The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Forget What You've Been Told About Gender & Clothing At This LGBTQ Fashion Show

By Chicagoist_Guest in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 29, 2016 7:50PM

By Tony Boylan

A group of Chicagoans looking to raise money to mount an all-nude show featuring members of the transgender / genderqueer / intersex / non-binary community have come up with an ironic fundraising solution: A fashion show.

The Express Yourself Gala and Fashion Show, Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. at the Crystal Ballroom and Lounge in Evanston, will feature clothing designs from local artists intended to shatter the lines between gender and clothing.

“Because the show we’re raising money for is a nude show, we thought it would be fun to do fundraiser that’s about clothing,’’ said Anna Rose Il-Epstein, the producer of Express Yourself. ‘’We wanted to explore what 'trans fashion' or 'gender-neutral fashion' was.’’

Express Yourself will raise money to stage [Trans]formation, a performance art production which runs Nov. 17 through Dec. 17 at The Vault at Collaboration Studios in the Flat Iron Arts Building. Sunday’s event will be hosted by Dirty Devlin of Vaudezilla and Ryan Tang of The Fly Honey Show and feature preview performances from artists in [Trans]formation as well as a raffle, silent auction and cash bar.

[Trans]formation is a collaboration between theater groups Nothing Without a Company and The Living Canvas, a company that performs nude shows with light projections on the actors. Six creators wrote a script they wanted to be performed by trans community members, and then applications were taken from around the country for performers. The show was then cast from the applicants and incorporated individual performances in a variety of arts from the selected cast members.

For the people behind both productions, this is a way to increase awareness of trans issues on both a small and large scale. On the heels of major strides in LGBT civil rights in recent years and the increasing representation of transgender people in the media, members of the trans community want to capitalize on that momentum.

‘’What I hope comes out of it is just the awareness. It’s a bit of a moment for trans awareness for our country and in our politics,’’ said Ronen Kohn, 30, a Chicago-based musician and one of the show’s creators and performers. “It’s happening so quickly, so there is a need for us to do our best to keep up with it and make sure our voices are the ones telling the stories.’’

Kohn and all the people behind [Trans]formation hope to make progress for the community, but they’d also like to take some of the stress and frustration out of their daily lives, having to explain themselves to people with a binary-gender mindset.

“I’m constantly coming out—I don’t ever get a rest with that,’’ said Avi Roque, 26, an actor, artist and educator who identifies as Latinx, acknowledging both a non-binary gender and a pan-Latin heritage. Roque is one of the original collaborators of [Trans]formation and will perform a piece called ‘’Transformation and Expression through Rasas.’’

‘’Everyone has an opportunity to create their own way of identifying. There is no cookie-cutter way of identifying people,’ Roque said.