Shoulders to Stand On: Rochester – Before and After Stonewall

By: Evelyn Bailey

Stonewall was a watershed moment – it was the spark that delineated the status quo and rebellion of the LGBTQ community.

Before Stonewall gay Rochestarians lived mostly in the “closet”.  There were no protections against discrimination in housing, employment, education, access to medical services or services offered through governmental agencies.  Commercial businesses could refuse to provide services, and retail establishments did not have to sell to gays. Whether it was overt or underground, discrimination and prejudicial attitudes in Rochester, NY pre-Stonewall, created an environment of fear and secrecy.

Where was the gay scene? The FBI March 17, 1958  report says “the following places are gathering spots for homosexuals in Rochester”:  Martin’s Tavern, 12 Front Street; Nite Cap Tavern, 393 Court Street; Dick’s Tavern, 14 Front Street; Peg and Larry’s Tavern, 19 Front Street; RDGA, Franklin Square.  The Rochester “listing of homosexual and lesbian hangouts” provided as follows in the March 31, 1962 report:  Martin’s Grill, 12 Front Street; Patsy’s Grill, 278 Allen Street; Dick’s Tavern, 63 State Street; Peg and Larry’s Tavern, 47 Front Street; Manger Hotel, 26 Clinton Ave. South; Rochester Public Library Men’s Room, 115 South Ave.; Baptist Temple Building Men’s Room, 14 Franklin St.; Waldorf Cafeteria, Men’s Room and Restaurant, 10 East Main St.; Sibley’s Department Store (men’s room in basement), 228 East Main St.; Edward’s Department Store Men’s Room, 144 East Main St.; Greyhound Bus Depot Men’s Room, 320 Andrews St.; Blue Valley Bus Terminal Men’s Room, 83 South Ave.; River Blvd. along the railroad tracks; Broad and Court St. Bridges; and Maplewood Park.

Within the city there were “gay enclaves” such as Front Street.  Front St. was a downtown mainstay for more than a century known for its meat markets, bargain-priced restaurants, “Smelly” poultry markets on the east side of the street, betting parlors, pawn shops and bars which made for a bawdy atmosphere that led to it being called the city’s Skid Row.  Always a bit rough around the edges, Front Street in its later years became known as “the toughest street between New York City and Chicago”. With Urban Renewal, Front Street was gone by 1965.

In October 1970 the Gay Liberation Front was begun on the University of Rochester River Campus.  Because of Stonewall Rochestarians began to organize first to repeal the sodomy laws which happened in 2000.  In 1973, Midge Costanza appointed Gordon Urlacher the Police Liaison to the Rochester LGBTQ community in response to the perceived harassment of gay bars and the gay community.  Urlacher made a difference, and attitudes toward the gay community and the gay community’s attitude toward the police began to change.

The Rochester LGBTQ community began to empty the closet by becoming involved in politics, by holding positions of authority that could impact policy and legislative action, and to organize the fight for equality and justice.  Finally, in 2003, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) became law. It would take another 16 years for the Gender Non-Discrimination Act to become law in 2019.  In fighting for our human rights, for justice and equality, workplace policies, and medical access, reimbursement and delivery systems policies have changed.  Finally, after a 13-year battle, Marriage Equality became law in New York State.

All these protections have not necessarily resulted in changed attitudes, just actions, or equal treatment under the law.  When our rights as LGBTQ citizens are violated, we still risk repercussions in seeking justice. Michael Robertson’s June 1975 statements could well have been written today.  Our current political, social and economic environment allows the LGBTQ community and many other diverse groups to experience the discrimination, prejudice, injustice, and inequality experienced by the LGBTQ community in 1969.  How far have we come? We now have written protections, our struggle and challenge continues to be to eradicate all forms of discrimination and prejudice one person, one system, one institution at a time.

Gallery Q presents, Gargoyle: the Sacred and the Profane

Gargoyle: the Sacred and the Profane, drawings by Matthew Kubik opens at Gallery Q on First Friday,
July 5 with a reception from 6:00-9:00 pm. The exhibition runs through August 29.
An internationally trained architect, award winning designer, educator and artist, Matthew Kubik has
spent a lifetime exploring the great city of Rome, Italy. Inspired by the city’s rich Renaissance and
Gothic art, his Gargoyles are a contemporary exploration of the Renaissance artists’ exploration of
the male human form and the dark mystical mind of the Medieval Age, in which the gargoyle
represents human carnal urges we struggle to control. Kubik says, “This series of drawings explores
the opposites of human nature and the conflict between the sacred and the profane. The images are
meant to be humorous, disturbing, erotic, and thought provoking as we ponder our own inner
Kubik is a native of Michigan City, Indiana. His studied at the University of Notre Dame where he
first visited Rome in a study abroad program. He did graduate studies at the Royal College of Art,
London, England. He is a partner in Intelligent Adventure Travel, which offers guided tour
experiences for small groups, families, and educational travel. Since 1990 he has lead annual
international art and culture travel programs to Rome, Italy, London, England and Egypt. He is
currently taking reservations for his October 2019 trip to London, England and his Summer 2020
trip to Rome, Italy.
Kubik will be available to answer questions about his work and business at the opening on Friday,
July 5.

Body Mod Survey by Dr. Mai-Anh Tran Ngoc

By: Dr. Mai-Anh Tran Ngoc

My name is Dr. Mai-Anh Tran Ngoc, and I am an adolescent medicine fellow at the University of Rochester Medical Center.  I work in our Gender Health clinic, where I take care of transgender and gender diverse adolescents and young adults and provide medical transition services.  

The idea for my research study started when I met a young transgender girl who was tucking (compressing her genitals to have a flat groin contour) with duct tape and had skin break down. When I tried to look for other, safer tucking options to discuss with her, I realized that there was very little medical research on the ways transgender and gender diverse folks modify their bodies without using medications or surgery (I call these “body-mods” in the survey).  

Generally, we know that folks bind, pack, tuck, pad, pump, diet, and exercise, but we don’t know exactly what folks use for the various Body-Mods (for example, binding with a commercial binder, sports bras, or duct tape), where people learn about them, how these help or don’t help as a part of transition, and what side effects can occur, how often, and how often these side effects might need medical attention.  Without this information, it can be hard for trans/gender diverse folks, clinicians, and educators to know how to make Body-Mods as effective, convenient, and safe as possible. 

To help answer these questions, I have worked with people in the local trans/gender diverse community, including at the Out Alliance, to design a survey.  This survey will be available for all 15 to 25 year old transgender or gender diverse folks who are interested in providing information about what body-mods they use (or don’t use), where they learned about them, what are the benefits and drawbacks of using these methods, and what side effects they may have experienced.  The survey can take between 15-30 minutes to take, depending on how many body-mods you use. If you are interested in participating, please head over to

Shoulders to Stand On: Remember Stonewalls Past and Present

By: Evelyn Bailey

Excerpts from article by Michael Robertson, Empty Closet, June 1975

“We have fled from blackmailing cops, from families who disowned or ‘tolerated’ us; we have been drummed out of the armed services, thrown out of schools, fired from jobs, and beaten by punks and policemen.  Straight cops patrol us, straight legislators govern us, straight employers keep us in line, and straight money exploits us. We have pretended everything is OK because we haven’t been able to see how to change it – – we’ve been afraid.”

Out of this intolerable reality and the struggle of all peoples to be treated as human beings was born the gay liberation movement.  It was this month 39 years ago that something unremarkable happened. On June 27, an event which had occurred a thousand times before across the United States over the decades took place.  THE POLICE RAIDED A GAY BAR! The very FIRST public RESISTANCE to overt harassment was demonstrated. The Stonewall Riots mark the conscious organized beginning of the gay liberation movement.  They also mark the beginning of Gay Pride.

For those for whom the Stonewall riots are just a name and for those who have never heard of them, let me try to recall for you what it was like to be gay in 1969?  Gay bars were legal. In 1969, raids on gay and lesbian bars were common. While they were purportedly looking for liquor law or other violations, patrons were arrested and dragged off to jail with no legitimate charges made against them.  The names of those arrested were often published in the papers and many were fired from their jobs as a result..

The Stonewall Inn, located at 53 Christopher St off Sheridan Square, was an private club.  Reputed to be Mafia owned (as were most of the gay bars in those days), liquor was sold on the premises without benefit of a liquor license. This and Mayor Lindsay’s re-election promise to clean up the undesirable riff-raff made it a perfect target for the authorities. On Friday evening June 27, 1969 at 3 a.m., eight plainclothes officers raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.  Employees were arrested, and customers were allowed to leave one at a time. Customers left in an almost festive mood, striking poses, swishing and camping. They had been through this before. Then there was a sudden mood change when the paddy wagon arrived and the bartender, doorman, three drag queens and a struggling lesbian were shoved inside. There were cat calls and cries to topple the paddy wagon.  Once the paddy wagon left the police moved quickly back into the Stonewall Inn and locked themselves in. The butch lesbians and drag queens fought back. The bar patrons threw bottles and rocks at the police. They chanted, “Gay Power!” and “Liberate Christopher St.!” One person threw a rock through a window and eventually garbage cans, bottles, and even a parking meter were used to assault the building. New York’s Tactical Police Force arrived on the scene. The crowd was disbursed.  Later that night and into Sunday morning a crowd again gathered in front of the ravaged bar. Many young gay men showed up to protest the flurry of raids, but they did so by handholding, kissing, and forming a chorus line. “We are the Stonewall girls,” they sang kicking their legs in front of the police. “We wear our hair in curls./ We have no underwear./ We show our pubic hair.” Police cleared the street without incident this time, but protests and public outcry against this injustice went on for 5 more nights.

In Rochester, inspired by these events, several members of the University of Rochester community proceeded to organize a gay group for students, faculty, and staff.  On October 3, 1970, the Gay Liberation Front was born, and when the group split into students and community members, the Rochester community members formed the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley in December, 1973.  In 2017, the Gay Alliance changed its name and the Out Alliance was born.

We will find strength in REMEMBERING.  We will together RAISE our voices. We will continue the FIGHT to be free.  We will ROC the foundations of oppression!

New Playboy Club in NYC Looking to Support the LGBT Community by Merle Exit

Playboy bunnies are back at the new Playboy Club in Manhattan and it’s not just for an Easter celebration.  An insignia lies atop an awning at 512 W. 42nd Street.  “What are you here for,” says a man that looks like he could be a bouncer.  Unless you are a member, or have a dinner reservation, you take your chances about indulging in an elegant evening.  

Monday evenings bring New York’s rising Broadway stars and vocalists onto the stage to do their own thing rather than perform songs from the show that they may be presently in. Produced by Beau Speer with Music Direction by Brandon James Gwinn & the T-Shirt Tuxedo Trio, Anne Fraser Thomas was the very talented featured vocalist.  

Speer said that they are planning a lot of events for world pride, which says that this Playboy Club is open to the LBGT community. He is also looking into doing a Drag brunch and other charity events.

Having said that we had dinner reservations, we entered into a Playboy Bunny decorated hallway that led to what appeared to be the main lounge with a center bar.  There was a private party in progress and we told the maitre d’ that we were having an early dinner.

Escorted into the next room, I saw a few areas of seating.  One area was reserved for the earlier entertainment, with little seating.  There were two intimate type rooms on the same level, separated by a middle wall that had an aquarium of colorful fish and a bunny rabbit insignia object in the center.   I wanted that table and sat facing the aquarium. Although not close up to the action itself, I had a view of the entertainment in the lounge. There was also another seating area located on the viewing side of the lounge situated a few steps up.  I was able to view another large room in the back, most likely used for private parties.

Table setting was done elegantly the way you would expect a “fine dining” décor to appear.  Lighting was low, which for me made it a bit difficult to capture clear photos with my “point and shoot” set on “auto.”   Next time, I will actually study the information in the book.

We were greeted by a Playboy Bunny cocktail waitress, Bria Fleming. As much as some of the cocktails sounded yummy, I decided to pass since I get drunk on Scotch Tape.  Our waiter arrived promptly to ask if we wanted tap, still or carbonated water.

Executive Chef Tabitah Yeh has created food that should be nurtured to appreciate how they wonderfully affect your eyes, aroma, and palate with a menu divided into categories of Plates to Share, Sushi and Sashimi, Salads, Mains, and Sides.  

Being a true chocoholic, the Manjari Chocolate Gold Bar left me euphoric. Yes, there are gold flakes on the top as well as some kind of crispies, hazelnut, and strawberries on the side that are both large and sweet ($15).  

If you want to go on the lower end of your bill just to get an idea of the quality and sharing, I would suggest the following: Two Arctic Char Tacos for two people, I would suggest, with Goma Miso, Wasabi Aioli and cilantro, each at $8.  A Spicy Bluefin Tuna Roll ($15) and sharing a main of Chicken Milanese with Frisée, Baby Carrots, Shaved Fennel, and Radish ($36), or the Roasted Atlantic Hake, with charred scallions, “Tom Yum” and golden Enoki (mushrooms that are thin, tall and delicate) for $37.  Hake is the most common fish used when you buy Boston Scrod.

Playboy Club has quite a long beverage menu that includes wine, beer, spirits, top of the line sake and cocktails concocted by a mixologist.  Here is one, called A Bunny Thing: Bacardi Cuartro Anejo Rum, Rockey’s Green Chartreuse, Pineapple Bitters. How about Call Me: Ketel One Botanical Cucumber-Mint Vodka, Don Julio Blanco, Canton Ginger, Mint.  

There are various nights of live entertainment, some of which you have to become a member and present your key.  If you go to their website, you can get some of the information, but not all. I found some that needed clarifying and was not up to date. That’s what phones are for (212-644-8227).

NYC Pride & Stonewall at 50: A Revolution For Rights & Revelry By: Stephanie R.C. Harageones

It seems impossible that it was half a century ago when the gay rights movement began as an uprising that kick-started a revolution.

For those of you who aren’t immediately familiar with my topic, the Stonewall Riots occurred in the summer of 1969, when the Stonewall Inn, a well-known gay bar in Greenwich Village, was raided by police in the early morning of June 28th. The patrons bravely fought back, sparking a brawl that lasted for the next several nights. Within weeks, people began to come together, organizing as a cohesive group, and thus started the “Gay Liberation Movement”: which we of course know today as the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement. The very first Pride March took place the following year on June 28th, 1970 in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and they’ve continued ever since.

It seems befitting for New York to cement their history of being gay-friendly and open to a marginalized group. The City is a melting pot that welcomed people from so many diverse backgrounds, and in the 1950’s and 60’s, the world was still a hostile place for LGBT Americans. While they weren’t put to death as often as in the past; once outed, anyone who was LGBT could still be institutionalized, forced to abandon a career in the limelight, or be cut off from their families or society altogether.

After five decades of relentless activism, this June New York City is celebrating through dozens of amazing Pride-themed events. Among many (many) others, one of the biggest events is the World Pride Opening Ceremony on Wednesday, June 26th, which is touted as a month-long celebration. Some events are more focused on our agenda, like the politically-oriented Human Rights Conference, which is on the 24th & 25th, to discuss worldwide LGBT rights. Some are more fun, like the CosPlay and Pride party on the 22nd. There are also family-friendly options as well, like the Family Movie Night on the 21st. One of the biggest events will, of course, be the Pride March on June 30th. And on June 28th, they’re holding the Stonewall 50 Commemoration Rally for free!

While our lives today are far from perfect, things have improved tremendously because we, as a people, have organized and fought back time and time again. We’ve encountered decades of vitriolic heterosexism, incredible odds, and staggering everyday discrimination that is by no means over. Yet, we have more rights than ever before, we have more representation than ever before, and we’re less marginalized than we’ve ever been before. Heck, we even have a top-tier gay candidate for President! (Sidebar: Go Mayor Pete!) So while we still have so far to go, it’s time to come together and commemorate how far we’ve come…and have some fun along the way!


For Orlando by Gracen Lynch

It’s not hard to stand in the dark.

We have learned to see one another

faces, bodies, movement

the flow of sexuality and connection

that so fluidly passes from one man to another

one woman to another

one person to another,

often in silence

and in secret

as if we were building a kind of love

not intended to be noticed by others,

by fathers, by mother, by gods.


I feel the day hunting me,

trying to find me and my friends

where we are,

dancing in the dark,

dancing as I have my whole life once I learned

there was love in the shadows

that shadows are not only for monsters

and that the dreams in me

– delicate, colorful, fragile in a way,

dreams that know so well

how a butterfly emerging

from the long journey of losing itself,

and cannot receive help from anyone,

until it is ready –

those dreams of mine

refused help, instinctively,

because they knew that love from the outside

is so often a gun

whose bullets only know how to say  

that there should be no butterflies in this world.


My dreams took a long time

to be aware of themselves,

aware of the secret place inside

where love comes from,

flowing into my life

just like the mystery

of blood filling wings, changing

what was soft and new and opaque

into something hard and experienced and clear.


Perhaps God put us here

to learn our dance from the inside,

looking to others, so shyly at first,

not wanting to be seen watching.


On the floor, in the dark,

pulsing together, as one people

our bodies full of joy and power and rage and fucking and sadness,

speaking to each other in that hidden way we know –

a way that 50 years later is finding

its own wisdom, its own intelligence, its own faith –

our hearts in every moment of our lives

are working

to weave the blanket of our pain and our culture,

now arriving at the end of its sleep

where it has hung so still and innocent

in the crisp air of becoming.

We are emerging as a people,

transformed as surely as any other miracle

by energies far beyond

that we are only now coming to fully know.


Always there has been a voice in me

that grew from the realization that I had only the night

to be safe with.

As a boy, I heard the Levitical Bell,

that terrible note that I can never unhear,

naming me, Abomination.

That culture of cruelty

has raised ten-year-olds into adults

who exchange their lepidopteral entitlement

of long-handled nets and ball-pointed stick pins,

for bullets,

and media,

and a worship starving for its own shadows.


The day is hungry like a rabid dog

thirsty for darkness and fearing the darkness. .

The entitlement grew up with them,

like the lessons of the old boy scouts

now carried into adulthood, only

this merit badge was about

the perfection of the skill of

walking right into a bar

and shooting the darkness in the back.


Remember what we used to call people

back in the pioneer days

who shot others in the back?


I listen to the house music,

pulsing with the rest.

Part of the rhythm I feel in my own life,

now that I am older,

is the aim of the barrel at me,

a hatred I can feel more than see.


But part of the strength of the butterfly

is to emerge in full view of the gun of the day,

and to leap off into the dark empty

and be carried by winds,

somehow able to survive

on a grim kind of mercy,

or die with courage and bewilderment every time

the day must express itself,

take its measure of the world once again

at a safe distance

by squeezing the trigger.


Our people are older now. 50 years strong.

We dance, not because we have to,

not because there is any danger of the night disappearing,

and not because whatever it is in us

that is dreaming its way into the world

will leave. No.

We carry that dream, that sometimes yet-inarticulate love,

into the world.

Again and again, eternity bears my siblings

into this pocket of time and, again and again,

humanity reaches in absently

and pulls out the lucky penny of our gifts and our talents,

surprised, and wondering

where that came from.


Because people still don’t know what money is.

How could they when they don’t know the value of anything

or anyone else?

They would have to learn what it means  

to be born into the pocket of the world

among the clouds of dark lint and forgotten candy.

Of course, most things in pockets are thrown away

or placed somewhere else,

by someone else,

to do something else

FOR them. Every entitlement has to find a home

or else it wanders the streets with a gun,

mad as hall.


The steady hand drives the colored pin

into that beautiful wing

because beauty

a beauty so blinding it scares some,

is so much better pinned down

and dead, and where the curious can keep an eye on it.

Dead things are so much easier

to keep an eye on, right? I get it.


But all the forgotten things,

all the pennies,

all the lost sweetness our parents,

churches, and neighbors,

that people have forgotten about

in the forest of growing up,

all the discarded bits of this world,

they find their way here

onto the dance floor,

and we make room for them.


Eventually they catch the beat,

our wordless smiling bodies teaching each other,

and strengthening one another.


We know the day will come for us again,

perhaps again and again,

like a promise made by a terrible God, because

that is what the day always does.


It lives to kill the night.


In our time, the day has come with guns

because in our time,  

light is lost in a dream

that thinks it will find its way home

only by breaking the night.


But here together,

moving as one,

as who we are, emerging and beautiful, I can say,

that we are not broken,

and we are not lost.


We are together.

We are the night.

We are eternal, and,

by God,

we are dancing.


Updates to the Empty Closet

Dear EC Reader,
The Empty Closet magazine has been a voice, platform and vehicle for our community since 1971. Outside of championing the local LGBTQ+ community and demonstrating authenticity, our main objective has always been to keep the magazine free and accessible to anyone interested in reading it.

The Empty Closet is available for pick-up at the Out Alliance Resource Center, over 125+ distribution locations and on our website.

With the rising costs of printing, paper, and mailing it became necessary to reevaluate the magazines related expenses and devise a plan to make sure we can continue printing this incredible publication that stands as the longest running continuously published LGBTQ+ publication in the nation and keep the magazine free of charge to everyone who needs and wants it.

In order to make sure those priorities are met, effective 7/1/19, the magazine will remain free for pick-up at our many distribution locations that are located on our website. However, for the convenience of having the Empty Closet delivered to your home, you will be charged an annual subscription fee of $30.00. If you are interested in subscribing, click on this link or visit the Empty Closet section of the Out Alliance website to sign-up for your mailing subscription.

If you do not sign-up and pay for your subscription, you will stop receiving your copy of the Empty Closet by mail as of the July 2019 magazine. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to Editor, Tamara Leigh at

We thank you for your understanding and partnering with us in our promise to be transparent and financially responsible to our community and donors.

In Love and Resilience,

Jeff Myers

Executive Director

Remembering the Pulse Shooting, Three Years Later

By: S. Brae Adams, Pastor, Open Arms Metropolitan Community Church

Sunday morning, June 12, 2016, 7:30 AM.  I awoke to get to my job as the Pastor of Open Arms Metropolitan Community Church.  Checking my phone before getting out of bed, I saw the first little bit of the news.  At least 12 people dead, more feared at a mass shooting in an Orlando bar. How terrible, I thought, and I made note of the name of the place, Pulse nightclub, to mention in prayer as I went about the business of getting ready for my day.  

I arrived at Open Arms and began to prepare.  As the worship team gathered for prayer before the service began, I mention the shooting and someone says it was a gay nightclub.  Just then, the processional begins and I think, “Oh God. Not us again…”

“Not again…” Metropolitan Community Churches, founded for LGBT folks in 1968, a time in which they could not openly attend other churches.  We have had multiple incidences of violence including at least 20 separate incidences of arson or fire bombing and – what was before that day the largest mass murder of LGBT people in the United States- the intentional firebombing of the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans.  That fire in 1973 killed thirty-two people, including both pastors and fully one half of the congregation of MCC New Orleans, which was using the bar’s meeting space for services. We know about bigotry and hatred and attacks on the innocent.

Worship began and I felt my phone vibrate, just as I was getting up to pray.  I glanced down and felt the room start to spin, “Police estimate that at least thirty people have been killed …” The room fell quiet and very still as I announced what I had just seen on the screen.  Gasps and cries were audible and our pianist started the next, already planned hymn, “It is Well With my Soul…” We held each other and cried and prayed and then gathered ourselves and went back to the task at hand.  After church, my phone began to buzz with community members looking for a place to gather, to stand together, to mourn. By 2:00, a plan began to take shape. The LGBT liason for the Rochester PD phoned, as did a representative for the mayor’s office – how could they help us feel safe… well, as safe as possible…

At 6:00, the church began to fill, and by 6:30 we began to bring in extra chairs that were quickly filled.  State Assemblyman Harry Bronson and Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle were among those who gathered. People kept coming sitting on the floor, the stage, or standing in the back, some folks spilling out onto the sidewalk in front, or in the doorway to the community center. For 30 minutes we simply sat in silence with only the light and whir of the television cameras and then, finally, we lit our candles.  When the candles had burned down to the paper, a beautiful soprano voice started to sing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” The last notes of the song floated into the air and, wordlessly, everyone away into the night.

There would be more vigils and gatherings and remembrances in the days and weeks to come.  Photos of the dead were carried in the Rochester Pride parade and again in the Puerto Rican Festival parade later that summer.  The outrage and sorrow and fear has been tempered by time and the news of more frequent, and more deadly shootings around the country. The club site in Orlando has become a memorial to what happened there; the funerals are long since over, the news reporters left long ago, but we remember.  We remember the 49 innocent people, out to dance and mingle and laugh who never made it home. We will not forget.


A New Clothing Line Defies Gender Stereotypes That Limit Boys

By: Kerstin Shamberg

Where can you find a shirt for a little boy with a unicorn on it? Answer: You can’t.

Four years after moms Rebecca Melsky and Eva St. Clair launched Princess Awesome to bust gender stereotypes, giving girls clothing options that honor the full range of girls’ interests – trains, dragons, math, and more –  they’re tackling the other side of the children’s clothing store with Boy Wonder, a line for boys.

“My son always tells people his favorite color is ‘rainbow.’ But shirts with rainbows or even just bright colors are only in the girls’ section,” co-founder and Princess Awesome Chief Creative Officer Eva St. Clair said. “As a parent, I think it’s important for his development to encourage him to embrace what he loves rather than force him into a narrow definition of masculinity.”

With five sons between them, St. Clair and Melsky are well-acquainted with what boys want to wear and the range of topics they’re interested in. “My son loves to play tea party and make-believe games with his sister. He loves cats and looking for rainbows after a storm. I’ve never met a boy who doesn’t like those things,” Melsky notes. “Those are things all kids love. They should be on all kids’ clothes.”


Melsky and St. Clair collected survey responses from over 4,500 parents, asking what their boys like to wear, and what they currently cannot find for them. Many parents want clothing that helps communicate to their sons that their gender does not limit their interests. As Dr. Christia Brown, a professor of child psychology and the author of Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue, explains, “The ripple effects of this can be profound: a boy who is affirmed and allowed to be his authentic, unique self grows up to be a man who is comfortable expressing himself, who can embrace those interests and traits that make him unique. Allowing young boys to embrace a variety of interests helps them grow up to be happier, healthier adults.”

This style of parenting is a strong counter to the cultural pressure of toxic masculinity – suppressing emotion and eschewing anything considered feminine (and therefore weak and inferior).  Rather than pushing them away from what has been viewed as traditionally feminine, these parents are encouraging their sons to take a view that those things are compatible with – indeed, a desirable part of – having a male identity. “Boy Wonder directly supports this sea of change,” said co-founder Rebecca Melsky, “The clothing communicates to everyone who sees boys wearing it that all the colors and all the topics are for both boys and girls.  It’s a completely different message from mainstream gendered clothing that relies on stereotypes.”

Boy Wonder will begin production with a line of seven shirts and two pairs of pants that will include colors and themes currently lacking in the boys’ department: cats, unicorns, rainbows, pink, flamingoes, purple, and sparkles.  Made of soft fabrics, with deep pockets and reinforced knees in the pants, the line is designed with active children in mind.

“When people see a girl wearing our dinosaur dress, they often ask her about her interest in dinosaurs,” Melsky notes, “and that subtly encourages the girl’s native interest in dinosaurs and science.  Our hope is that when people see boys wearing pink and rainbows, the conversation for those boys will also change to one that affirms the broad range of boys’ interests – not only that they themselves find value in them, but that we adults do too – and chip away, just a little, at the societal norms that breed toxic masculinity.”


Pre-orders can be placed now at and the store officially opens in October 2019.


Instagram: @boywonderbrand


Twitter: @boywonderbrand