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For Sef Loseo, Dressing Queer Is a Form of Activism

For Sef Loseo, Dressing Queer Is a Form of Activism

Why queer content creator Sef Loseo continues to advocate for letting boys be feminine

 

 

In the mid-2010s, amidst a very straight style landscape of normcore looks and sneakerhead culture, several queer figures rose and provided the LGBTQIA+ community with fabulous, fabulous representation. In 2016, James Charles became the first spokesperson for CoverGirl. Bretman Rock captivated the world with his sickening makeup looks and quick-witted quips, while Jonathan Van Ness served their singular brand of glowing non-binary chic on every episode of Queer Eye. The message was clear: to be queer was beautiful.

 

RELATED: The Rise of Queer Fashion: Celebrities Who Embraced Fluid Fashion this 2023

 

In the local scene, influencer Sef Loseo made a name for themselves by dressing up in a distinctly queer way. Under the hashtag #letboysbefeminine, they weren’t afraid to post looks that heavily borrowed from womenswear, resulting in eye-popping outfits that slayed—hard.

 

Ahead, we speak to the content creator and creative director on how they express their queer identity through fashion, and why there’s so much more to being a “boy in a dress” than aiming to look good.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sef Loseo (@sefloseo)

Wonder: Do you remember the first time you wore something feminine in public?

Sef: Yes. I remember it was a pair of Zara boots. It was size 39, tapos size 41 ako. So pinilit ko siyang pagkasyahin at suotin. At hindi pa siya ganung kataas, parang mga three inches lang siya. (It was size 39, and I’m a size 41. So I really forced myself to fit into them. And they weren’t that high, they were only about three inches high.) But it was so liberating. And after that night, my feet were bleeding! But I felt so happy to be able to wear those shoes.

 

W: What was so liberating about dressing in a distinctly queer way?

S: It really started with my experiences growing up. I grew up in a household full of women. From my grandmother to my little sister, I was surrounded by feminine energy. My mom, mahilig siya magheels. So nung bata ako, siyempre ‘di pa ako out, pero sinusuot ko ‘yung mga heels niya! (My mom loves wearing heels. So when I was a kid, of course, I still wasn’t out, but I’d wear her heels!)

 

As an adult, I feel like I'm doing it for the kid in me. And I think it really opened me to a wider view when it comes to fashion. I took the first step. And then after the boots, palalim na siya ng palalim (it got deeper and deeper). And then I wore a skirt, and then a dress, and then makeup!

 

Every time I go out wearing what I want to wear, it feels like an everyday protest, and a reminder to everyone that we exist, that we are here, ready to take up space.

 

W: What moved you to create #letboysbefeminine and make it an online movement?

S: When everyone started posting their outfits online, I started following what everyone else was doing. But it didn't feel right, eh. May kulang talaga. So, napaisip ako talaga na, hoy, ano ba talaga roots ko? Ay, baka effem ako. So I decided to embrace that.

 

(When everyone started posting their outfits online, I started following what everyone else was doing. But it didn't feel right. Something was missing. So, I thought to myself, what are my roots? Ah, maybe I’m femme. So I decided to embrace that.)

 

Back in 2016 to 2017, there weren’t much femme gay fashion content creators when I started #letboysbefeminine. Back then, a boy in a dress was looked at as something funny. So sabi ko, Ay hindi, simulan na natin ngayon.” (So I said, “Nope, let’s change that now.”) No one else was doing it, and I wanted to own who I am. No shade, but everyone else was posting the same outfits. So for me, why not go against the grain, no?

 

W: What is the best and worst thing about dressing feminine?

S: Let’s start with the worst. I had this experience right before the pandemic. Hinabol ako sa Cubao ng taong may hawak ng dos por dos. Before it happened, tinatanong niya ako: “Bakla ka ba? Bakla ka ‘no!” Siyempre kahit naririnig ko siya, naglalakad lang ako, dedma. Tapos, nakikita ko na sa peripheral view ko na bumibilis na ‘yung lakad niya. Pag lingon ko, may hawak siyang kahoy. Tumakbo na lang ako, as fast as I can. Pumasok ako sa ukayan na may guard sa labas. Tapos ayun, umalis siya.

 

(I was chased in Cubao by a stranger holding a plank of wood. Before it happened, he was asking me: “Are you gay? You’re gay, aren’t you!” Of course, even though I could hear him, I just ignored him and kept walking. But then, I saw from my peripheral view that he started running after me. When I looked back, he was holding a piece of wood. So I ran, as fast as I could. I entered a thrift shop with a guard outside. After that, he left.)

 

After that happened, every time I went out, I’d bring an extra jacket and extra shoes that weren’t heels. I had to “queer-proof” myself. I kept thinking, what if there wasn’t a thrift shop? What if there was no security guard? What would have happened to me?

 

Owning yourself is a dangerous thing, especially if it isn't socially acceptable.

 

W: We're sorry to hear that you experienced that

S: That’s the negative side of being a “boy in a dress.” It will really scare people who are not yet ready. Ang nakakaloka is, hindi siya bago. (The crazy thing is, this isn’t new.) It really happens. ‘Pag nagtanong ka sa mga ibang pa-girl, may mga stories din sila. (If you ask other femme gays, they have their own horror stories.) Owning yourself is a dangerous thing, especially if it isn't socially acceptable.

