Tomorrow night, Worcester's Mechanics Hall will be transformed into a galaxy for Queer Art and Fashion, or Queer AF, which organizers have dubbed "The Met Gala of Massachusetts."

Now in its fourth year, Queer AF is an art and fashion show put on by the nonprofit Love Your Labels, which supports queer and transgender youth in Central Massachusetts.

“It really was a way to say, how do we make queer bodies and queer identities and experiences more visible and more celebrated in a joyful space?” said Joshua Croke, Love Your Lables’ president. “And also shattering beauty standards that are often depicted by media. Our show is very much focused on representing diverse models across age, race, ethnicity, identity, body diversity.”

Previous events have featured big names like Peppermint from "RuPaul's Drag Race" and Asha Ama from "Project Runway."

“Fashion for us is really all about expression, and wearing one's self fully and visibly in the way in which they want,” they said. “Fashion is so much more than just the clothes that we put on. It is something that we are able to show to the world that this is how I am comfortable in my own skin, and I want to be able to show up fully celebrated for that.”

This year's show comes as state legislatures across the country are passing anti-LGBT laws and some local institutions are pushing back against the queer community. That includes the Worcester Catholic Diocese, which issued a policy last month requiring Catholic school students to dress and use the bathrooms and pronouns consistent with their sex at birth.

That can be limiting for youth who already have challenges showing up in the world, Croke said.

“Here in Worcester, we're dealing with anti-LGBT policies coming out of the Worcester diocese that are pushing, literally, our kids out of school and into other environments where they have to adapt to new social spaces, new friend dynamics, etc.,” they said. “We both encourage that and also work with our young people to build community and build resiliency to the outside factors that will influence how we are able to show up in the world.”

Walking in a fashion show like Queer AF is very different from being able to walk down the streets of Worcester wearing an affirming outfit. Croke said former models have told them that walking in the show inspired them to get into drag, or gave them confidence to break out of their boxes.

One former model, they said, was a woman in her 70s who left a marriage and decided to do one thing each month that scared her.

“We've really brought so many people from the community together with all these varied identities and experiences to be celebrated and show up,” Croke said.

While some people think of Massachusetts as a safe haven for LGBTQ+ rights and safety, that’s not the case for everyone, Croke said.

“I grew up in Massachusetts,” Croke said. “I grew up in a very conservative, religious family that is very unaccepting of the LGBTQ+ community. And I can tell you that still today we have young people who are growing up in family and social spaces where they don't know the laws that protect them as queer kids. They just know their experience growing up in families that say, 'we don't want to support you, we don't acknowledge your queerness, we want you to change from that.'”

That’s what drives Croke’s work, they said.

“We need to be loud, we need to be visible, we need to showcase that it does get better, which is very true,” they said.

The show is also a chance to highlight fashion and art coming out of Worcester.

Love Your Labels runs Threads: Woven Together, a program that allows high school-aged students to learn about fashion design and discuss their genders and sexualities. Creative Hub Worcester and Technocopia also train and support local designers, Croke said.

“Worcester has such a beautiful and growing fashion scene, and a lot of that is centered in the queer community,” Croke said. “We hope to see Worcester continue climbing on the, kind of, fashion destination map.”

Much like the Met Gala, Queer AF has an annual theme. This year’s is “I Am A Galaxy.”

“It is really about tapping into the infinite possibility of identity and experience,” Croke said. “I expect to see folks that are coming, looking like aliens and I expect folks to come in their interpretation of solar energy.”

The Queer AF fashion show takes place Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Worcester's Mechanics Hall, 321 Main St. Tickets and more information can be found at