LGBTQ Photo Essay & Interview

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OUT LOUD AND PROUD SERIES

It’s PRIDE weekend in my hometown of Vancouver and I wanted to find a way to celebrate the people in my LGBTQ community and share them with you. In order to reach beyond our beautiful city limits, I thought I would create a digital portrait series featuring queer people of colour; a historically under-represented segment of the community, particularly in mainstream media. Each portrait highlights an individual whose sexual identity falls under the LGBTQ umbrella and whose ethnicity or cultural background is not exclusively white.

I waffled on whether or not to include myself in this series, but ultimately chose to take part. I struggled with it because my appearance has provided me privilege and has coloured my experience. While I appear white, and am often presumed straight, I am a half Latina, lesbian identifying woman. I was born in the Dominican Republic to a Latin mother and white European father and I immigrated to Canada as a very young child. The fact that my ethnicity and queerness isn’t stereotypically obvious isn’t lost on me. I realize that I navigate the world with far more ease than so many others. But that doesn’t diminish the pride I feel about my identity. On the contrary, it makes me own it even more.

With privilege comes responsibility. I want my art to connect people; to open their hearts and minds.

So I introduce you to a small handful of outstanding humans who are out, loud and proud, doing their part to change the world for the better. I thank you all for your openness and willingness to share; the process has been educational and filled my heart with such joy and pride!

  Matin - L"G"BTQ     Age:     50    Occupation   :  Tennis Coach    How do you identify? What does your identity (label) mean to you? What, if anything, do you want people to know about it?     Gay, although the label doesn’t define me, it creates a community of shared experiences. I want people to know we all come from different backgrounds and can’t be fit into the same mold.    What are typical stereotypes/assumptions made about your identity and what is inaccurate about them?     People make assumptions that those with same sexual identity have the same interests, being an athlete growing up and coaching tennis was always a surprise to people based on their preconceived notions of a gay man.    What is your ethnicity/heritage, and how has that cultural backgroud affected your queerness?     Middle eastern/ Iranian  Having seen a revolution and 8 and half years of war made me aware of the importance of being true to myself and people around me, hoping that I can inspire the next generation.    Generally speaking, POC (People of colour), are under-represented in media, particularly queer POC. What are your thoughts about representation and visibility?     I think this is a wide spread problem in the media and by having more people of diverse cultural background in the media, we will give inspiration to those who don’t have a voice.    What does PRIDE (the celebration) mean to you personally?   It’s a celebration of inclusion where we all come together to say we exist.

Matin - L"G"BTQ

Age: 50

Occupation: Tennis Coach

How do you identify? What does your identity (label) mean to you? What, if anything, do you want people to know about it? Gay, although the label doesn’t define me, it creates a community of shared experiences. I want people to know we all come from different backgrounds and can’t be fit into the same mold.

What are typical stereotypes/assumptions made about your identity and what is inaccurate about them? People make assumptions that those with same sexual identity have the same interests, being an athlete growing up and coaching tennis was always a surprise to people based on their preconceived notions of a gay man.

What is your ethnicity/heritage, and how has that cultural backgroud affected your queerness? Middle eastern/ Iranian

Having seen a revolution and 8 and half years of war made me aware of the importance of being true to myself and people around me, hoping that I can inspire the next generation.

Generally speaking, POC (People of colour), are under-represented in media, particularly queer POC. What are your thoughts about representation and visibility? I think this is a wide spread problem in the media and by having more people of diverse cultural background in the media, we will give inspiration to those who don’t have a voice.

What does PRIDE (the celebration) mean to you personally? It’s a celebration of inclusion where we all come together to say we exist.

  BETHANY - LG"B"TQ     Occupation:   Actor & Occupational Therapist    How do you identify? What does your identity (label) mean to you? What, if anything, do you want people to know about it?   Bisexual/Pansexual - I love the pan definition as I have had the pleasure of dating someone who was trans ftm.  I identify as human who has the capacity to fall in love with another consenting human. There is a lot of fluidity, growth, acceptance, and freedom in how I feel about my identity day to day/year to year.  I don’t find labels as comforting to me, although I will take them on to make my partner feel comfortable and people in general feel ‘comfortable’. To me, a label is like taking something fluid, like water and freezing it in time, so it’s fixed and no longer as easily transmutable. So if I identify one way because I am dating someone and together, we present a certain way publicly, and then later I’m dating someone else (different gender, sex, sexual orientation, etc.), people sometimes assume that I’ve been lying about my ‘true’ identity. When my truth is fluid and changing as I meet wonderful people and continue to grow.    What are typical stereotypes/assumptions made about your identity and what is inaccurate about them?   I find that people tend to assume I’m straight, which comes with its privileges. When they find out who I am dating and their assumption is challenged, I have not experienced much push back at all - which I am very thankful for. I have really amazing people/colleagues in my life who are very supportive and understanding💛 which I am absolutely thankful for as it has allowed me to be the best me that I can be.    What is your ethnicity/heritage, and how has that cultural backgroud affected your queerness?   I am half Nigerian and half Scandinavian/Ukrainian/European. I was adopted and raised by a German couple. They allowed me to be my own human, understanding that not only would I have my own genetic/epigenetic information coded in, but that they would have to get to know ‘me’ as I grew and learned. They knew that I would become my own person and could never be them - and they didn’t want that for me. They are amazing 😍💕    Generally speaking, POC (People of colour), are under-represented in media, particularly queer POC. What are your thoughts about representation and visibility?   I remember looking up to Halle Barrie as one of the only women/POC in media that looked like me. I am so thankful that she opened doors for me and I can only hope to continue opening doors for the next generation by being visible 😊    What does PRIDE (the celebration) mean to you personally?   It is celebrating diversity, celebrating inclusivity, celebrating love, celebrating acceptance, celebrating family. Connection is what increases the tensile strength of our community - a community that will catch you if you fall and hug you when you need it. I am proud of our community who is ready to embrace you, just as you are, in your truth.

