Fashion Forward: How the Fashion Industry Paved the Way for LGBTQ+ Acceptance

The term “fashion-forward” is apt in more ways than one: not only is the fashion industry the center of all things fresh and new in terms of clothing, shoes, and accessories, but attitudes in general across the board have always been extremely progressive. The fashion world continues to be a place of acceptance where designers like Dolce & Gabbana and others from all walks of life, representing all sexualities and gender identities, can express themselves freely and creatively without the crushing weight of oppression. So why is it that this industry – as opposed to other spaces in society – has always been so welcoming for those who do not necessarily conform to a strictly cisgender and/or heterosexual lifestyle?

The answer seems to be quite simple: designers, models, celebrities, and influencers do not find it a challenge to be accepting of others, no matter what their differences may be. The word “acceptance” is thrown around a lot when discussing the treatment of those in the LGBTQ+ community, but in truth, this word implies that being gay or transgender is somehow abnormal and requires effort to “accept.” This is a long-outdated and heteronormative attitude – accepting someone for who they are is simply the behavior of a person who has respect for others. It really is that simple. Acceptance is merely the decent and natural thing to do. The reality is that we live in a world full of diverse, interesting human beings, and that has always been the case.

So how does fashion fit into all this? Gay, transgender, and genderfluid individuals have long been some of fashion’s brightest shining stars. From extraordinary talents like Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, co-founders of esteemed brand Dolce & Gabbana, to the iconic designer Giorgio Armani, fashion is filled with diverse personalities and people – and that’s part of what makes it such an exciting, explosive industry. When you open the doors to everyone, you get to reap the rewards of all the incredible talent that can possibly be expressed. Inclusivity, it would seem, paves the way for greatness.

While fashion has always remained a bastion of acceptance for anyone who cares to enter the industry, other types of businesses remain staunchly mired in old-fashioned attitudes and discriminatory ways. The corporate workspace in general has a long way to go before LGBTQ+ individuals feel safe and comfortable disclosing their own truths that don’t line up with the heteronormative narrative. However, there has been a recent shift leading toward laws that move against this kind of discrimination in the workplace. More and more people are becoming LGBTQ+ allies and rallying for gay and transgender rights in the corporate world. Society is becoming more comfortable with things such as non-standard pronouns – a subject that has been hotly debated and stubbornly resisted for many years. This is a long-awaited and welcome change for those who identify as trans, non-binary, or genderfluid, but the industry still has a long way to go.

So how can we make a significant and lasting change that will come sooner rather than later? It all comes back to outstanding examples set by the fashion industry as a whole. Rather than insisting that people hide their true selves and conform to dated societal norms, we must acknowledge the reality of the world we live in. That world is not populated only with straight individuals, but with many people who exist in a beautiful spectrum of different sexual and gender identities. The sooner we embrace this truth, the sooner we can enjoy the brilliance of talented people who might otherwise choose to conceal their truths to avoid ridicule or discrimination. It’s an amazing world, made up of individuals who are all unique. It’s time we receive this truth with enthusiasm and compassion.