My definition of queerness is that which is outside the confines of mainstream American Heteronormativity and (white) male-dominated society. You do not have to be Transgender, Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Pan, A-Sexual, Demi-sexual, etc to be queer.
I often fantasize about queer unification. So often the alphabet soup of the LGBTIQQA+ is grouped and lumped together as if we were all fighting for the same rights and privileges, as if we were one group working together to make a better tomorrow for all of us, when in reality we are many disparate groups of people often fighting against one another to be seen and recognized by the greater society.
In most cases, culture is the collection of traditions, values, and forms of expression of people from a geographic location in the world or it is an ethnicity shared by a group of people. But in the queer community what brings us together is our queerness, not our geography or ethnicity (although race is still a divisive factor in the queer community).
To support and encourage queer culture through fashion, I envision a store that is dedicated to the following vision:
This clothing store and cultural center will give customers and members of the community something they cannot get online: the feeling of a uniquely queer space- a welcoming refuge- a place to celebrate queerness through fashion, culture and other forms of self and community expression.
In my mind, queer fashion and self-expression can be a way to fuse us (queer people) together. We may not have a collection of foods we can call our own but we have fashion, music, design, film and other forms of art. These are some of the positive things that can bring the community together. This store will serve as a refuge from the daily oppression LGBT+ people experience. We have an opportunity in a free market society to create business and brands that share our values and cradle us well as cultivate our shared culture and love of life.
I imagine a place similar to the business model of a Goodwill store but much more elevated. Like Goodwill, I’d like to see this space employee underserved or underemployed people from the queer community. People would donate their clothes (with limitations) to the store. In some cases regarding designer wears or more expensive one-of-a-kind pieces, the store could purchase some pieces. The store itself would have strong merchandising and be curated and refined, much like a boutique, but without being so expensive.
On staff would be a seamstress and a cobbler. As the store grows I’d hope to see some apprenticeships and opportunities for learning and knowledge-sharing. Ultimately, I’d like to have queer designers on staff, re-purposing and customizing clothing for queer clients.
Each month we will have runway shows or balls. There will be talks held and group meetings. While focusing on queer fashion, the space would also center around queer culture and different forms of queer expression and learning.
Next to find an affordable and accessible location to take up some space.
Through Boyd Park up the stairs and across rt 27 there is an abandoned walkway along the river. This walkway may have been abandoned by mainstream society but the day I walked down this path it seemed like a sanctuary for folks living a less “mainstream life”.
As my partner and I decided to walk the path we never knew we’d end up on a field trip to a different world. I decided not to take pictures of the family bathing and washing their clothes in the river, the artists painting the concrete walls or the mattresses placed under the underpass for shelter. Although these shots would have painted a clearer picture of the abandoned resources being used by folks living on the trail I felt it to be an invasion of privacy. Below are some images of trail and the art on the trail walls.
We are all interconnected. We all share this planet and the resources offered by it. I hope this trail continues to offer sanctuary for folks.
Yesterday I heard a story (or maybe it was a follow up to a story the a story I read that the World Bank put out in 2016) either way, it was a story about a dump turned into recycling facility in Rabat, Morocco. I thought it was an excellent example of how that world is changing. I went to business school for my undergrad and I’m sure if you’ve gone to business school you know that Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs comes up often. But does business even care about this model in a post-post Marshall Plan United States, where we are meant to work and consume without consideration for waste? With more sustainable plans and a more sustainable view of capitalism each person is a producer and a consumer no matter your class, which holds dignity, purpose, and much less waste.
According the the article by the BBC “The Scavenger Who Runs the Dump” Yassine Mazzout, began his tenure at the dumb in Rabat Morocco 14 years ago after he lost his father. When he was a teenager, he scavenged at the dump to provide support for his family. As a kid he felt there was no way out of this way of living. A way of living that felt inhumane. He spent hours each day outside in the blistering sun with no protection. He also had no rights - there was no guarantee he would make it out of the dump with his bounty. Gangs waited outside the dump at night to rob folks of what they had found.
In 2013, the Moroccan government set out with an initiative called Programme National des Déchets Ménagers (National Household Waste Program), where they have a goal of increasing the rate of recycling to 20% by the year 2020. The program has sought four World Bank Municipal Solid Waste Development Policy Loans (DPL).
Thanks to the National Household Waste Program, the dump that Yassine spent his childhood years collecting from is privately run. They have also co-sponsored a cooperative where the folks who used to be scavenging from the dump are now employed by the cooperative. Yassine is the president of this cooperative and explained that these people now have protective clothes to work in, they make a salary, and have health care provided by the co-op. About 150 members of the cooperative decide as a group who to sell the sorted waste to. Although some people make less than they were scavenging on their own they receive more support and more benefits today such as health insurance, access to a bank account and low mortgages.
The recycling cooperative doesn’t only help the folks working there but it helps the overall ecosystem of the surrounding community and in turn the world. In 2016, the World Bank noted that the workers extract about 2,200 tons of solid trash per year for resale and turned about 100,000 tons of green garden waste to compost. This significantly reduced the amount of waste that needs to be buried prolonging the lifespan of the site itself.
What’s significant to me about this program is that it represents government policy that has shaped the private sector for the better. Although there are socialist aspects to the overall recycling system in play here, it is a private company that owns the dump and the land. American’s need not be afraid of sustainability, especially if we aim for a type of sustainable capitalism.
Below I’ve added an image of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s easy to see that the dump, prior to the recycling initiative, only provided the people living off of the waste with their basic physiological needs. However, after the recycling initiatives were implemented the dump provides nearly all of a human being’s needs. This is good for business, the community, and the environment. At this point in our human evolution there is no good reason not to implement programs similar to the program in Rabat Morocco. It is just poor government policy that the U.S. doesn’t have similar goals for a less wasteful society - waste in the form of food, goods and most importantly human beings. Perhaps if we wasted human beings less there would be less need to hate, kill, and harm others.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs:
I am extremely passionate about sustainability, queer culture, fashion and environmental issues and their intersectionality with each other and business. I’ve spent the last 12 years working in the corporate world and I’m now dedicating myself to applying that knowledge to these passions. This blog is a space for me to explore these important issues and to start conversations with others.