Rachel Antonoff remembers the first time she learned about what being gay meant.
“Grade school—[I was] reading a magazine that doesn’t exist anymore, like YM,” Antonoff said. “And I remember feeling really afraid thinking I was gay. That it was a. like a bad thing and b. like something you could just get without knowing it.”
A fashion designer with an eponymous brand and co-founder of The Ally Coalition, a non-profit that spreads awareness and fundraises for LGBTQs by engaging queer and trans allies, Antonoff remembers wishing her parents would have been more accepting at the time.
“I look back on that often because I think how interesting it is that, say it were my child—I would immediately be like ‘Maybe you are [gay]—great! And you might be a lot of things,’” Antonoff said. “My parents were amazing and open-minded, but I remember that was not the response I was met with, and it made me sad. Especially in hindsight.”
Now Antonoff, who has posed for the Self-Evident Truths We Are You campaign that takes portraits of anyone who identifies as not 100% heterosexual, is actively working to make sure LGBTQ youth are being taken care of. Along with her brother, musician Jack Antonoff, she has raised thousands of dollars via The Ally Coalition’s regular events and fundraisers that employ friends like Lena Dunham, Carly Rae Jepsen and Lorde to show up for the cause.
“We just always had a lot of LGBTQ friends,” Antonoff said. “And from the beginning, [it] really seemed asinine to us that there were people living among us that didn’t have the same rights as us. And you know, there’s bigotry everywhere, but the actual stripping of rights is insane. What can we even say about that right now? But that was always something we found unacceptable.”
At a recent Ally Coalition talent show at Webster Hall, the Ally Coalition raised $100,000 for the New York City-based New Alternatives For LGBT Homeless Youth.
“We’re just really excited to be seeing where our money goes and seeing just more mouths fed and beds,” she said.
Antonoff also makes political statements with her fashion line, selling T-shirts and sweatshirts with social commentary like “Girls Just Wanna Have FUNDamental Rights” and “I’m With Human,” the latter of which was just featured in an episode of “Gilmore Girls” on Netflix. Proceeds from her feminist-tinged lines have benefitted organizations like Planned Parenthood.
“I think fashion has one thing that makes it easy to fit into activism, which is you’re literally selling goods,” Antonoff said, “so if you’re willing to just put your money where your mouth is, which is the most important thing you can do anyway, that helps. So I think that that’s where fashion can be involved, but mostly I think anybody with a platform has a responsibility to speak out and so many people don’t.”