In the weeks leading up to Pride Month, urbancoolab made it a point to search out organizations to partner alongside with who share a likeminded vision of empowering those with a voice and a story to tell. The exhaustive search churned out a sizable list of names who have each made inroads in helping communities rise up against certain pockets of oppression. One name, however, kept coming up time-and-time again in a sea of others out to do good; we’re referring of course to the one and only Rainbow Railroad. urbancoolab’s main mission is to democratize fashion design away from those of monetary wealth who jump in to capitalize on upswing market trends and instead place it in the hands of those who prioritize artistic integrity over all else. When juxtaposed against Rainbow Railroad’s approach to protecting LGBTQI individuals from persecution based solely on sexual orientation and gender identity, the end result is an inclusive, gender neutral capsule collection welcoming one and all—no matter who you are.
Designed by urbancoolab’s in-house team in support of Rainbow Railroad, the designs are a direct reflection of the non-profit’s vibrant demeanor, while perfectly encapsulating the colorful efforts its puts forth in looking to protect its very own. Titled “We’re ALL in This Together,” the capsule and corresponding campaign images act as a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community, calling upon on those—and only those—belonging to this specific circle. Lensed by Toronto-based sharpshooter, Riley Stewart, a prominent advocate in his own right having taken part in several Pride-Friendly campaigns, shot an influential collective of LGBTQIA+ advocates out in the streets of “The Village” nonetheless. The neighborhood enclave for Toronto’s LGBTQIA+ community played the perfect backdrop, not only for the collection itself, but those donning them as well.
urbancoolab had the privilege and honor of talking with each individual to better understand their inspiring stories.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit of who you are?
Tyler Lumb: My name is Tyler Lumb. I am a barber in Toronto and I am also transgender—female to male. I have been in my transition for about four years now and a barber for seven. I am catering to the members of LGBTQ+ community when it comes to cutting hair.
Aurora Matrix: Hi Angels! My name is Auroa Matrix and I am a drag queen here in Toronto. I am known as a pop princess of drag. Anytime you come and see me perform, you will see me spinning and dancing, and all of the stunts just for you.
Humza: My name us Humza, I also do drag under the name Mango Lassi, and I am also a registered veterinary technician.
Becca Webster: My name is Becca and I am a Content Creator and a Digital Marketing Manager.
Dee Guertin: Hi I’m Dee, I work as a Financial Services Consultant and I take all of our (Becca) photos.
Can you share an interesting story in relational to your journey?
Tyler: I went to a salon to get a haircut one day and outside it said $25 for mens. So I went in to try and get the best fade possible—prior to my transition. I got an amazing stylist and an incredible fade. But, when I went to go pay for my service, they charged me $65 instead of the $25 because I presented as a female. So that prompted me to want to do something for the community when it comes to hair because I didn’t want anyone else to go through that.
Humza: I’m a Halloween Queen. Mango was birthed on Halloween five years ago. I started doing drag and things just kind of took off from there. I went to L.A., to RuPaul’s DragCon and at that time not a lot of people were doing South Asian drag. I happened to do a South Asian look there and it kinda blew up on Instagram.
What has your path been like in living your truth?
Humza: Since I have been more accepting of my queerness and femininity, life has been so much better. I can finally breathe that collective sigh of relief.
Becca: I’ve been really lucky that I have a family who’ve always been supportive of me. When I met Dee, who is my first girlfriend, it was more of just coming to terms with my sexuality myself.
Dee: I grew up in a very traditional family, so coming out was a bit more of a challenge. However, I have a lot of really great extended family and supportive friends who made the journey a lot easier. Since coming out, my family has come to terms and are a lot more accepting, so honestly, I’ve never been happier.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Tyler: Always wait before answering a question, signing a contract, and really anything that is really important to try and not miscommunicate the message. I use it to this day and it works well for me because sometimes I can get really heated because I am a fire sign, so I always try and think about the situation so I can respond accordingly.
Aurora: To smile. Honestly, when someone sees you smile and having fun, they will also have fun, which is the most important thing.
Humza: The best advice is just to be safe and to find that anyway you can. A lot of queer people are told to do things by society that can be dangerous and are constantly being pressured to do things that may cause harm to themselves.
Becca: People come into your life for a reason, season or lifetime, so if something doesn’t work out with someone there may be a reason for it. It’s cool to learn about what reason or season specific people come into your life for, but the people that are there for a lifetime are just so important.
What advice can you offer to someone traveling along a similar path?
Tyler: Time is not linear, so you should go through your own process as fast or as slow as you want, and to never compare yourself and your situation to any other’s journey.
Aurora: Take your time, this is your journey, and this is only for you; no one else. Take all the time you need to living your true authentic self.
Becca: Its important to note that, we’ve been through some challenges on getting people to accept it. If your family doesn’t accept it right away, it doesn’t necessarily mean they never will. We’ve been able to see the opposite outcome. Don’t dwell too much on the present because it can get better in the future.
Dee: One of the things that has helped me, is just making it as normal as possible. Include it in normal conversations. I found the more normal I made it seem, the more normal the responses were.
Are you involved with any special projects you’d like to mention?
Humza: I do a lot of work In Peel. There is not a lot of queer representation in that specific community, nor are there a lot of safe spaces to go. So, I try to do a lot of gigs there to help raise awareness and to help give us all a voice.
What does Rainbow Railroad mean to you?
Tyler: I have worked with Rainbow Railroad in the past with my shop, PL Cuts, and I am familiar with what they do. When I think of Rainbow Railroad, I think of them being one of the longest serving non-profit organizations helping out thousands of LGBTQ members, and I believe they are one of the most important ones we have here in the city.
Aurora: To me, its just amazing that they find ways to give money and resources to rainbow refugees who need it most. I appreciate how they find safe places for them to live just how they are.
Becca: I think it’s awesome how they’ve been able to save so many people from terrible situations. Honestly, sometimes I just like to read stories from them because when we’re planning trips and thinking about where we want to go in the world, it’s important to educate ourselves on what’s safe.
The urbancoolab for Rainbow Railroad collection is available for purchase via urbancoolx. 50% of the proceeds from the collection will go directly towards Rainbow Railroad and its efforts to help and serve LGBTQ+ individuals.