“5 years ago today, I came out of the closet. Today, these are the clothes that came out of my closet.”
That mic-drop-worthy statement was brought to you by our latest #fashiontruth spotlight, Rye (who pointed out that she’d never actually drop a mic, because they’re very expensive!). Honest, eloquent moments are kind of Rye’s thing — she’s a stand-up comedian & writer by trade, and a long-time contributor to Style Gallery, ModCloth’s ever-evolving collection of community outfit pics. We always adore seeing Rye’s photos, but it’s her inspiring perspective that really has us floored.
Though originally from Ohio, Rye’s lived in both NYC and LA. In her own words, “I try to have new adventures or do things that scare me. That’s what my cross-country moves were about, and in a big way, my coming out as transgender. I’d started getting real open and honest onstage in my act, and one day I realized I couldn’t really be honest if I was living a lie. So I guess that’s what the most important thing is to me, living an honest, real life and not holding back. I waited years for someone to come along and tell me that it was okay to be myself before I finally realized that someone was me. That’s what fashion is all about for me — taking how you feel and using your style as an expression of that.”
The more we learned about Rye, the more we fell in love with her honesty, bravery, and sense of humor. Get to know her in our Q&A below, and scope out her favorite styles, including the All About Rye Dress! (And if you want even more, scope Rye’s blog, Chick Like Me, where you can find deets about her upcoming comedy album!)
How did you get into comedy? Who are your icons, and do you address LGBTQ issues in your act?
Comedy was something I knew I wanted to do all through my childhood, and then it kind of resurfaced again in my late teens. My first ever comedy role model was Steve Martin. He made me realize that being a comedian was a thing someone could do, like that it was a job. The first comic I ever saw live was Phyllis Diller, so that had a huge impact on me. At 19 I went to my first open mic and within a year I’d started getting some paid gigs and it just went from there for several years. Getting work when I could, writing up a storm. Eddie Izzard was very important in my own self acceptance and coming out as trans, and so was Ellen Degeneres in regards to the coming out part. I feel like her coming out made queer issues across the board something that got talked about publicly and not privately. At least in suburban Ohio.
I didn’t come out about being transgender till I was 27 though; basically that’s how old I was when I finally faced my fears about it and knew I couldn’t carry the secret of it, and was tired of feeling ashamed about it. My act had already started getting much more personal and honest and so coming out onstage seemed an obvious and necessary step. In general the audiences have been receptive, some occasional scary moments but overall I feel like if I can just get a few jokes out, I’ll be okay.
What are the most common, rude, strange or downright silly questions you get from people?
I think the downright most rude thing is when people flat out just ask me about my plans for transitioning, usually some variation on if I intend to have surgery or not, which is an extremely personal question if you break it down. It’s basically “So what’s up with your junk?” It’s also an issue because it puts an emphasis on specific treatments as being indicative of if someone is or isn’t ‘really’ trans. That can be a really dangerous attitude to run into for someone who’s just coming to terms with themselves or on the cusp of coming out.
Do you have a preferred pronoun? Do you think the English language (and others) should include a gender non-specific pronoun?
I prefer female pronouns. I think gender non-specific pronouns are great, and I advocate adjusting grammar snobbiness to allow for “they/them/theirs” to be used for gender neutral singular, but personally I’d rather go by the female stuff because that’s what feels right for me.
What’s one thing you would have people know about the trans community, or your own experiences as trans-identified person?
There isn’t one single driving narrative for transgender people. We come in a wide assortment of experiences and flavors and trying to force us all into one box of treatments or mentalities can be pretty destructive. Trans people, especially trans women of color, are severely targeted for violence and hatred, so there’s a great need for support, understanding, and compassion that is still sorely lacking. I think people need to let go of the idea that they have to fully understand trans identities in order to have support and compassion, but we’re literally dying while you try to figure it out.
In your blog you mention the concept of gender fluidity. What does that mean to you in general, and about your life in particular?
The way I view it is that it’s the approach of gender identity on a spectrum the same way sexuality is viewed on models like the Kinsey scale or Klein grid. Instead of viewing it as an argument of nature versus nurture, I tend to think of it as a complicated blend of the two. To me, it’s the idea that our identity isn’t a constant, but something that shifts and evolves through our whole lives, which I think is true outside of just gender. I find that to just be a good way to view life; it helps to roll with the punches and adapt to situations. More specific to me with gender identity stuff, I kind of view it as a way of acknowledging who I am at my heart — make no mistake, I’m a woman, but it’s about accepting the complications of my life, how I was raised, where I came from, as well as where I’m going.
We love your photos on Style Gallery. What was it like to submit for the first time?
I was looking for the featured blogger pages, and when I found the Style Gallery, I decided to see what would happen if I uploaded a picture. It took a couple of days to post, and I kind of felt defeated for a moment, like I’d been rejected — but then it posted, and I got really addicted to doing my OOTD shots. The Style Gallery did so much for me in regards to really gaining confidence to both assert my own style, as well as take risks and chances and draw inspiration. Everyone on there is doing so much fun stuff with their clothes, and it’s great to be part of that.
How would you describe your sense of style?
It evolves over time but I think right now my best way of describing it is a bit of a quirky or edgy twist on vintage. I love rockabilly-type stuff or circle skirts that have interesting prints on them. The two garments I currently get the most positive responses to are my Mewseum Visit Dress from ModCloth and my PacMan-themed circle skirt. I’ve noticed in the last year or so more and more of my skirts and dresses have fun prints. But when I’m kind of just looking for a more relaxed, chill look I shift into a more 90s vibe.
You’ve lived on both coasts and admit to having major wanderlust. What’s your dream destination, to visit or to live? If you could create the perfect place to ‘settle down,’ what would it be like?
My dream destination is the British Isles, especially Ireland and Scotland. I have a lot of Irish and Scotch-Irish blood on both sides of the family, and so I feel a calling to go there. But then my obsession with Doctor Who makes me want to go to Cardiff and London.
My perfect ‘settle-down’ destination would be somewhere with the totally progressive, welcoming vibes (and brunches) of Portland and a public transportation system equal to New York’s. Somewhere that I could get to nature quickly if I wanted to escape, but where I could live in a comfy city area with cafes, taverns, and grocery stores within walking distance. And with a Northern California climate, somewhere I can mostly wear tights and cardigans year round in comfort. Oh, and an airport I don’t have to jump through negotiation hoops with friends in order to get a ride to.
When that perfect place exists, Rye, we’ll meet you there for brunch.
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