On a warm Friday morning in late April, I arrived at the office of one of my favorite companies, the Fashion Institute of Technology, to meet with a new colleague.
The conversation quickly turned to her love of rainbow fashion.
I could barely contain my excitement to learn that she was a member of the LGBT community, a statement that immediately triggered my curiosity about her work.
We were introduced to each other by our shared love of fashion, and we were quickly introduced to a new trend.
The two of us, we would soon be friends.
“We love the rainbow,” I said to her, “and it’s just such a beautiful thing.”
The following day, my coworker was a little surprised that I had introduced her to a company with such a passionate interest in the LGBT+ community.
She was shocked to learn about the history of the fashion industry, and how much of its work has been dedicated to diversity.
Her response was simple: “You know, I’m not a fashion expert.”
“Why would you be?”
“Because I’ve never been to a store that sells anything by a designer who is a member and a supporter of the gay community,” she replied.
This is the kind of conversation that is missing in the world of fashion.
As the world has evolved and the gay rights movement has grown in prominence, so has the visibility of gay designers and brands, including the LGBTIQ community.
As a gay person myself, I know firsthand that visibility of LGBTIQ designers and businesses has been extremely important to my business.
When I came out to my husband and kids at the age of 28, I was able to purchase my first pair of shoes from an LGBTIQ boutique, and now that I am a parent of two, I am able to buy and wear all kinds of fashionable shoes for my family and friends.
I would like to believe that my fellow designers and fashionistas in the industry are out there for me, too.
It is my hope that our newfound understanding of the world around us will lead to a more inclusive workplace and society.
It also makes me feel a bit less alone.
A quick Google search shows that a lot of the businesses I work with are supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, with a significant number of their employees being LGBT+ themselves.
The fashion industry has always been a very diverse place, with so many different types of people represented in the workforce, but for the most part, it is safe to say that LGBT+ people are in the majority of the workforce.
I am fortunate to be able to work with people of all walks of life, so it is only fitting that I would start my career as a transgender man and work as a fashion designer in the fashion community.
I love working in the creative and artistic industries, and it is incredibly rewarding to have my career recognized and supported by so many people of so many races, genders, and ethnicities.
It feels like a victory to know that my work will help others like me to find happiness in the work we do.
I want to thank my friend and fellow designer, Stephanie, for sharing her story with me.
You can read more about Stephanie at www.stephaniewalsh.com.
Follow Stephanie Walsh on Twitter: @StephanieWalsh.