Queer Art of Athletic Failure

Photography: Dylan Thomas
Retouching: Jin Lee
Models: Ken CastanedaJalen Dominique
Styling / Art Direction: Henry BaeShaobo Han


This photo series was interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, this is only the second SYRO shoot to take place in a photo studio (thank you Dylan!). We commonly prefer to capture photos on-location, disrupting the streets and traumatizing homophobes. 

You know, #realness type shit. But while thinking of assembling looks inspired by WILSON and MITT (which themselves are obviously inspired by Baseball [did I mention I was once in Adore Delano’s music video, playing on her queer baseball team?]) there was a melancholy that washed over the project. Suddenly recalling our past experiences engaging with sports. Being transported back to the headspace of being delicate little “boys” who fail not with queer gusto and hilarious pride but rather with damaged egos and getting picked last. Assembling these looks and shooting them in the safety and calm of a private studio felt like the right move. The proper space to almost even grieve or mourn our collective traumas, and share in the experience without having to ward off heterosexual cissies… for once.

There’s a look from Maison Margiela’s Fall 2012 couture collection that repurposed vintage baseball gloves into a masterfully constructed cocktail dress. This project gave me a reason to purchase 30 used gloves and hack them into a cropped jacket myself. My fingers are raw from pushing needles through old ass tough-ass leather, but it was absolutely worth it. 

When I think about athleticism, and tough femme figures adjacent to this foreign world, my mind goes straight to Ms. Trunchbull from Matilda. Honestly, I have no idea why. But we ran with it, and I’d say we were successful because a couple of folx on our Instagram clocked the reference. 

Not to be the Only™ pretentious gatekeeper of Faggotry Inc., but I’m pretty sure every self-respecting sissy has watched Alexander McQueen’s Spring 2005 runway presentation inspired by chess at least twenty times? The leather/horsehair dress, one of the best garments in herstory. Gemma Ward’s headpiece, problematic and gorgeous. But one of the top highlights has to be his lavender football player with a silk obi belt. 

To call ourselves “failures” is something of a sarcastic joke. The truth is, within the strict confines of heteronormative sportsmxnship, yes, sure, I never scored the point or won the match. But in the grander game of life, we’re fucking triumphant eh? I put respect on our queer community’s endurance and zeal with a heavy slather. I’m so proud of us for all we’ve done, do, and will, across generations, genders. 

Stay winning y’all <3

Unfortunately, these bloody photos of Ken were excluded from our Vogue feature. They’re my favorite from the whole series, and their choppery is some type of poetic metaphor for life.