Manifesting HIGHFEMME

Nightlife spaces are deeply special to us because these are the spaces where we can fully be seen. These are the spaces where we gather to worship those who make up our communities and to be worshipped ourselves, ultimately asserting our collective existence in a world that does not acknowledge, let alone celebrate, us. There is healing power in being witnessed. That witnessing, that celebration, is a direct act of resistance against the erasure and the violence we face every single day. Cultivating our HIGHFEMME together creates a magic that reverberates through this world, honors our ancestors, and brings radical possibility to life. Let us continue witnessing your authenticity, your truth, your resilience, and your unapologetic joy.

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When we were younger, we used to daydream of spaces where people like us could congregate to celebrate the parts of us we used to hide. Alex would watch The Hills in high school and imagine television writers writing out a script to her glamorous life as a socialite, in order to escape the deep shame she experienced around her gender and her sexuality then. River would long for a glamour almost too Hollywood to bear from her bedroom in Ecuador. Something like strutting through the streets of a big city, turning heads, would be the fantasy then, for both of us. Little did we know that our dreams of curating, hosting, and performing in powerful nightlife spaces would come full circle, as a couple of trans women, no less.

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Before HIGHFEMME, we definitely had reservations about actively participating in nightlife more formally. We were familiar with Chicago's exclusive side of nightlife as occasional party-goers, after all. Our relationship, in particular, always felt invisible in spaces that ultimately still catered to (narrowly defined) gay audiences (even when marketed as “queer.”) River’s “passing” femmeness made her feel even more unwelcome. Though our expression and our relationship continue to surprise the small-minded, we know they also continue to inspire the hungry for more—so much more than the boring old templates of "good" gender and sexuality that still plague all aspects of life today. So, we created HIGHFEMME with intention.

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As queer and trans women of color who are madly in love with each other, our main goal today, with each manifestation of HIGHFEMME (and our performance art), has been to inject nightlife as a whole with our signature rebelliously loving authenticity. We want to remind others, too, that trans womanhood is not defined by tragedy. We are not defined by our oppression. We are magical. We deserve to be celebrated while we are still alive. We deserve to be revered. To be femme is to be beyond what the world makes room for. We hope HIGHFEMME is the birthplace of a new, more authentic version for you. HIGHFEMME is our little take on, our little contribution to, a more inclusive nightlife—one where, though everyone is welcome, queer and trans femme existence and love are sweetly modeled and unapologetically celebrated.

Photography by Savana Ogburn
Styling by Jer Kreitz
Collaboration by For All Humans