Queer people of color have been pushing the envelope of fashion long before Styles put on his first skirt.
As photos from former One Direction member's cover with Vogue emerged online, folks could not stop talking about how Harry Styles had made history by being the first man to grace the cover of the iconic fashion magazine. However, for queer people of color, the praise seemed misplaced. Of course, a White cis boy putting on a skirt is "revolutionary." For them, it was, instead, erasure. Though Styles himself acknowledged that the "seismic changes of 2020," such as the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, were an opportunity to "learn and listen," there was no mention of how he could have passed the mic to a queer person of color.
One simple search on Twitter is enough to see the glorification of Styles: "Harry Styles' Vogue cover is everything!" "He's breaking down so many barriers!" However, once you cut through the noise, you really see how his cover was an act of invisibilisation. As one Twitter user pointed out, "Okay, I’m happy to see Harry Styles on the cover of Vogue and all but even if this generation isn’t familiar with Prince, how are you [all] forgetting Jaden Smith? He’s been doing this sh*t since 2010... Also, OF COURSE, shout outs to Frank Ocean too."
Styles admits in his Vogue interview, "I think it’s a time for opening up and learning and listening. I’ve been trying to read and educate myself so that in 20 years I’m still doing the right things and taking the right steps. I believe in karma, and I think it’s just a time right now where we could use a little more kindness and empathy and patience with people, be a little more prepared to listen and grow." Well, it might be time to grow out of your cover and make some space for those who have been bending the gender binary through fashion for several decades now.
Not only does glorifying Styles' cover put him on a pedestal he does not deserve, it erases the violence that queer people of color experience for doing the exact same thing. As Black drag queen Alaska Thunderfuck noted in a recent episode of Race Chaser, "For us as queer individuals, this is life or death." The drag star was referring to the recent Presidential elections in the United States, but that is the price queer folks of color pay for simply being themselves. Meanwhile, White, cis Styles gets to prance around a field and flaunt his freedom under the guise of "breaking stereotypes." Vogue, next time, please just... Do better.