We are so pleased to welcome Ashleigh McGill to the Twig + Tale blog. Ashleigh is very generously sharing her experience of participating in the online sewing community as a queer sewist. Her words are a beautiful reminder of how important it is for everyone to feel welcome, safe, and accepted for who they are.
In recognition of Pride Month, we would like to reiterate our commitment to creating an inclusive and welcoming space for LGBTQIA2S sewists, both through our pattern designs, and our online community.
Welcome to Pride month! My name is Ashleigh, and I identify as a cisgender pansexual. This means my gender identity matches the sex I was assigned at birth, and my romantic interests cover the entirety of the gender spectrum.
I began learning to sew four years ago, and after quickly joining a large number of sewing groups, learned that there are still a great many places where I don’t feel like I belong. It seemed like my newsfeed was suddenly full of posts sounding like this: “Hey ladies! Looking for the best way to make this dress even girlier for my little girly!”
Of course, I’m not offended by little girls who enjoy pink and ruffles. I wasn’t offended by seeing the word “ladies”. It just didn’t seem like I was ever included as part of the group. I am perfectly content with my female gender identity and my roles as both a wife and a mother, but I’m more androgynous than feminine and definitely don’t ever refer to myself as a lady. There’s a certain feminine connotation to the word that isn’t right for me. And these mothers seemed like they all wanted the world to be sure that their daughters were girly girls and their sons were tough little men. There wasn’t room for kids to be anything other than aggressively and stereotypically cisgender in those spaces.
I began to feel despondent without ever having printed a pattern or cut into a piece of fabric. Already, this world of online sewing groups felt like it was never going to be a place I could exist as authentically myself.
A friend of mine sent me a link to Twig and Tale’s website, and then Twig + Tale Chat on Facebook, and my world changed.
Here is a place where the children’s patterns don’t have an assigned gender. There were sewists making clothes and blankets and wings and baskets for themselves, their children, their neighbors, their friends. There were queer people making clothing that felt good on their skin and fit their bodies properly.
There were adults looking for advice on sewing garments for transgender kids. Gay men felt welcome to participate and show off their makes. Nobody said, “Hey ladies!” and everyone celebrated little boys who wanted pink vests and girls who wanted shorts with big pockets to gather rocks and bright-eyed non-binary kids who just wanted to fly in their wings without being called a Prince or a Princess.
Since joining this community 4 years ago, I’ve noticed there are more people of every gender and orientation flocking to the group. The word is spreading that here is a place where everyone comes, and is celebrated, as they are.
For all of you Twig and Talers out there who joined the community just because the patterns are breathtaking, and maybe you’re not so sure about all these new words: Thank you for your willingness to learn. Thank you for seeing the rest of us, who may not feel seen anywhere else. Thank you for your open hearts and minds.
For my fellow queers, who came for the patterns and stay for the affirmation: I’m so glad you’re here. I’m proud to stand alongside you. It is because of you that we continue to question preconceived notions and challenge old ideas in order to be the inclusive space we are.
For our allies, who are here because you value diversity and inclusivity: Your work and advocacy are so appreciated. You’ve fought battles for us when we were too tired and battered to keep going. Thank you for your efforts and your passion.
Pride has many meanings. It’s an ongoing fight for queer rights. It’s a movement towards fully intersectional LGBTQIA2S acceptance. And it’s the feeling of finally knowing that every part of me is valid, and important, and celebrated.
Pride is the unequivocal demand that we are here, we are important, and we get to take up our space and be acknowledged.
Note: LGBTQIA2S stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and/or Androgynous, Two-Spirit. Together, these words mean, in essence, anyone who has a different gender than their assigned sex at birth, and/or anyone who is attracted to a person who is not the opposite of one’s own gender.
There are plenty of people who use a different acronym, and there are people who may use terminology that is positive and affirming for them, even if it isn’t included in this acronym. I generally choose to use the word queer when referring to myself, but that doesn’t resonate for everyone.
It can feel intimidating to know what’s okay to use and what isn’t. If you’re not sure: it is never disrespectful to kindly ask someone how they prefer to be referred to, or what their pronouns are.
Ashleigh is a queer thirty-something desert wildling, raising a pack of world-changers in the southwestern US. Writing, painting, sewing and embroidery fill her cup. See more of Ashleigh's work here.