She said she started working on the book six years ago and that it was originally going to be a queer style manual. But she then started the pandemic and read an article about how LGBTQ people were unable to receive gender-affirming and community care that would allow them to live and present themselves authentically. She pivoted the book to focus on the voices of LGBTQ people and to explore how queer people use clothing and style «as a tool for self-affirmation, as a tool for self-love, and as a tool for liberation,» Vita said.
Those themes became more pronounced as she interviewed people for the book and as state lawmakers introduced hundreds of bills targeting LGBTQ rights, including drag legislation and bills restricting LGBTQ-related content in schools.
For example, Van Bailey, a model who uses the pronouns «they» and «he» and is featured in the visibility section of the book, told Vita that «visual cues» help them find other queer people. when they are away from home. creates a sense of community.
“If I see other studs or queer people presenting themselves as masculine on a train or out there, I automatically perk up and say, ‘Hey, that’s my people,’” Bailey said. «Even though there’s all this anti-trans legislation, I can put on some clothes to fly or I have this new pair of J’s that make me feel good.»
Vita said that one of her favorite interviews was with Lisa Cannistraci, the owner of Henrietta Hudson, which is the oldest lesbian bar in New York City.
“What I really loved about Lisa’s story was that her parents always supported her with what clothes she wanted to wear, and that was such a moving story for me and it was a great example of how people can thrive if they don’t have to worry about being judged, intimidated or harmed by their own families,” Vita said.
He said his partner, Senka Filipovic, is also one of his favorite interview subjects, though Vita joked that he’s «a bit biased.» Filipovic, who came to the US as a refugee from Bosnia-Herzegovina, said in the book that her parents supported her in how she wanted to dress from an early age and let her «raid» her brother’s closet.
“My dad talked to my first grade teacher to let her know that this is how I choose to dress and that it wasn’t anyone’s responsibility to correct me,” Filipovic said. “It would really appeal to parents and their sensibilities about caring for their children, because what is most important to them? Is it what your friends think or is it really the happiness of your children? It’s as basic as that.»
Vita said the book’s central message is not just for queer people. She hopes to show people that clothing is genderless and that imposing rigid gender binaries or expectations on how people present themselves is harmful. She added that the problem is intersectional, noting that many states do not prevent discrimination based on a person’s hair texture or style (20 states have enacted laws that prevents such discrimination).
“All of these are really insidious ways of controlling the bodies and upholding patriarchal, colonialist white standards of how we are allowed to be,” Vita said.