Robert Twaddle, 20, refuses to let restrictive gender norms confine him.
He didnt enjoy the experience of wearing a suit at prom while still in the closet, but that hasnt stopped him reclaiming the suit since.
He rocked up to his graduation years later in a seriously beautiful twist on a traditional suit, and thousands of people on Twitter are loving it.
Robert told Metro.co.uk: I felt uncomfortable at prom because by this point in my life, at aged 16 I knew I was gay, but I hadnt told anyone. I also knew at this point that I had many issues with how gendered everything around me felt.
I had looked around the womens sections in shops and found things I liked but Id never felt comfortable to try them on. I felt like, because I was a boy, I had to wear a suit.
Id never really liked wearing suits, they didnt feel good on me at all, it felt almost incorrect for me to wear a suit. Like it represented something, a strict gendered ideal that I didnt believe in.
I went to prom anyways, in the suit, even with a date, a girl (not the young woman photographed in my tweet but she was a good friend of mine).
As inspired by the iconic documentary Jamie – Drag Queen At 16 as I was, I wasnt going to go to prom in a dress either. So I just felt a bit stuck.
Four years later, Robert put a suit on again… but wore it in a very different way.
Instead of a bland, traditional jacket-shirt-trousers combo, Robert put his own twist on the traditional suit, with flared trousers, a ruffled, New Romantic-esque shirt and a cropped jacket.
The ensemble was accessorised with a clutch bag and black platform heels.
On the left is a photo of me incredibly uncomfortable at my school prom.
I didn't feel like my suit was representative of who I was.
I felt I had to wear it.
Now 4 years later, for my graduation, I reclaim the suit. In my own way. On my own terms.
And I feel beautiful.
— Robert Twaddle (@robert_twaddle) July 31, 2018
Robert said: Coming out was interesting because I now felt obliged to “dress gay”, whatever that meant. I started wearing whatever I thought gay people had to wear, everything from braces and dickie bows to larger than life floral moments ever other day of the week. This did dissipate quite quickly once I realized that the people at college didnt care what I was wearing at all.
I just wore what I thought was comfortable and that I could move around in for any dance classes or performances I would be attending.
Im a queer visual artist and theatre maker, and Ive just finished a year at Charity Peer Productions where I studied on an actor/artist development course. Im also a self taught make-up artist, singer, dancer, actor, choreographer, writer, director and occasionally a drag performer!
Being visibly queer is really important to Robert.
Only the other week, I was stood on a train platform in a red dress and a little bit of makeup, I was going on a night out so Id made a nice effort., h explains. And I felt very scared.
Just standing waiting for the train, felt like a life and death situation, every time someone would walk past or stop and stare, or pull out their phone and take pictures, I didnt know what would happen next, if anyone was going to start a fight, or throw something, or call me a f***** or pin me down and threaten to follow me home and put a brick through my window, simply for making eye contact (yes, thats happened before).
After only a few minutes of dirty looks I felt so uncomfortable that I spoke to my friend, who is also queer, over the phone. She said to me: “if I was stood on that platform, just seeing you being so comfortable in your queer life, would bring me so much happiness”. She told me that just the image of me standing there was enough to make her day, and that she was proud of me.
Since his prom in 2014, Robert says that his life has changed massively.
Im an out and proud gay man. I quickly left Scarborough, moving down south by myself with next to no money in my account, simply to escape the homophobia I was experiencing in my home town.
Now, I dress how I like, when I like. I am surrounded by so many other beautiful queer people and allies who allow me to go out in what I want and support me regardless.
Robert explained that although there might have been an expectation from his peers that he would attend graduation in full drag, just as the traditional suit didnt feel right, drag didnt either.
My time on my development course has really taught me to take pride in my queer identity and to harness it, channeling my confidence as well as my conflict into my work and my day to day life.
The graduation photo is a perfect amalgamation of this development, I wanted to wear something that didnt read as traditionally masculine, and didnt read as traditionally feminine.
My cohort had seen me perform in drag on several occasion so I felt that there was an expectation that I would come in full regalia, with the makeup and the gown.
But I felt that, going into this graduation with that expectation of me, not only mirrors exactly what I didnt want from my prom, but also just wouldnt be me.
Graduation for me, was a celebration of self, and if I walked in with a literal mask of makeup I wouldnt really be representing myself honestly and authentically.
Robert is currently studying at the East 15 drama school in Essex, and he hopes to develop his skills as a makeup artist.
He says: Id also love to lead the charge on more queer theatre within the drama school. My aim is to write a series of queer plays with a friend that are inclusive of people of colour because holy sh*t are we in need of some more strong queer POC within the theatrical world!
We wish Robert the best of luck on his journey and hope that he always has the confidence to wear what he feels represents him.