A conversation with Aria Sa’id, as told to Universal Standard
US: What is your name, your pronouns, and how do you identify?
ARIA: My name is Aria Sa’id, my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I identify as a transgender woman.
US: As we collectively transition out of quarantine, this time in solitude has been much more than just staying in. What do you consider your greatest challenge existing as an LGBTQ+ person while in quarantine? What has been your greatest victory?
A: The biggest challenge for me as a black trans woman has been watching the world face a global pandemic. Also watching and feeling pain and rage in 2020 — from the ever-present racial injustices we see on television and social media, to wondering if as a trans person —will the tiny bit of rights I have be taken away at the supreme court? Plus all the harmful rhetoric on trans people that seeks to disempower and invalidate our experiences as humans.
But the greatest victories for me have been the relationship I’ve developed with myself during quarantine. I’m a single woman who lives alone, so I had to truly learn that being alone doesn’t equal lonely. I had to wrap myself up in self-love and shed insecurities I’ve held about my body that I thought I had addressed and it’s been such a healing, full circle moment for me.
US: Every LGBTQ+ person knows that coming out is not a singular, linear process, but rather something we are faced with nearly every day. How do you relate to the phrase “coming out” in your journey as an LGBTQ+ person?
A: “Coming out” is such a tricky thing for me — I think as trans people we often hold “trans expressions” prior to transition — and it can feel like the world “calls you out” before you yourself share your truth. I think “coming out” for me is just slang for saying, “I decided to be authentic to myself, and share that journey with everyone else” and that for me is one of the most beautiful moments for transgender and queer folks!
US: How do you connect your identity as an LGBTQ+ person to your personal style and presentation of self?
A: I think my identity and my personal journey plays such a huge role in my personal style and expression. I think much of my taste and style is reminiscent of the sophisticated fashion culture of black trans women as seen in the ballroom scene and the streets. For many of us, as black trans people, our “look” is the only thing we get to own outright — and it’s the currency that allows us to move through our lives and the world. So much of my inspiration comes from black trans women icons, like Octavia St Laurent and the Crystal Labeija. I think that informs so much of my love for fashion and, let’s be honest, my love for labels. It’s still radical to see black trans folk dressed in couture, which baffles me, because we invented so much of what exists in fashion, art, and culture. I think people will find that we actually embody and live our lives in those things and that us adorning our bodies is a form of a radical act.
US: Expression of self is a deeply personal experience, and one that is often connected with personal style. How do you connect your identity as an LGBTQ+ person to your personal style? How would you describe your style?
A: Transsexual CEO ;)
US: The campaign name From Staying in to Coming Out holds a double meaning for many LGBTQ+ people experiencing this time of quarantine. What are you most looking forward to as things transition and you reintegrate yourself back into the world?
A: I’m most looking forward to travel and seeing folks i love and creating those memorable moments with people i miss have deep belly laughs and late night thought provoking conversations with. But i also don’t want to dismiss what quarantine taught me - which is to not take for granted how hardwired we are for meaningful connection with each other. and during quarantine, i learned to be more daring in life and to savour the moments. i learned to always dress for me because it brightens my day and helps me show up as my best self. some i’m “coming out” a black trans woman who is having a little renaissance in her life!
US: Look back on the beginning of quarantine… What would you say has changed the most in your life from then until now?
A: It feels like we’ve had to pause life this past year and a half. But I have to say, I learned so much about myself during the quarantine — and I'm forever changed by that. The biggest change has been that I feel more grounded and in love with my body and all that it holds and I've learned to do things for me and not other people. What I learned during quarantine was that the clothing that I gravitated towards most were the simple, elegant well-made pieces that survived multiple washes. I began to invest in a wardrobe that I'm truly proud of because every piece sparks joy. I can wear each item a thousand times and look and feel amazing every time — allowing me to feel prepared for whatever life brings my way. It taught me to shop a bit more sustainably. If it’s in my cart and I can't think of 5 moments to wear the item, I shouldn't order it. And I'm so much better for it!
Continue to celebrate Pride with US and read the next From Staying In to Coming Out story with Phoebe & Morgan May.