 

W: How about the best thing about dressing feminine?

S: So my little sister, one time she brought home friends from school. Tapos, sinabi niya sa akin: “Kuya, finofollow ka pala ng friend ko!” (Then suddenly, she told me: “Kuya, my friend follows you!”) He was around 11, he knew he was gay, and na-iinspire daw siya sa akin (he would get inspired by me). Because of my posts, nagkaroon daw siya ng idea kung sino siya (he gets an idea about who he really is). When I was 11, confused na confused ako kasi wala naman akong masyadong nakikita na representation (I was confused because I didn’t really see much representation of who I was). And to be able to be that person for a friend of my sister’s, ang ganda (it’s beautiful).

 

Doon ko na-realize na ‘di lang ako umaoutfit for nothing. Every time na bumabalik ‘yung takot, iniisip ko na lang ‘yung mga ganitong moments. (That’s when I realized that I don’t just dress up for nothing. Every time I get scared, I think of these moments.) Every time I go out wearing what I want to wear, it feels like an everyday protest, and a reminder to everyone that we exist, that we are here, ready to take up space. The power of visibility can never be underestimated.

 

RELATED: Converse Encourages Everyone to Say They’re #ProudToBe

 

W: Do you then think that #letboysbefeminine is, in its own way, a form of activism?

S: Yes. It's a protest to live the way you are, to unapologetically embrace something considered a negative trait by society. It's a protest, it's a big “fuck you” to the heteronormative world.

 

It’s funny to me that when straight men dress queer, they get praised. But when an actual queer person does it, we get ridiculed. Why?

 

W: In recent years, it became trendy for straight men to dress femininely. Think Harry Styles, or boys with their painted nails, pearl necklaces, skirts, etc. As a queer person who has been put in danger for doing the same, how does this make you feel?

S: Mixed, eh. For example, Harry Styles has such a big platform, and the way he dresses reaches a wider audience. So it really opens up more eyes na uy, pwede pala ‘yon (oh, that’s possible). But on the other hand….am I a costume? Am I just another trend or aesthetic that will just come and go? If the media really wants to disrupt the system, hire queer people. It's not enough that we're on your mood board. Hire us. It’s funny to me that when straight men dress queer, they get praised. But when an actual queer person does it, we get ridiculed. Why?

 

RELATED:  Harry Styles’ Style Evolution

 

W: Let's move on to something a little more fun! How would you describe your personal style?

S: Right now, my personal style leans towards grunge; Vivienne Westwood-meets-Marc Jacobs. Very British fashion, a lot of plaid, anything with prints na hindi ko akalain na gusto ko pala kasi dati takot ako (which I never thought I’d be into because it used to scare me). But now, floral plus plaid plus stripes….who is she?! I'm also navigating my turn as creative director, so it really speaks to who I am: stronger and more mature.

 

W: Off the top of your head, what are your all-time favorite outfits?

S: Oh, I loved what I wore to Metro Manila Pride in 2019. It's the blue butterfly sleeves, with a big ribbon. Sobrang ulan that time at sobrang dilim, tapos kitang-kita ako sa blue! Kahit umuulan, hindi bumabagsak sleeves ko! (It was really dark and rainy that day, but I stood out in  blue! Despite the rain, my sleeves didn’t fall!) Oh my god, I felt so beautiful that day.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sef Loseo (@sefloseo)

 

S: I liked my camo bikini; my take on the usual soldier look. Very Survivor by Destiny's Child. It's the first time I wore something so hubad (naked) in public, but I love it because it's so genderfuck. You're a soldier, but you're in a bra and heels. When I think of what to wear to events, I want to wear something that makes people go, “What the fuck?” I still want to inject a little masculine energy, but mostly feminine. So it really leaves an impression.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sef Loseo (@sefloseo)

 

W: Who are your favorite queer style icons?

S: Law Roach, top of mind. Billy Porter, Lil Nas X, David Bowie. Honestly, Meme Vice [Ganda]! I love her Showtime looks. It's always so street, so casual, but it's queer. I think queer aesthetics have become so mainstream, it gets really editorial or elevated minsan (sometimes). So I like really casual queer looks.

 

W: Has anyone ever reached out to you regarding the impact #letboysbefeminine had on them?

S: There was this one person who came out to his parents by just showing them my photos. With older people, they don’t know that the gays can thrive in different fields. So this guy showed my profile to his mom. “Ma, look at this queer person, they're thriving!” And he told me, his mom was able to understand him better. Nashook ako. (I was shook.) Like wow, I'm really out here helping people come out to their parents pala. Eh, nag-o-outfit lang naman ako! (But I just want to dress up!)

 

RELATED: Young, Proud and Free: 10 Queer Creatives Who Take Up Space

 

From its beginnings as a savvy strategy to set themselves apart from other style influencers, Sef realized that #letboysbefeminine helped them not only own and embrace their queer identity, but uplift the local LGBTQIA+ community in terms of representation. We stan this impeccably dressed activist queen!

 

 

Photos Sef Loseo on Instagram

Words Jer Capacillo

Art Matthew Ian Fetalver

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