Your personal Pride is never canceled. As LGBTQ people across Atlanta set their own Pride schedules without a festival or parade this year, it’s on each of us to show out loud and proud.
Good thing there is Be Your Own Apparel, the online merch by 33-year-old native Atlantan KT Deutschler. Her clothing line is exactly what the season calls for.
Deutschler’s journey to the clothing market started with a path to her true self.
“Throughout my younger years, there was no shortage of people telling me who I should be and what I should do to conform to societal expectations,” Deutschler told Project Q. “I eventually found peace with myself and gained the confidence to start living my truth.”
Someone outed Deutschler as a lesbian in high school, and she rolled with it. She went on to become a lawyer in Corporate America. Through it all, her struggle for approval continued, she said.
“The LGBTQ+ community has come a long way since I came out,” she said. “But unfortunately, we still have progress to make. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, there will always be people in the world that think you are not worthy of happiness.”
In the long run, the sum of those experiences made her realize she wanted to celebrate not only LGBTQ identities but all people who feel ostracized for their uniqueness, she said.
“Knowing that this struggle was not unique to me, or even the LGBT community, I decided to create a brand that celebrates peoples’ differences.”
Be Your Own products – hats, t-shirts, tanks, raglans and more – are quite intentionally unisex and non-binary.
“Whether you are femme or butch, gay or straight, male or female, queer or not, our products are for you,” Deutschler said.
This time, it’s personal
While the Be Your Own message applies to everyone, people who struggle with the opinions of others at the expense of their own hold a special place in the apparel founder’s heart.
“I spent far too many years of my life worried about what other people thought of me,” Deutschler said. “I worked tirelessly to gain the approval of others, only to find an empty achievement when I received it.”
“Those experiences and lessons learned are what I bring to this brand and what serves as the foundation for Be Your Own Apparel,” she said.
As associate general counsel for a fintech company, Deutschler said she owes the apparel company to her BYO cohorts. Her friend Erin, also a queer woman in Corporate America, helped create the logos and designs. She also talked through the concept with Deutschler “from a thought in my head to a tangible product.”
Deutschler’s wife of two years plays an important part, too.
“Hannah has been CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer),” Deutschler said. “She has always been there to support my vision and encourage my pursuit of my passions.”
In short, Be Your Own Apparel comes from the heart. It is also distinctly a product of Atlanta and its LGBTQ community, Deutschler said.
“Before coming out, I struggled a lot with what my life would look like and where I would fit into society,” she shared. “I thought my idea of success was unattainable and I would have to forever hide my true self and conform to the mainstream definition of beauty.”
“I first experienced complete acceptance among the Atlanta LGBTQ+ community – more of a family,” she continued. “With the community’s love and support, I was able to build my confidence and find myself. After years of self-discovery, I learned the value of embracing my uniquities and living authentically.”
Encouraging people to “Define Yourself” and “Be Your Own Original,” the product line sells itself, but there are some standouts.
“The most popular product is our Be Your Own Original Scoop Tee in black,” Deutschler said. “My personal favorite product is the BYO Snapback, you can literally rock it with anything.”
That said, the stringer tank gets the most comments with the logo “loud and proud across the front,” Deutschler noted. “It definitely catches peoples’ attention.”
She gives them lots of chances to notice, too.
“Every time I wear Be Your Own, which is pretty much every day, I recall the struggles that I overcame and celebrate the community that stands with me,” she said.
She also hopes to pass on that confidence to her customers and anyone who sees them wearing her gear.
“My advice for anyone struggling to be their authentic self is, be your own,” Deutschler said. “I refuse to ever face my final days of life and look back on a time when I allowed someone else’s thoughts or words threaten my authenticity.”
“Each of us is responsible for making sure we are happy with the life we live,” she asserted. “Each person must live their truth and do what makes them happy. Being your own will not always be easy, but it will be worth it.”