Sex education org hosts virtual fashion show

PMF founder Nhakia Outland (back row, 2nd left) with designers, models and volunteers.

The nonprofit Prevention Meets Fashion (PMF), in partnership with ONE® Condoms, will host its 4th condom-centric fashion show during February’s National Condom Month. The mission of PMF is to educate Black and LGBTQ+ communities about sexual health through fashion, advocacy and community-building.

The Feb. 20 virtual event will feature several sartorial looks, music by DJ Akomplish, a virtual photo booth and educational presentations by organizations including BrownGirl Space, a Black-owned organization that provides mental health advocacy for Black girls; Do You, Philly! and Healthy YOUth Philly, programs of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health; and Purple House Project, a Black-owned nonprofit that provides resources to women who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV).  

“We always try to get as many people as possible to teach those issues because each of the four years we’ve dealt with at least one or more of those issues,” said PMF founder Nhakia Outland. “We collaborate a lot with folks who don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of the LGBTQ community, especially when it intersects with Black identities.” 

Outland, who mentioned that one of the models who participated in a past PMF fashion show was going through IPV at the time, stressed the importance of “having someone there from the organization who can really talk [about] domestic violence, not only in cis/hetero relationships, but what does that look like in LGBTQ relationships.”

According to a 2020 Human Rights Cammpaign (HRC) report, which pulled data from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner, in contrast to 35% of heterosexual women. Bisexual men were also found to have experienced intimate partner rape, physical violence and stalking at higher rates than their heterosexual peers. 

HRC also reported via the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey that 54% of trans and nonbinary respondents experienced IPV at some point in their lives. In addition, a 2020 report by the Blackburn Center indicated that 40% of Black women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, compared to 31.5% of the female population at large. The theme of this year’s PMF fashion show is “Wearing Social Justice,” in light of the pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color and the escalation of police brutality toward Black people that sparked 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests.  In Outland’s eyes, fashion has deep roots in social justice issues. 

“We wanted to show… how t-shirts were used to protest because they were accessible, especially for Black and queer [people],” she said. “It was an accessible way to have a voice heard. In this year’s fashion show you’ll see some of the models wearing t-shirts that represent the trans flag, or our black and white logo.”

One of the fashion looks that Outland is excited about in the upcoming show is a wig made out of condoms. She cited instances of Black hair discrimination, wherein Black athletes have been prohibited from participating in sports and face workplace discirmination because of their natural hair. 

“During the pandemic we really stepped up our advocacy around hair discrimination in the Black community,” she said. PMF started outwardly supporting the CROWN Act, a law that stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. 

“Pennsylvania has not yet signed on to the CROWN Act, which would make discriminating against Black women’s hair illegal,” Outland explained. 

Despite Democratic efforts, the Republican-led state legislature of Pennsylvania has often fallen short in the passage of legislation that would benefit minority communities, such as a statewide nondiscrimination bill, an expanded hate crimes bill, or a bill that requires Pennsylvania schools to incorporate comprehensive, science-based, age-appropriate sex education into curricula.

“I’m just hoping to get comprehensive sex education in Philadelphia and in Pennsylvania,” Outland added. “The pandemic shut down a lot of sexual reproductive health organizations, and now we’re seeing the consequences of that. We’re testing and we’re finding gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and diagnosing HIV [during] the pandemic.” 

As a recipient of a 2020 Delaware Valley Legacy Fund grant, PMF plans to hire three LGBTQ staff members to launch its STEAM Fashion Program, which will make accessible science, technology, engineering, arts and math to Black and queer folks.

Homophobia and transphobia still permeate many white-dominated STEAM fields, Outland said. Her goal is to help people realize that despite many preconceived notions, fashion can employ science, technology, and engineering. 

“There might be a young kid at home who loves to sew and is dealing with friends talking about them in a homophobic way, not knowing that you can make a career out of this.”

Resolving the misconception that fashion is unimportant is also part of Outland’s work. 

“We say that fashion is more than a look at PMF,” she said. “It is social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, LGBTQ rights, gender roles. It’s dismantling gender bias, it is individuality, it is identity.”

Outland credited her two social work interns, Gamine Howe and Raine Bedeaux, both social work students at West Chester University. 

“They have really jumped on board and been open to looking at social work in a different way,” Outland said. “Social workers are not just clinical social workers — we are in the community, we are on the ground running.”

In addition to ONE® Condoms, other sponsors of the PMF fashion show include MAB Productions, Celebrity Booth, Inc., DJ Akomplish Events, Our House Culture Center, UberLube, Good Clean Love and bcondoms. The event will take place on Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at information about PMF can be found on their Instagram page.