Queering the Beach: Alia and Sugi interview Riis Beach!

Posted on Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

(**Some photos in this post are NSFW**)

To celebrate Marimacho’s Souvenir Collection, we took a trip to the beach.

Interview by: Alia Stavrand Woolf
Photos by: Sugi Salazar

Marimacho’s own Alia Stavrand Woolf and Sugi Salazar spent the day at Riis Beach in the Far Rockaways in Queens, New York to hear from folks about their experiences queering the beach. Gloria, Diane, Krystal, Dez, Heightz, Suri Bites, and Goldie Peacock break down with wit and insight how fashion and identity come together for them when they’re at the beach.

Gloria and Diane

 

 Photo: Sugi Salazar

What brings you to Riis?
Gloria: It’s my birthday weekend. Riis is welcoming. Being around my people, it makes me happy.

Tell me about what you’re wearing.
Diane: I like the colors, they’re bright. I like to make a statement.
Gloria: Diane picked my outfit. I’m picky. I like to be comfortable, as an androgynous female – I like to feel relaxed.

What is your shopping process like?
Gloria: I go in, grab what I like. I shop online. American Eagle. I shop wherever.

How does your gender shape your dress?
Diane: I like to feel comfortable, I want to be making a statement.
Gloria: I like to just be me.

What are the considerations you keep in mind putting a beach outfit together?
Gloria: She puts together my beach outfit. As long as we’re comfortable, other people don’t care here. That makes it cool. I remember being called marimacho by close-minded people in the DR. If you weren’t wearing a dress they’d call you a marimacho. Now I’m cool with who I am.

How does your approach to dressing for the beach differ from dressing for the street?
Gloria: I’m a fitted clothing/Converse kinda girl, down to earth.

How do you dress for Riis/queer beach space versus straight beach space?
Diane: I dress the same.
Gloria: I dress the same.

Tell me about your beach outfits over the last 10 years.
Gloria: It’s always been the same.
Diane: It’s varied a lot, depending on my weight.

If you could design any beach outfit for yourself, what would it be?
Gloria: The same as I’m wearing now.
Diane: Colorful, crazy, trendy. I’d like to stand out.

 

Dez and Krystal

 

 Photo: Sugi Salazar

What brings you to Riis?
Dez: It’s queer. I feel more comfortable.
Krystal: The community feels comfortable.

Tell me about what you’re wearing.
Krystal: I’m wearing the bottom half of an American Eagle 2-piece.
Dez: $10 Old Navy board shorts.

What is your shopping process like?
Krystal: I want quality but affordable that makes me feel comfortable. I consider myself femme – feminine but not constricting. I’m a Latina, family and society gendered me as feminine, though it doesn’t always make sense for me. I used to be high femme. It’s about finding, how do I feel comfortable?
Dez: I’m looking for stuff that’s gonna last but not leave a hole in my wallet, comfortable clothes.It should last so I can wear it again. I don’t like to show skin, I like to be covered. Blues and grays are good. I buy the same shirt in different colors.

How does your gender shape your dress?
Dez: I wear men’s clothes. I like them to be big but not too big – kinda fitted, like people to see my booty, kinda baggy – like Goldilocks, has to be just right.
Krystal: Fit. Like loose things. Mix tighter with looser. I don’t shop at Victoria’s Secret, they use prison labor and they discriminate. I try to have my politics match my shopping. American Eagle is having issues with trans workers. You can’t always do it but when you can you should.

What are the considerations you keep in mind putting a beach outfit together?
Krystal: It’s hot. I want to be as close to naked as possible. It’s so liberating – you want to free your whole body, not be constricted.
Dez: Masculine. Jeans, tshirts, usually I wear a bikini at the beach. I feel comfortable. I like to be cruised, but not catcalled or endangered.

How do you dress for Riis/queer beach space versus straight beach space?
Dez: I wouldn’t be topless at a straight beach. It depends on who I’m with. At Coney Island I’d keep my tank top on. I’d be more aware of who’d be around us. Being at Riis, surrounded by my community, I don’t feel judged. There is no anger or violence being directed at me. I like being around people who look different from me, and also people who look the same. I love to people watch and see the different shades, styles, and sizes. You don’t see people throwing shade here, it’s nice to get a break from that. It’s great to see people being themselves. It’s really comfortable. I wouldn’t be talking to a stranger at a regular beach without wearing a shirt.

