The Rainbow Center held a discussion Thursday called “You Look So Gay” to talk about beauty standards and expectations as a common challenge in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Before the Rainbow Center staffers started the meeting, they laid down some rules to make sure everyone felt comfortable and welcomed. This helped make participants in the discussion feel more at ease to talk and express their opinions and sexuality without having to worry about judgement.
To start the discussions, the participants were split into two groups which shuffled around every few questions. There were 10 questions asked total, which helped break down the concept of beauty standards into consumable chunks.
The first few questions were based on drag and how it is currently seen by society. Students largely supported drag. One said how you dress is a way to show the self you want to be. Another said dressing in drag can be a great escape from the everyday. Students hoped the future of drag would move past “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and become something more serious and accepted. They were especially opposed to some rules of drag expressed on the show, like how contestants couldn’t be transitioning and had to be cis males (males assigned the gender of male at birth). In general though, students just wanted to see drag as a form of self-expression that doesn’t have to conform to rules.
“This event really helped me understand a little more about what drag is and what drag is becoming,” Myles Van Allen, a third-semester communication major, said.
The next set of questions was based on how self-expression through clothes affects students in the LGBTQIA+ community. One said the anxiety of trying to express yourself in a way that is different from most students at UConn can be draining. Another said they see so many people on campus dressing the same way that it makes them feel pressured to conform. Students felt figuring out which clothing makes them feel most comfortable with their gender and sexuality is a journey that takes time and experimentation. Sometimes you just need to buy things because you know they’ll look good on you, despite the “gender” of the piece of clothing. They all agreed gender rules should be questioned and broken.
The last set of questions was about how companies approach gender in their stores. Many students felt frustrated by the sectioning of gendered clothes in stores. They especially felt men should have more options and women’s clothing should be made in similar high-quality to men’s.
“There’s still the men’s section and women’s section still completely separate for the most part,” a student said. “And I just haven’t even thought of that before coming to this.”
They also felt that it is ridiculous some companies with gender neutral sections make the clothing in those sections cost more than those in more traditional sections. Because of this, it can be hard to tell whether a company is genuinely trying to be inclusive and support the community or if they’re just in it for profit. Students felt the only reason clothes should be sectioned is either for body size and shape or for style.
“I learned about how people perceive unisex clothing in stores in shopping experiences when you’re more open to anything,” Van Allen said.
At the end of the discussion, each student was given a paper mirror and told to write down the features they like best about themselves. The staffers then hung up all the paper mirrors around a larger mirror drawn as a nice community decoration for the Rainbow Center. This wrap-up helped students embrace their own beauty now that they had broken down and dismissed today’s LGBTQIA+ beauty standards.
“I learned more about how clothing is gendered and there’s a possibility that it doesn’t have to be,” a student said, “but for some reason society still accepts that as a norm and it’s used in most clothing stores.”
Rebecca Maher is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.