In the Face of Trans Discrimination, Community Still Prevails: Origami Customs at Montreal Fashion Week

CEO Rae Hill in the Origami Customs fashion studio with employee

In the last two years, the LGBTQIA+ community has faced a growing wave of discrimination and anti-trans movements across North America. Right-wing commentators and lawmakers have targeted transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, framing them as threats to traditional values. Other people feel the need to rise to defend the rights of our marginalized and stigmatized group. These events have sparked heated debates, rallies, and protests, leaving many wondering about the state of LGBTQIA+ rights and acceptance. 

We talked about some of the things that happened to our community during Pride month in our blog about the loss of corporate support. Since then, as we’re sure many of you already know, things have not calmed down. This month in Canada there has been a surge of anti-trans protests and counter-protests.

The view from the Origami Customs shipping desk in the fashion studio in Montreal

What Was Happening During Montreal Fashion Week

Last week in cities across Canada, including our home of Montreal, a group known as "1 Million March 4 Children" organized rallies and protests against what they referred to as "gender ideology" in schools. They claimed that by educating kids about gender and allowing them to use things like preferred pronouns, schools were exposing children to inappropriate content about sexuality and gender identity. 

Despite claiming to protect children, these rallies primarily sought to suppress any information about trans and queer people, labeling it as harmful to children. The alarming commentary suggests a deliberate effort to ensure children remain unaware of the existence of transgender and queer individuals, and a villainization of our community.

In a show of support, counter-protesters also came out in force. In heated exchanges, they argued that religious beliefs and American influences are fueling hate and exclusion. It was emphasized that Canada had historically been one of the safest countries for LGBTQ+ individuals and expressed a commitment to maintaining this inclusivity. 

Origami Customs Pop-up shop in their Montreal studio for Fashion Week

Origami Customs During Fashion Week

It was odd and a little bit scary to be holding our event amid people in the city rallying against trans people. We were the only trans brand representing in Montreal Fashion Week, and our posters were all over downtown where the protests were being held. To add to our concern, we noticed that all the posters we put up in our building were torn down four times.

It’s hard not to feel a sense of fear about being out and proud in this political climate. It’s hard not to make yourself small and quiet to avoid the loudness and hatefulness of others. And we had to ask some questions about whether we should cancel our event for the safety of our community. It’s wild that we even had to think about that.

It’s completely acceptable for any individual to choose to not be out to protect their safety, and we want to advocate for people to do whatever is right for their situation. But we decided that even though we were feeling fear, we wanted to come together for our community. So we decided to host our event despite the violence occurring so close to our door. 

We want to be a place of support for people experiencing discrimination. We want to gather to remind each other that we are only asking for the same basic rights given to others: the right to be safe and free from violence, the right to be ourselves, the right to love, the right to receive basic amenities like jobs, housing, and health care without discrimination. And we want to remember that the rights we currently have were bravely fought for by those who came before us.

People visiting at the Origami Customs open studio event for Montreal Fashion Week

Origami Custom’s Open Studio Event at Fashion Week

We didn’t take what was going on without the seriousness it deserved. Members of our community reached out with practical game plans for things we could do if there was violence. We had a bouncer on standby, and our staff was told that they were allowed to ask anyone to leave at any time if they felt uncomfortable. And the trans people who came showed up for each other in solidarity and protection. 

Although we still felt the nerves of hosting this very public event, as soon as people showed up we were reminded why we do this. The fact is, the biggest enemy of fear is connection. As soon as people began to gather, we felt the relief and pure joy of the vibrance and beauty of our community. We were able to host a space where people could come in and relax amid a week of so much tension, and it was AMAZING.

CEO Rae Hill of Origami Customs chatting with a visitor to the Open Studio Event for Fashion Week

There was food, drinks, laughter, and great conversation. So many people participated in our photo booth contest for us and  Lord Violet  and captured their joy. Both Lord Violet and us had a pop-up shop where people got to try things on in person. There was a clothing mending workshop and studio tours. 

Our staff got to meet so many new people (now friends!) who came to make a personal connection with us. It was everything that we could’ve hoped for, both as individuals and as a company. It reminded us that, amid a climate that might make us fearful, the whole reason that we started this company was to support people. 

CEO Rae Hill of Origami Customs chatting with a crowd of visitors who came to the Open Studio Event for Fashion Week

Community is Always the Answer

This event was such a good reminder for us, that in the face of discrimination, the answer is always to come together. Direct community support plays a vital role in fostering unity, strength, and resilience. Events offer a safe space for individuals to come together, share experiences, and find solace in others who understand their struggles.

While these anti-trans protests and discrimination continue to pose a threat to the LGBTQIA+ family, it is essential to rally in support of our queer and trans community. By standing together, offering relief, and amplifying our voices, we can keep up the strength needed to work towards a more inclusive and accepting world.

CEO Rae Hill of Origami Customs chatting with a visitor to the Open Studio Event for Fashion Week

 You asked, Rae answered! Thank you to everyone who sent in their questions!

Want to find ways to support/do you need support? Check out our community programs!

Photos by Elio Choquette 

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