Tell me about your beach outfits over the last 10 years.
Krystal: Traditionally – I’ve only been at Riis for three years – I would be more conservative, flip-flops, shorts, dresses, covering more skin. It hasn’t changed, but my comfort in my body has increased. I wear things here I couldn’t wear other places. This is a liberating experience.
Dez: Been at Riis for two or three years. I went from a one piece to a bikini. I’m from Massachusetts. Ten years ago I wasn’t out. Coming out, I was more honest about myself, now I’m not trying to fit any mold or archetype. It comes from being comfortable with myself, I can redefine things, wear bikinis and Timbs – not in the same outfit. I can bend what gender norms are – I can feel feminine in Nikes or a bikini.

If you could design any beach outfit for yourself, what would it be?
Krystal: Fantastic beach outfit would have lots of strings and buttons. It would be a swimsuit and a cover-up, go from bikini to board shorts.
Dez: So you want the Inspector Gadget of bathing suits?
Krystal: [Laughs.]
Dez: I’m looking for tight little shorts. I’m looking for a top that’s secure, like a sports bra’s security but shows skin like a bikini. I need security.
Krystal: Comfortability on the beach. We’re so policed to be a certain way – it wasn’t acceptable for me to shop for boys’ clothes. It would be great to see bathing suits to meet people’s needs whose gender isn’t how they were born or raised.

 

Heightz

 

Photo: Sugi Salazar


What brings you to Riis?
Heightz: This is my third time here. They called it a gay beach, so I came. I didn’t know it was a naked beach till I got here – I love it. I got no shame in my game.

Tell me about what you’re wearing.
Heightz: I’m only wearing boxers. I said why not, I’m already half naked. I love shades. I rock ‘em when I go out.

What is your shopping process like?
Heightz: I went to Modell’s. It was cheap and easy. That’s how I work.

How does your gender shape your dress?
Heightz: I love myself. I don’t care what people think. I know people thinking, what’s this AG doing with her shirt off? But I’m cool. I love purple, whatever I see in purple, I take it. I wanna look cute and sexy, as long as I have a shaper, jeans, a button-down, boots or sneakers. Going to the club I wear a tie, I gotta dress nice.

What are the considerations you keep in mind putting a beach outfit together?
Heightz: I can’t wait to go party, I gotta be ready.

How do you dress for Riis/queer beach space versus straight beach space?
Heightz: Same way. Straight beach, you’re not gonna change who I am. If you don’t like what you see, don’t look.

Tell me about your beach outfits over the last 10 years.
Heightz: I was dressing girly – now I wear trunks and a sports bra. Changing was so me. My mom was buying my clothes. Then I dressed up as a guy for Halloween in 2005. I was like, YES. From long hair to short hair, no tattoos to tattoos. I was quiet. Now I’m more open, I get involved with people, now I make them laugh.

If you could design any beach outfit for yourself, what would it be?
Heightz: I would be naked – but gayish, basically.

 

Goldie Peacock and Suri Bites

 

Photo: Suri Bites

What brings you to Riis?
Suri: I’ve been coming to Riis for 15 years. It’s a really cool queer space. You can wear what you want, no one bothers you. It’s become more queer. It used to be more gay. You can wear what you are.

What is your shopping process like?
Suri: Minimalism.
Goldie: I’m looking for legality.

How does your gender shape your dress?
Suri: For fun, if we had a kinky date, I might wear pink.
Goldie: I think our clothes are gender neutral.

What are the considerations you keep in mind putting a beach outfit together?
Suri: I want genderfuck beachwear.

How does your approach to dressing for the beach differ from dressing for the street?
Goldie: On the street I go for pockets and layers.
Suri: I don’t do bags.

How do you dress for Riis/queer beach space versus straight beach space?
Suri: I would wear a top to a straight beach.
Goldie: Same.

Tell me about your beach outfits over the last 10 years.
Goldie: I wear a black low slung gold lame bootyshorts, half-ass bootyshorts, black eyeliner, solar shields, a cowboy hat.
Suri: Just boyshorts. P-Style.

If you could design any beach outfit for yourself, what would it be?
Suri: It’s hard to find stuff that fits smaller people like me. I would want a vest.
Goldie: I want an unrestrictive waistband. And lots of pockets.