Come As You Are – Pride Feature with Lydia Okello
To honour Pride month, we’re raising funds and sharing just a few of the special stories from the LGBTQIA+ members of our community. This month, and every month, we’re seeking to listen to and amplify those who celebrate equality without exception.
If you’ve been around here for a minute, you’ll remember Lydia Okello – a non-binary model, fashion lover and digital content creator that we are grateful to have in our community. We spoke with Lydia about Pride, the joys of getting dressed, and creating spaces that welcome everyone.
Who are you? What are your pronouns + how do you identify? What do you do?
I’m Lydia Okello, and my pronouns are they/them. I’m a fat non-binary content creator, as well as a writer and a model.
How do you ‘Come As You Are?’
For me, I think centering being true to myself, whatever that looks like is how I stay true to myself. It’s taken many years to feel like I can truly appreciate and accept myself in all my identities, and some days that’s still hard. Making space to acknowledge those emotions, as well as create space for folks to feel good about themselves is what I hope to achieve.
How does fashion and style help you express your identity?
It’s been a primary source of expression for me. My main creative outlet is getting dressed, and it’s a joy to get to present the version of me that exists in my head. Colour and form are also a way to tap into your emotions.
There’s a lot of work to be done in the industry for gender inclusive clothing, what is something you want brands doing more of?
I think there is a lot of unnecessary gendering of items — clothing is inherently neutral. I wish that more brands would be conscious of gendered language in their marketing; we don’t need to prescribe gender to items. People will shop for what they like — simple descriptors are more than enough.
Is there a cause that you feel particularly close to?
I try to center my work around fat acceptance and fat liberation. Fatphobia is rooted in racism and ablism, and I know those issues also affect a huge portion of the queer community. I want to see a world where fat folks are treated as equals, just as I want to see a world where queer & trans folks get to exist safely as they are.
What can allies do to better support the queer community?
Educate yourself & listen to queer stories, makers and artists. Learn about queer history in your city. Stand up for the queer folks in your life, even in scenarios where they aren’t in the room. Have those hard conversations with friends and family. Speak to people in your life who don’t understand why access to comprehensive, queer & trans informed healthcare is important. Who don’t get why the rights of queer & trans people needs to be protected and maintained. I think people who aren’t queer need to spend more time talking to one another and taking actions to support and improve life for queer folks.
What brings you joy?
Being with my friends and chosen family! Good food, laughter, snuggling my cat and my wife. Being around trees and moss. I love dancing and singing — it’s nice to see some of these things come back to group settings.
Could not agree more, Lydia! And can’t thank you enough for opening up with us. If any readers are interested in further supporting and celebrating Pride this month, we’re accepting donations at checkout to QMUNITY, a non-profit organization that works to improve queer, trans, and Two-Spirit lives in Vancouver, BC through community initiatives and collective strength.