Prairwa ‘Sunny’ Leerasanthanah is breaking down boundaries within the LGBT community. When moving from Thailand where she was born and raised to New York City for school, Sunny did not notice a strong presence of diverse queer fashion, life advice, and representation. This has been an inspiration to Sunny’s blog But I’m A Tomboy, which amplifies acceptance amongst all different shapes, races, and backgrounds within the LGBT community. Sunny features hers and others genderqueer style in many ways which gives both queer and non queer women access to appreciate a different and very cool kind of style. Here, REglam chats with Sunny about her background, her style, and what to expect from Sunny in the future.
Meg: Can you share the story of what inspired you to start your queer fashion blog in 2011 with the name “But Im A Tomboy”?
Sunny: I started But I’m A Tomboy in high school, when I was struggling to figure out my identity and personal style. I adored images that I would find online or in magazines of women with short hair and in masculine styled fashion–what was generally referred to as “tomboy” style. I identified with this way of dressing, even though when I started the blog I was still shy about dressing the way I wanted to. It became about figuring myself out by relating to other people. Of course the internet was perfect for this. By posting and curating my blog I felt that I was sharing this understanding with a lot of other people, especially with Tumblr, where there is a huge presence of the LGBTQ community. I was also hyper aware of diversity that was often excluded from a lot of blogs. I didn’t see a lot of queer masculine asian women being represented, and I wanted to change that. I also love that the blog allows me to give advice and answering questions to my followers, since I rarely found Q&As or Ask columns in magazines that addressed being LGBTQ. Cosmo would never have answered questions I had as a teenager.
Meg: Can you share some clothing brands that you love that are LGBT friendly?
Sunny: Absolutely. I have a lot of brands to name actually, but off the top of my head, there’s Nik Kacy, BCALLA, TomboyX, Kipper Clothiers, BCALLA, Marco Marco, Kirrin Finch, Andrew Christian, Stuzo Clothing, Audio Helkuik, Tilly and William, WEAREMORTALS, and much more!
Meg: On your blog you answer many young queer people’s questions about fashion, their gender identity and everyday lives. What are some of the most common questions/concerns that you come across?
Sunny: I get a wide variety of questions, from how I style my hair, to how to dress masculine as a woman on your wedding day. A lot of it is from younger people figuring out how to express themselves through clothing. More specifically, how to dress the way they do despite being told negative things from people around them. I think these are my favourite to answer, because I draw from my own experiences growing up and it’s personable. I tell people, for example, that my mom used to have relatives tell her that I would grow out of my ‘tomboy phase’ as if to comfort her. I let them know they’re not alone. Some people seek advice so personal that they ask me to respond privately. I’m glad they feel that they can come to me for life advice beyond style. I also get a lot of “how do I find my style” which I can’t really answer! Link To My Questions Page
Meg: How has living and growing up in two places (New York and Bangkok) impacted your style choices? Do you find fashion to be different or are there similarities?
Sunny: In general, fashion in both places are different of course–there are different cultural influences and trends. Coming to New York has certainly affected my way of dressing but not so much because of what is fashionable here. It’s more about the fact that I moved away from home and was able to dissect the stigma around dressing masculine as a woman back home. Dressing butch and embracing queerness in New York is very different from Bangkok; I certainly felt like there was more support in being myself here than back home. I first became comfortable in dressing the way I wanted to in New York. I think my hair shows this best. In Bangkok, I shaved the nape of my neck but covered it with a bob the whole time because I felt nervous. But when I came here, I felt confident in shaving my back and sides, styling my hair the way I wanted. I still feel the pressure to dress more feminine when I go back home, even in front of my parents, but I have become more confident.
Meg: Have you noticed a difference in how people in Thailand treat the LBGT community as opposed to in the US?
Sunny: Yes. There is a difference in the way the LGBTQ community is perceived and understood in Thailand, which I believe stems from how sex, sexuality, and gender are defined (they are intertwined). There is a double standard in treating male gays and lesbians, and more progress to be made in gender equality in general. There are some LGBTQ terms that don’t exist anywhere else, for example. My favourite to talk about is the word “tom”, since I am called that all the time. Tom, by Thai definition, is a cis woman who is masculine-presenting and identifies more to being a man, including using male pronouns and taking the stereotypical role of a man. Thais see Tom as a category of queerness that exists in between being lesbian and transgender. And a lesbian who is feminine is called “dee”. A lesbian couple is expected to consist of a tom and a dee (feminine + masculine) which reinforces a heterosexual type of coupling. There is more fluidity and anti-categorization in queerness in the U.S. that I relate to more. But nowadays there are Thai queers who are breaking stereotypes and I love that. I like seeing a new wave of queerness being understood in Thailand, and want to be a part of this movement.
Meg: You launched the “Q pop” queer lifestyle site together with your friend Teri Tan in February. Can you share with our readers about what your goals are in creating this website?
Sunny: QPOP is my next step forward in being involved with the LGBTQ community. I have already been growing reach out to the LGBT community with my blog, and my passion continues to grow. QPOP will be a physical presence, beyond the space of the internet, where we get to interact with members of the community and support businesses and talent in real life. This is highly important to me because I am more involved in LGBT issues than ever through QPOP.
Meg: Where did you meet your Qpop co-founder Terri (Teri) Tan? And what makes a queer friendship so special?
Sunny: I met Teri at a lesbian dance event called Hot Rabbit in Manhattan. We both frequented queer bars and events in New York City—I am actually surprised I didn’t bump into her sooner. Queer friendships are vital because there are experiences to being and growing up queer that can only be understood or shared by queer individuals. For example, the experience of having to watch The L Word secretly when I was still closeted in high school! Of course, it gets more serious than that. I have had heartfelt conversations with some Asian queer friends I know who feel pressured and desire to succeed, as if to compensate for their identity.
Meg: Can you tell us about the importance of having the support of your community and being mentored for Qpop within the community?
Sunny: What I love seeing in the queer community is when you can see growth as a result of support, love, and positivity from people around. Creating a business from ground up is no different–guidance and advice from one successful queer entrepreneur to another goes a long way. So we were very glad to have Aym Icon mentor us with QPOP. You may know him from his most recent success, building the first and most known international agency for transgender models known as Transcendence Icon. His vision of seeing queer talent being showcased and celebrated is much aligned to QPOP, so his business mentorship means a lot to us. I can’t stress enough how important it is to acknowledge that when you do something for the community it can pave the way to a bright future, and truly motivate and inspire other people.
Interviewed By: Meg Leila Summers- REglam Editor Instagram: Average Joes Average Clothes