This Converse shoe design is an ode to anyone going through a gender identity journey

Words by Jonti Ridley

“Because you do belong, you are queer enough, you are trans enough.”

There’s something so incredibly sterile about an LGBTQIA+ campaign that doesn’t genuinely include LGBTQIA+ people. If the gay-washing (think, greenwashing for gays) wasn’t bad enough, they’re often so far removed from the queer conversation, their message is nothing more than a rainbow sticker.

Looking for more thought-provoking reads? Try our Life section.

Thankfully, Converse had the right idea when they recently came together with Minus18 for an LGBTQIA+ celebration capsule collection. They’re hosting an open table discussion with 10 queer ‘All Stars’, followed by a design entry from each All Star for the chance to have their shoe put into production. Again, Converse is showing other brands how to do it right (without adopting queer culture for a quick buck while doing absolutely nothing to amplify queer voices and contribute to genuine change, but I digress).

Samuel Beatty is the All Star icon whose Converse design will shortly be in production, with a pre-sale date set for June 1. Samuel is a Bidjigal (NSW) based comic artist and illustrator who uses his art as a means to process his feelings about his gender identity journey. As his gender identity and art have developed “hand-in-hand” over the years, Samuel uses his love of telling stories to offer a very personal insight into his experience as a trans man.

“The reason why I share so much of my experiences in these comics is because I didn’t see that representation when I was going through this.”

A lot of Samuel’s art includes his experience with top surgery, and the scars it left behind.

“I love seeing that in art, because I can go, ‘Hey, that’s me’. I feel like a lot of trans people are looking for that representation, and I’m so honoured that I can help make them feel less alone through representation.”

The shoe includes the phrase ‘Hold space for yourself’ on one side, and ‘Hold space for others’ on the other. The shift between demanding a space for queer people within the greater community, to demanding a space for queer people within the queer community is an important one. It’s a reflection of the unfortunately toxic minority within the community that requires one to be ‘gay enough’ to go to queer events. Samuel’s desire to create a radically inclusive queer community stemmed from an unsettling interaction with his uni’s Queer Community officer.

“When I first came out as non-binary, one of the head officers said to me, because I [like] boys, “oh, you’re just a tomboy, why are you here? Why are you in this queer space, for queer people?’ and I remember feeling not welcome in queer spaces. So for me, it’s been so important to actively make people feel welcome. Because you do belong, you are queer enough, you are trans enough.”

As an AFAB person dating a cis-man, I felt this in my heart.

Another crucial part of the shoe’s design is the image of a person, with top surgery scars, surrounded by stars, planets and squiggly forms. Samuel explains how these forms were representations of the fluidity of gender and “how identities change and shift over time”. This addresses yet another toxic minority within the community (but also very much society as a whole), which devalues and discredits someone’s identity because they ‘changed their mind’.

Self-identity and gender are one of the many things that will change as you get older, experience new things, and simply discover more about yourself. This means your gender identity may take you a few tries before you find the right fit or, you might do a 180 and realise you feel an entirely new way now. Both of these are so incredibly fine and valid.

“If you told me, in five years, I’d be designing a shoe for Converse that had a trans body on it with top surgery scars, and I had had top surgery and been on testosterone for three years, I would’ve been like, what?”

“We need to support people in their journeys. Whether they change their gender identity or come to terms with their sexuality as they grow over time and learn more about themselves, we have to support them every step of the way.”

Samuel’s message of inclusivity and acceptance is a critical theme in a lot of his comics, with the endeavour to foster a more inclusive and supportive community for the queer kids of tomorrow, who Samuel says should “just keep making, go back and try things again”.

“It’s important to make the art you want to see in the world, particularly if you’re not seeing it talked about or represented. Even if you think no one can relate to it or it’s really weird or obscure, I promise somebody will be able to relate to it.”

Such a terrific design requires a terrific launch party, therefore I’ve decided we should all wear Samuel Beatty’s Converse design to kick queer gatekeepers in the shin (no RSVP or date required).

The Converse by Samuel Beatty custom Chuck 70 will be available to purchase exclusively here for $130 via pre-sale until Tuesday June 8. For each pair sold, a $50 donation will be made to Minus18 to support its ongoing work. 

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