GenderChill: First all-inclusive fashion show

The inaugural GenderChill all-inclusive fashion show was held late last month at the University of Miami, bringing together different types of people to celebrate gender diversity and body positivity, all while helping a cause.

GenderChill, which benefited Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays South Miami, was organized by GradOUT, a University of Miami LGBTQ graduate organization. Designers such as Toni Marlow and Maria Tokareva provided outfits for the student models to wear down the runway.

Throughout the evening students also performed spoken-word poetry about their experiences coming out and being a part of the LGBTQ community, as well as a two-song performance from a University of Miami a cappella group, BisCaydence.

The March 27 show, which lasted around two hours, showcased different genders, races and body shapes. Jess Osborn, the chair of GradOUT, said her organization spent the last two years planning this event.

“This was a lot about gender diversity and the capability of working together with different types of people from different backgrounds,” she said.   

After a dance down the runway, Sasha Baranov, the policy co-chair at GradOUT, told the audience that this event was a safe space for people within the LGBTQ community, who may feel alone, to come together.

“Eighty percent of our youth who are LGBTQ feel isolated, and that’s what this is about. It’s about telling younger generations and the older generation that they are welcome, that they belong and it’s important that they are here,” said Baranov.

In addition,  the nearly 200 attendees were encouraged to donate $15 to PFLAG South Miami, an organization which helps people come out to their families. Member Jeffrey Solomon said that the money raised at the event would help with community outreach and for the group to have representation at the National PFLAG Convention in Kansas City, Missouri.

The organization also hopes to use some of the money to invest in a float for the upcoming Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade, said Solomon.

“We participate in the Gay Pride Parade every year,” said Solomon. “The club members would love to have a float, and we would use a few dollars to put a float out in the parade.”

Outside the fashion show, multiple organizations had tables, such as the LGBTQ Student Center University of Miami. Among those tabling was Sammie Zenoz, a photographer and writer at Queer Impressions, a photojournalist blog that tells real-life LGBTQI stories. She said the fashion show was a way to recognize the variety of people in the community.

“It’s a celebration of people’s identities and their diversity and their exploration of their gender,” she said.

The acronym LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning. In addition to these letters an “I” is sometimes added to the end to represent the intersex portion of the community.

At the end of the night, when the music stopped and people left the ballroom, Osborn said she hoped to make this an annual event.


Originally from Auckland, New Zealand, Imogen Francis now studies journalism at Florida International University. She was a staff news writer at the student newspaper PantherNow and has experience writing about the LGBTQ community, women's rights and politics.