“I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about this,” says model, dancer and poet Kaiden Ford. The 26-year-old London-based creative is excitedly recalling their first book of poetry, which they started creating when they were just seventeen.
“It was composed from my childhood journals. I read them and thought: ‘I still haven’t healed from this’.” Kaiden secretly worked on their first book in their brother’s closet, pulling different stories together organically from their experience of growing up queer and non-binary. “That’s where my journey began.”
Kaiden was born in New York City to parents who were not accepting of their queerness. Because of this, they learned to use art, poetry and performance as an outlet during difficult times.
“I never had the budget to go to therapy or anything, but dancing helped me to feel more connected with myself,” Kaiden says. “I understood myself more when I was dancing.”
In a sense, dance and poetry have become an autobiographical art form for Kaiden. Their second queer poetry book, I Am Suing My Parents For Emotional Abuse – An Affidavit, was published in March 2023 and they regularly perform as a dancer at some of London’s most radical, boundary-pushing queer night clubs.
Kaiden shares their love for dance and poetry on Instagram, where they’ve become known for their distinctive approach to fashion and beauty. Social media provides Kaiden the platform to connect with other LGBTQ+ creatives and showcase their exploration of different hairstyles, piercings and clothing. Their style draws from a combination of contemporary references and the wider queer community, who use fashion to display their gender and sexuality in unique, ever-changing ways.
Kaiden views these aesthetics as a key part of how they express their queerness. “Fashion has always been a big part of my life,” they say. “It’s one of the reasons I had a lot of issues with coming out to my parents. The idea that I wanted to wear a dress and heels was just the most absurd thing to them.”
Overcoming this judgment has encouraged Kaiden to dress for themself, rather than for other people. “I would rather feel good standing behind what I represent in our field and not pretending to be someone I’m not. Bringing fashion, beauty, and sex together is exactly what I want to do in my work.”
Although their creative work explores queer identity, fantasy and sensuality, Kaiden once found it very difficult to explore their own sexuality. “I realized that my fear of sex was because I was scared of STIs,” they explain. “I grew up in the suburbs and my parents never talked to me about sex. I didn’t have any queer friends and I had no one to teach me about these things.”
When Kaiden moved to London, everything changed. “I started to meet more queer people and I was lucky enough to be introduced to places that offer free sexual health check-ups. Having support from friends and the guidance of professionals helped me to protect myself and also my community.”
Going on PrEP has been a game-changer for Kaiden. “I feel so much more secure in my decisions now that I am protecting myself,” Kaiden says. “Being on PrEP helps to let go of worries or anxieties.” They also think that there has been a noticeable difference in how young people are approaching sexual health. Now, there is a lot more openness and it’s less of a taboo.
To Kaiden, a better understanding and confidence with sexual health has been key to letting go of fear and anxiety and bringing different parts of their life together. It’s a thread that runs between their personal to professional life and from their art to their identity.
“I’d encourage young queer people to ask questions because knowledge is the biggest advantage in life,” they say. “Talking to people and understanding more about sexual health and queerness will help you feel so much more comfortable in yourself, too.”