts. The human struggle is difficult enough with the games and systems that exist within our society, and for us to choose to add on the persecution of our fellow human beings based on whom they choose to love or who loves them is deeply sad. This Fashion Conscious column then pays respect to the lives lost to senseless violence due to a hatred caused by lack of understanding, a lack of empathy and persistent intolerance.
Numerous people have written about the many wonderful contributions LGBTQ people have made to history, culture, politics, and religious life. Fashion is, of course, only one such area. In February 2015, for example, Queerty ran a story called “The 15 Greatest Gay Designers,” while legendary fashion scholar Valerie Steele of the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) presented an exhibit and accompanying book called “A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk.”
Writings like this article and book provide such important insights into some of the many contributions that queer people have made to fashion for more than a century.Confirmation of these contributions are all around me. Every time I look around at the day to day fashion in the city of Chicago alone, I stand to view at least 1 person wearing a Michael Kors watch, purse, or shoes, not to mention he was a major factor in project runway, Yeezus shouts out Ver-say-ce in “when it all falls down”, Nikki Minaj repped Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein has been an influential figure within the fashion industry and the list continues beyond the world of fashion of how many people have contributed to advance our culture and broaden the perspectives of curators and critics.
In the days following the murders at Pulse, many people took to news and social media to grieve. Several noted that what was sad was that so many of the people were so young and had so much they would do with there lives and contribute to the world. I understood that and share that sense of loss, and and yet, I hesitate to highlight or mourn these contributions in the same way I have talked about what queer people have given to fashion here because, what Pulse taught me about mourning queer lives taken with such disregard is that it shouldn’t take for a person to be a great designer, dancer, singer, actor, politician, religious leader, teacher or anything at all for us to mourn them. The death of any person, and in the context of what I say here any queer person, is a loss because it is a loss of a human being who other people loved and needed. So much of the focus on those who were killed at Pulse, and the queer people who are killed everyday because they are queer, makes the well intentioned point that their death means also the death of potential for what things they will have bought to the world. My point here is that their potential doesn’t matter. It is a loss regardless and tragic regardless. The simple taking of a life is sad enough, and focusing on what those people could have or would have been seems also a bit too insufficient. So this column ends, perhaps rather abruptly and still very sadly, in not really knowing what to say, but hoping that we can create a space to be.