By: Andre Cooper, Communications & Engagement Officer, Equality for All Foundation

What if people finally accepted that clothing has no gender? If only our boys could wear colourful rainbow shirts, crop tops, dresses without feeling that they are different or outcasted for dressing “like a girl”. Our girls could dress in the most masculine styles and fashions without society painting them as “tomboys”.
However, the bigger issue is why we even need to distinguish gender using material things, but that’s a discussion for another time. Fashion has always served to convey stories through dress and express new ideas, including individual liberty, equality and representation, especially for marginalised communities. Because of this, fashion plays a critical role in social movements. For Emani Edwards, trans activist and creative director, fashion is an advocacy tool she uses to support Jamaica’s LGBT community.

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Emani’s fashion challenges existing power structures that keep LGBT people marginalised. Her fashion espouses the realities and challenges that many LGBT Jamaicans encounter daily.
Emani’s journey started in 2019 when she first worked with TransWave JA and gained greater knowledge and acceptance of her trans identity. The knowledge she collected elevated her innate enthusiasm to become a beacon of hope and positive change for the trans and non-binary community in Jamaica.
“Since I started with TransWave JA, I have learned so much and I’m still learning,” Emani shared with J-FLAG in an interview.
Emani has been honing in on the art of creating compelling content and telling immersive stories that immediately snags our interest. Through this creative channel, she has managed to open up a whole new world of creativity and paved a positive outlook for LGBT Jamaicans.

 

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“I want to combine my interest in Fashion with my desire to do something positive for Trans people. I use my work to give visibility to marginalized groups, especially the Trans non-binary community. In Jamaica, it’s my experience that most people have a traditional view of gender roles, so they think men are supposed to be masculine and women feminine. My work is about challenging those stereotypes,” the fashion stylist shared with us.
“I want my work to act as a legacy for up-and-coming creative from marginalized groups, to make it easier for them to access resources and make connections. I hope I’ll help them to continue the work.” she continued.
Through Emani’s activism as a trans creative director, she has managed to grace several international media covers, including her latest appearance in the British Council. The British Council is the United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. Through this, Emani’s representation of the local community has signalled hope and positive change for a community that was once relegated to inferiority.

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“ I have received (international) collaborations with other LGBT artists and creatives. I have been contacted by my local trans community who reached out with words of congratulations and well wishes. I have been blessed to be exposed to continue to create and amplify the talents of the Jamaican LGBT Community,” she said.
“Everyday we are reminded that we are brave, because we not free. I need to see light shine on the LGBT Creative Community in Jamaica that have been overlooked and undervalued. Within the spaces we create for ourselves, we have learned one thing…to always be creative. Jamaican LGBT creatives are breaking barriers in Fashion, style and when it comes to visibility and Activism, our community must be included,” Emani said.
Fashion and style tends to be built around two structures: Men’s and Women’s. It’s the cliche that srurrounds us and infleunces our choices. Men are cultured to wear suits and women wear dresses; that’s how it “should be”. But this isnt the reality for many LGBT people and Emani is here to show the world the feminine side of masculinity.
If you’re wanting to explore different types of clothing, go for it ;switch up your style and do what makes you happy. Dont let the fear of other people’s judgement hold you back. Be yourself and wear what you want.

 

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