Vivek Shraya is an author, a multi-media artist, and musician based in Toronto, CAN. Find Vivek’s work on her website or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Identifies as: Queer person of colour. Bisexual. Indian. Gender fluid.
Pronouns: She & He
How did fashion go from a small passion to a full-time gig?
Girl, fashion is always a full-time gig. I think sometimes fashion is dismissed as superficial, but fashion has always been a vital and creative way to express my identities. Something as “small” as wearing a bindi, for example, allows me to present a feminine gesture in spaces where wearing a skirt and makeup would not be safe, and an Indian gesture in white spaces.
Being out in fashion is very different from being out in most industries, can you talk a tiny bit about it?
Though I deliberately present more feminine in my style now, I don’t know that I have ever been not out in fashion. On some level, and despite my best efforts, I think I have always read as queer. This is why being out can be complicated. I never got to come out. I was told I was gay before I knew what it meant, and I was convinced that it was partly my style that had outed me. I paid more attention to how boys dress and changed how I dressed. This was just the beginning of my undoing. Being outed was very damaging and I wish I was given the choice and time to come out. I think this is important to remember, even amidst our justifiable hunger for more visibility.
It’s hard to find a style that really fits who you are when that isn’t reflected in mass media. How did you get to a place where the things you wore really reflected who you are and how you feel?
Not to sound trite, but I do think of style as a journey and not a destination. My relationship to style evolves, especially as my relationship to myself evolves. Thinking of style this way helps alleviate the pressure to feel as though my style should reflect me completely or that I should feel comfortable all the time. I don’t know if 100 percent comfortability is 100 percent possible for many people. In an ideal world, my style would always present my truest self, but in this world, style is often connected to safety. I love having bangs aesthetically, but sometimes I like having bangs so I have somewhere to hide behind. Nail polish is cool, yes, but sometimes I paint my nails as though they add a protective layer. Most days I don’t feel comfortable wearing what I would like to wear taking public transport. It does help to have friends as cheerleaders, especially any time I have taken gender-related risks. This has definitely bolstered my confidence.
Why do you think it’s important to be out, how has increased visibility helped you feel comfortable? How that has effected you, both negatively and positively?
I know how lonely a world with only one or two (white) out gay people looked and felt like. Being out has felt important as a way to present an alternate form of queerness: One that is brown, one that is bisexual, one that is gender fluid. I think it might be the other way around for me! The more I have grown comfortable with the word and identity of queer, the more I have reclaimed the adventurous attitude I had in relationship to style in my teenage years.
What do you think about Coming Out Day?
Coming out, especially on Coming Out Day, can feel like a lot of pressure. There are many reasons why coming out can feel unsafe and can be tied to certain privileges. Take your time. Know that coming out to yourself—being honest, kind, and patient with yourself—is way more important than coming out to the world.