Transgender youth face horrific societal reactions. To feel beautiful as their bodies are learning how to be true to who they really are is difficult. To express it is even more difficult, since society tends to put people in a conformity box. Fashion and freedom, however, go hand in hand. And as young transgender individual people learn their way, they are likely not to find that way on someone's runway.
Howard Brown Health Center, Douglas J. Aveda Institute and Chicago Fashion Week has come together to show young people struggling with self-identity does not have to be a struggle at all. On Saturday, October 27, Fashion Bar presents Trans Media Fashion, an LGBTQ focused fashion event featuring transgender youth at The Howard Brown Center. This show is day six of a weeklong fashion show presented by Fashion Bar Chicago beginning Sunday, Oct. 21. The shows will be hosted in different locations across the city showcasing spring and summer 2019 collections. All models in the show will be non-conforming transgender youth in Chicago.
The Howard Brown Center, 4025 N. Sheridan Rd., is well known for its array of services and programs. One of its most current programs, the Voice Project, is specifically geared toward servicing LGBTQ youth of color and their partners. The Voices Project is made possible through a Center for Disease Control ( CDC ) grant and it services youth between the ages of 12 and 29 of color and their partners.
"The most important thing is most people want to find out who they are as a person, not just how they identify. That is one of the biggest issues we face when it comes to the young people we service," said Niya Rechice, health educator for the Voices Program. "These young people mainly want society to accept them for who they are, not just to focus on the fact that they are transgender or non-conforming," she said. "You can be proud and trans and do whatever it is you want to do."
Rechice started her transgender journey at the age of 16 as a homeless youth who would receive street hormones from older transgender women. She ended up getting sick and learned about Howard Brown from another transgender woman. She then began as a participant in the programs, and from there she volunteered. Now that she has the opportunity to teach as a health educator, she's giving back and serving as the host of the Trans Media Fashion Show.
This is for a cause that doesn't only feel good, but it looks good, too.
"People have to understand that identity is critical," said Tony Long, CEO of Fashion Bar Chicago, a fashion strategy consultant company. "I think that is the most powerful thing that people can acquire in their lives." Some people don't even acquire that, they just follow the system."
Long said that transgender people are oftentimes misunderstood and abused and this is why helping them at an early age is so important.
"When you think about identity, trans and trans youth are probably so much more significantly engaged in their lives, in their feeling sand who they are. I don't think a lot of people can understand it," said Long. "But the reality is embracing the identity and once you understand that identity that you have to offer society, fashion and beauty goes hand in hand. Are you really tapping into your identity? Or are you just following the societal process?"
Last year in February, Long said he woke up out of his sleep to three words that came into his mind. Those words were trans, media, and fashion.
"When those words came into my mind, it was viewing trans, through media, in fashion."
Interestingly enough, Long clearly saw how fashion and transgender youth intersect. He saw it plain as day, and that birthed a great partnership with a very important message.
In an effort to share the message, these young people are models for a day. They are expressing and emphasizing on their beauty and what their transformation means to them.
The Douglas J. Aveda Institute in Chicago, 2828 N. Clark St., has joined the partnership, too, and will be handling the makeup of the models who will appear in the show that evening.
Lauren Cunningham, student services coordinator at Douglas J Aveda Institute, said, "This type of experience helps students receive hands-on experience. A fashion show is a different working environment for an emerging makeup artist."
Cunningham said that students from Aveda who are working the fashion show will not only walk away with the experience, but also be able to add this to their portfolios and network with models and other artists in the industry. Aveda will be including gift bags and giveaways at the show.
To register to attend the show, go to the Fashion Bar Chicago website at www.fbcheshows.com .
"Health is very important and health is wellness. It is ideal to be working with Howard Brown," said Long. "It's a perfect time to identify these youth when they come to Howard Brown to get the resources. What a good platform to take these individuals and put them in center stage."