Project Genderway: Fashion show that's out and proud
MANILA, Philippines - They're out and proud. Models at the Project Genderway fashion show at UP's Palma Hall emerged from the erratic glare of strobe lights symbols of LGBT pride.
Dressed in avant garde outfits created by fashion technology students and professional designers, the models proudly strutted their stuff to a euphoric audience.
Typical fashion shows fall into categories like menswear and womenswear, but this show held on June 28 celebrated diversity among the sexes. Men, women, lesbian, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals–a virtual rainbow of modern humanity–trailblazing on the runway.
The show was part of UP Pride Week 2013. Rod Singh, organizer of the event and president of Babaylan, UP's premiere LGBT advocacy group, said Project Genderway aims to promote freedom of gender expression.
"The stereotype now is, we are judged based on how we express ourselves. We're done talking about gender orientation and gender identity. Now, we want to promote gender expression through fashion. How we dress is a symbol of our gender expression regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity," he said.
The show consisted of 3 parts. The first two featured the designs of MEGA Young Designers' Competition winners Renan Pacson and Mara Chua who are also UP Babaylan alumni.
The last part showcased creations from UP clothing technology students.
More than 20 models–members and friends of participating orgs–walked down the runway accompanied by music from the UP Music Circle. They represented not only their gender identity but different body types as well. Not all of them were the stick-thin, long-legged models seen on typical catwalks, because Project Genderway was also a celebration of "real" beauty and the confidence to be yourself, whether or not you fit in conventions.
Singh, with his bleach blonde hair and sky-high heels, perfectly lives up to the Dr. Seuss saying he quoted.
"Why fit in when you're born to stand out? Right now, we're making a statement that every person should not conform to the 'normal' conventions of sexuality. We should stand out. I think it's a sign of empowerment."
Empowered is one way to describe the LGBT community in the state university. Majority of UP students accept LGBTs, says Singh, who attributes this to LGBT representation in mainstream media and more student leaders advocating fair treatment and equal rights.
Last year, Babaylan member Gabriel Paolo "Heart" Diño was elected president of the UP Student Council. She is succeeded this year by Alex Castro.
"Right now, our call is: live free, you are safe in UP," said Singh. "We are declaring that UP is a safe space because we want to encourage our LGBT brothers and sisters to treat UP as their comfort zone. In general, UP respects diversity."
The fashion show was held amid the global predominance of LGBT concerns in the arts and in public affairs, from the legalization of gay marriage in France in May to the US Supreme Court's rejection of the anti-LGBT Defense of Marriage Act.
It was Singh himself who closed the fashion show, strutting gazelle-like in stretchy grey jodhpurs, a jeweled vest and camel laced-up high-heeled booties. At the end of the runway, he threw his arms into the air in a gesture of freedom.
Here are Rappler's exclusive photos from the event: