Go for a run. Lift weights. Should I do an undercut hair style, or dye it blue, to look gayer?
These are some thoughts that played on a loop in my head for the months leading up to The Dinah 2023. I was deeply intent on being as fit as possible, and going into the weekend with a defined queer aesthetic—the “lipstick femme” or the sporty/punky “ChapStick” queer. I thought I had to look a certain way, particularly to attract a certain type—that I thought I wanted.
But it didn’t take long into The Dinah for me to realize none of that stuff actually matters much. That is, at The Dinah, there were queer women and nonbinary folks of every body type, and with myriad clothing, hair, and other aesthetic styles. And amid this range, it seemed everyone had an air of confidence, which made every dang person sexy; and while of course there were some stereotypical type-specific couples, there wasn’t some “find your type” game happening. People vibed with all kinds of other people—I vibed outside of my usual “type”—and all it usually took to break the ice was one person just distinctly making a move, going for what they wanted (respectfully).
This kind of confidence is even something Mariah Counts, a musician who performed at The Dinah’s closing party as a winner of the “Emerging Artist” contest, says is intrinsic to queerness.
“Being a queer woman feels very powerful and very confident,” said Counts, when I interviewed her on the red carpet. “I feel very powerful in myself and just knowing who I am… Anything people say doesn’t really change how I feel about myself.”
I myself am generally confident, but I’m also an overthinker, so going into the festival, I had definitely been wrapped up in the superficial elements of myself and queer identity overall. However, I guess I’m not the only one to ever experience that headspace. For example, in a red-carpet interview, festival celebrity guest Divinity Ray shared a related reflection, on the intersection of queer identity and physical image.
Ray—a digital creator, dancer, model, and hair stylist—said that at her first Dinah in 2019, she “looked gay,” with stereotypical short hair and “Daddy” aesthetic. But having since embraced a more feminine aesthetic, and with often being in hetero-skewing spaces, people don’t usually know she’s gay. That’s odd for her, but she wants people—like me—to understand looks don’t dictate your queerness.
“Allow yourself to be in your journey,” says Ray. “If you wanna shave [your hair], cool, if you wanna grow it out eventually, cool. Just do whatever feels right.”
Ray also says people dressing the way they want and being who they want is one of her favorite things about The Dinah.
Keeana Kee, a performer and activist who made her debut as a Dinah performer this year, shared a similar sentiment about her first Dinah.
“I feel happy, joyful, and just myself and free,” said Kee, in a red-carpet interview. “Just free to be myself with everybody who hopefully feels free to be themselves here, too.”
Indeed, from these women’s words, and what I otherwise heard, saw, and even personally experienced throughout The Dinah, that message is received. It’s not about looking some way for someone else, but feeling like you, for you, and letting the confidence that comes from that do the rest.
So, to the me of next year, and anyone else planning to go to The Dinah 2024: don’t worry so much about how “fit” you are, or what category of queer you “fit” into—just be prepared to be you.