The queer community is a truly amazing one in many ways, but it is not always as inclusive as you might think. Liam talks about the feeling of disconnection when you do not fit easily into either the 'straight' or the 'gay' community, and how Label provided a space for him to be most truly himself. Many of us do not feel that we fit completely in any one place, and that labels can never capture our experience in its entirety. Liam shows us all what positive self expression really means - get excited to see him at our fashion events!
As a project, Label means a great deal to me and it always has. I was ecstatic to see a genuine, student-led project exploring the diversity of identities in a place as seemingly homogenous as St Andrews when I entered the university last year. My experience as a member of the Joint Degree Programme between St Andrews and the College of William & Mary in the States designates a certain level of transience and uprootedness in my time at uni.
Therefore, in many ways, I found Label to be a safe space in an entirely new social and academic environment in which I faced internal class tension, anxiety as a foreigner, and incredible uncertainty at every turn. I valued its intent to highlight unique voices that may be marginalized within the local community, especially since I felt different and excluded here.
Beyond Label’s meaning as a welcoming space, I appreciate its emphasis on eliminating labels if you choose to, while also offering opportunities to embrace labeling. For me, identifying as queer is vital to my being. We are often conditioned to inform others as we come out that our sexuality is not important to who we are because that stance would neutralize our threat to heterosexual cultural hegemony.
Now, I refuse to overlook how important the LGBTQ+ community is to my personal development and expression. Being gay is a part of me and central to my collective identity. In this space, I am allowed to demonstrate and even celebrate my sexuality in all its complexity publically, without deviating from who I am.
Unfortunately, this level of affirmation cannot be found everywhere, including gay spaces. Queer men frequently face an exceptional amount of prejudice and bias regarding their sexual orientation from family, friends, authority figures, classmates, colleagues, and even strangers. Therefore, when able to leave those potentially harmful environments, gay and bisexual men can sometimes reconstitute closed communities for themselves with systems of hierarchy and tight entrance requirements when given exclusionary power.
Thin or muscular body types, traditionally handsome, masculine, cisgender, young, white- all of these characteristics are heralded as the only forms of queer male beauty available in mainstream gay media. This dynamic can be understood through discriminatory dating patterns, as seen by common phrases like “no fats, no femmes,” “masc4masc” (denoting an allegedly “masculine” man seeking interaction only with men deemed masculine), or racialized caricatures such as “no spice, no rice, no blacks” on Grindr profiles across the world from West Hollywood to university campuses.
Though I fit some of these cruel categories, I am certainly not thin, built, or big enough to be anything but ignored in most gay spaces. Many men think pointing out the cheapness or humor of my fashion choices is appropriate or even flirty when it is really just classist and stereotyping because I may not have financial access to chic clothing or the interest in appearing like everyone else.
I am neither “masc” nor “femme” but somewhere in between, a complicated line to straddle as a gay man seeking camaraderie and joy within the queer community. I cannot be comfortable and accepted in the majority of the gay world, but Label offers me a chance to explore my personal version of beauty without judgment.
The combination of social pressure from gay and straight sources inspired me to model for Label.
I want to show everyone who has doubted that a man like me could be beautiful and charismatic, that I can confidently pummel the runway like a supermodel or a linebacker for all to see.
I want to show everyone who has questioned my fashion sense that I don’t need your cash or marketed aesthetics to express my unique personality.
I want to show everyone who has expressed disgust at my chubby stomach, hairy chest, or high hairline that I am stunning and sexy, regardless of whether they can take in my flawlessness.
I want to show everyone that has ever thought of me as weak how strong I truly am and how much I have overcome to get here.
I want to show everyone who I am, unequivocally and without reservation, and I cannot wait to do just that through Label’s platforms.