During Pride Month, how can we study the history of the LGBTQIA+ community in fashion and beauty to build a better, more inclusive future?
Within fashion and beauty, LGBTQIA+ artists have paved the way for greater expression and contributed to the breakdown of traditional gender roles, in order to further the message that fashion and makeup are for everyone. While this topic is far too comprehensive to discuss in complete detail, we hope that we can encourage readers to dive deeper into the topic in honor of Pride Month.
LGTBQIA+ and Beauty Through History
Across centuries, fashion and makeup have acted as methods of communication and bonding within the LGBTQIA+ community as well as an act of defiance against discrimination.
During the twentieth century, drag was considered illegal and led to increased legislation targeting any form of “cross-dressing”. The “three-piece law, ”coined by LGBTQIA+ circles before the Stonewall Riots, described how police officers would persecute anyone who did not wear three pieces of clothing conforming to one’s assigned gender.
Within the public eye, queer individuals were expected to "blend in" for fear of punishment. Within clubs and bars, LGBTQIA+ people could meet and build communities free of persecution, although there was always the risk of police raids and public humiliation through the printing of one's personal information in the news if caught and punished.
Laws Targeting LGBTQIA+ Public Fashion
Although researchers Kate Redburn from Yale University and Christopher Adam Mitchell from Hunter College came to separate conclusions that no discriminatory legislation referenced a specific style of clothing, police nonetheless referenced outdated codes to persecute those “masquerading” as a variant gender. These Masquerade Laws became known as any kind of legislation that police would manipulate in order to arrest someone for their unique gender expression. Thus, subtle signs conveying one's sexuality were necessary for a society that banned overt displays, such as green carnations or violets.
For many women, dressing in “masculine” clothing, such as pants, served as an act of defiance against a patriarchal society. Eventually, greater visibility for lesbian and bisexual women was represented by celebrities such as Ma Rainy and Greta Garbo. However, it’s important to note that not all queer women wished to dress in a traditionally masculine style to express themselves authentically. To this day, the public often fails to understand an image of lesbians that are not associated with masculinity.
When examining the history and considering events such as the Stonewall Riots, it’s easy to dismiss discrimination as a part of the past. With trendy makeup artists such as Bretman Rock and rainbow signs plastered across Morphe storefronts during the month of June, it can be easy to forget at times the discrimination that still follows the LGBTQIA+ community when someone decides to express themselves fully in school or the workplace. As many corporations paste rainbow flags on their products as a false display of activism known as “rainbow-washing”, sorting through various companies’ track histories regarding the LGBTQIA+ community to sift out the genuine from the disingenuous can prove tricky.
However, only through education and activism can true progress be made to shine a light on sincere causes. Boafo Beauty is dedicated to the mission statement that makeup is for everyone, and will donate 6% of all proceeds towards the Trevor Project to support LGBTQIA+ youth in need of mental health and suicide prevention resources.