Fashion show highlights importance of safe spaces for LGBTQ Islanders

Jody Perry was one of many members of the Island LGBTQ community who took part in a fashion show Saturday in Summerside to highlight the importance of safe spaces.

It was put on by a consignment clothing store in the area called The Little Black Dress Co.

“I wanted to take part to show people that it’s OK to stand up and be who you are,” Perry said.

Perry said there isn’t much exposure for the LGBTQ community on the Island, and she’d like to see it grow.

“So that the younger people up in like the further areas of the Island that feel that they can’t be who they are know there are safe places to come to, and people who will support them,” she said.

There are no stores on the Island that are tailored directly to the LGBTQ community. Perry said people have looked at her strangely while shopping in men’s sections at some retailers.

“You get a lot of people talking about, ‘Oh my God, she’s shopping there.’ But really, it’s just we want to feel who we are and that should be OK.”

‘We just want to make it known that at Little Black Dress we invite everyone to look at our clothing,’ says owner Shawna Perry. (Tony Davis/CBC)

The situation Perry describes is part of the reason Shawna Perry, her sister-in-law and the owner of the store, wanted to put on the fashion show.

“Since we moved here last month we’ve been noticing a lot of customers come into our store, men who are looking in our women’s section and we notice women kind of browsing out men’s section,” Shawna Perry said.

“We just want to make it known that at Little Black Dress we invite everyone to look at our clothing.”

All inventory in the store is gender-free, Shawna Perry said. “This is a place that they can come and feel comfortable.”

Nicole Yeba was one of the models at the show. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Models at the fashion show wore looks that were both gender-neutral and went outside what some would call conventional gender norms.

It wasn’t just members of the LGBTQ community taking part in the event. Community allies did as well.

Nicole Yeba, who describes herself as an ally, was one of the models.

“I wanted to take part because I am really a huge fan of the LGBTQ community,” she said. “This is a cool way to … showcase and support the community for me.”

This suit was one of four looks Perry wore at the event. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Representation is a big reason Jody Perry took part in the event. She came out at 16 in a small community. She now lives near Charlottetown and has a career as a youth care worker.

“For me it has been my passion working with youth to let them know they can be their authentic selves. They have a lot of questions because they don’t always see those of different genders, and who identify as lesbian, bi, gay,” Perry said.

“For them to see people in their lives step forward, I think it gives them hope.”

The fashion show stayed within public health guidelines with capacity capped at 36 people.

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