Gender Justice Fashion Show Highlights Belonging, Acceptance | FIU news | Bot To News

“Fashion is a way to take up space, to be loud, to celebrate.”

These words, delivered by social justice activist and comedian Alok Vaid-Menon (known by his stage name ALOK), underlined the theme of this year’s GenderChill: Gender Justice Fashion Show.

Held at the Biscayne Bay campus on November 18, GenderChill is a community-building event that raises awareness of gender and body diversity through the lens of social justice. This year, GenderChill honored International Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is celebrated annually on November 20.

“Sometimes when it comes to gender, you just have to relax,” said Jess Osborn, who created the inclusive fashion show with the intention of celebrating the full spectrum of gender identity and expression. Osborn launched the event at the University of Miami as a graduate student in 2019, and the Pride Center worked with them to bring it to FIU for the first time this year.

The event began with a question-and-answer session with ALOK, led by Erica Friedman, associate director of FIU’s Pride Center in the Office of Social Justice and Inclusion. ALOK discussed everything from transgender and non-binary history as it relates to fashion to legislation affecting the LGBTQIA+ community. They also shared their own journey as a non-binary person and provided words of encouragement to LGBTQIA+ students and the audience community.

ALOK participated in a Q&A session at GenderChill

“My life is worthy of spontaneity, decoration and adornment,” said ALOK about his love for fashion. “There is something eternal about authenticity.”

ALOK reminded the audience that there is power in the ability to show compassion. “Powerful people are people who love, who forgive and who have tenderness and refuse to dissociate.”

The models then took to the catwalk sporting fashions created by students, alumni and local designers as well as cosplayers. Adding to the excitement, audience members dressed for the occasion and were invited to walk the runway to showcase their own personal style.

A model wears one of alumnus Jamal Morrison’s designs at GenderChill

Alumnus Jamal Morrison, owner of Lamaj Company and designer of custom prom dresses, said it felt good to come home to FIU. Morrison said the pandemic left him in a creative slump, but one day he sat down at his sewing machine determined to start creating again, and it led to the collection of black dresses with rose prints he presented at GenderChill.

“Thank you [FIU Pride Center] for having me as your first LGBT designer,” Morrison said in an Instagram post after the event.

Students in the audience walk the runway at GenderChill

ALOK highlighted the importance of events like GenderChill to give a voice to the LGBTQIA+ community and uplift those members who are not yet ready or cannot speak for themselves.

“We can all be a community hub for others. We can all be the first open mic for someone else. We can all be the first pitch for someone else. We can give people permission to express themselves, and we can love them precisely because they are different. That’s the beauty of community,” ALOK said.

Continuing with this theme, GenderChill served as a fundraiser for the McKenzie Project, a Miami-based nonprofit that aims to empower black transgender and non-binary adults in South Florida. It also raised awareness of FIU’s Javon A. Stovall Memorial Scholarship, which supports graduate students who carry forward the legacy and values ​​of FIU alumnus and Pride Center graduate assistant Javon Stovall. This year’s event was held on the first anniversary of Stovall’s death.

Friedman said, “It is truly a privilege for the Pride Center to be able to bring the LGBTQIA+ community and allies together to affirm and celebrate who they are through fashion and support causes that uplift the community and FIU students.”

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