by Sophie Lee
Washington had just repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” as Nichole Payton and Alyah Baker brainstormed names for the retail shop of their dreams. What’s the opposite of “don’t ask, don’t tell?” Payton mused, and so, in November 2011, the Show & Tell Concept Shop was born.
“Show & Tell has always been a store that has focused on the queer community,” Baker said. “Because both the owners are queer women of color, it just made sense for us to make a space where our community could come, where people could shop at ease and not have to worry about discrimination or any sort of negative experiences they were having in mainstream shops. They could just come in and feel at home.”
Home, at Show & Tell, looks like a black chalkboard wall covered in rainbow scribbles, doodles and words of encouragement from visitors, and a sunlit room full of large, high-resolution snapshot glimpses into the lives of people with masculine-of-center identities — people who may have been assigned female at birth but resonate more with masculine forms of gender expression. A transman peers straight into the camera from one photo, two horizontal mastectomy scars underlining his chest.
Pointing at one of the portraits, one shopper, Avery Trufelman, said to Baker, “I just have to say — this is so funny — this is my friend from college in Connecticut who’s on this wall. She lives in Brooklyn.”