BETHANY - LG"B"TQ

Occupation: Actor & Occupational Therapist

How do you identify? What does your identity (label) mean to you? What, if anything, do you want people to know about it? Bisexual/Pansexual - I love the pan definition as I have had the pleasure of dating someone who was trans ftm.

I identify as human who has the capacity to fall in love with another consenting human. There is a lot of fluidity, growth, acceptance, and freedom in how I feel about my identity day to day/year to year.

I don’t find labels as comforting to me, although I will take them on to make my partner feel comfortable and people in general feel ‘comfortable’. To me, a label is like taking something fluid, like water and freezing it in time, so it’s fixed and no longer as easily transmutable. So if I identify one way because I am dating someone and together, we present a certain way publicly, and then later I’m dating someone else (different gender, sex, sexual orientation, etc.), people sometimes assume that I’ve been lying about my ‘true’ identity. When my truth is fluid and changing as I meet wonderful people and continue to grow.

What are typical stereotypes/assumptions made about your identity and what is inaccurate about them? I find that people tend to assume I’m straight, which comes with its privileges. When they find out who I am dating and their assumption is challenged, I have not experienced much push back at all - which I am very thankful for. I have really amazing people/colleagues in my life who are very supportive and understanding💛 which I am absolutely thankful for as it has allowed me to be the best me that I can be.

What is your ethnicity/heritage, and how has that cultural backgroud affected your queerness? I am half Nigerian and half Scandinavian/Ukrainian/European. I was adopted and raised by a German couple. They allowed me to be my own human, understanding that not only would I have my own genetic/epigenetic information coded in, but that they would have to get to know ‘me’ as I grew and learned. They knew that I would become my own person and could never be them - and they didn’t want that for me. They are amazing 😍💕

Generally speaking, POC (People of colour), are under-represented in media, particularly queer POC. What are your thoughts about representation and visibility? I remember looking up to Halle Barrie as one of the only women/POC in media that looked like me. I am so thankful that she opened doors for me and I can only hope to continue opening doors for the next generation by being visible 😊

What does PRIDE (the celebration) mean to you personally? It is celebrating diversity, celebrating inclusivity, celebrating love, celebrating acceptance, celebrating family. Connection is what increases the tensile strength of our community - a community that will catch you if you fall and hug you when you need it. I am proud of our community who is ready to embrace you, just as you are, in your truth.

  TRU - LGB"T"Q     Age:   15    Occupation:   Student    How do you identify? What does your identity (label) mean to you? What, if anything, do you want people to know about it?    Transgender and Pansexual  My identity is just that. It’s who I am and people need to love my identity before they can love me.    What are typical stereotypes/assumptions made about your identity and what is inaccurate about them?   A stereotype about transgender people is that you will be able to tell, because they will look like the gender assigned to them at birth. That is not true. I look very feminine and pass really well as do a lot of other transgender people.    What is your ethnicity/heritage, and how has that cultural backgroud affected your queerness?   I am Jamaican and First Nations. This hasn’t really affected my queerness in any huge way.    Generally speaking, POC (People of colour), are under-represented in media, particularly queer POC. What are your thoughts about representation and visibility?   I think that more representation is needed to give the next generation a chance to see themselves in media, to show there are others out there like them.    What does PRIDE (the celebration) mean to you personally?   Pride is a way for us to show how strong our community has become over the years and how far we’ve come. And it’s also a way of saying “the fight isn’t over!”

TRU - LGB"T"Q

Age: 15

Occupation: Student

How do you identify? What does your identity (label) mean to you? What, if anything, do you want people to know about it?

Transgender and Pansexual

My identity is just that. It’s who I am and people need to love my identity before they can love me.

What are typical stereotypes/assumptions made about your identity and what is inaccurate about them? A stereotype about transgender people is that you will be able to tell, because they will look like the gender assigned to them at birth. That is not true. I look very feminine and pass really well as do a lot of other transgender people.

What is your ethnicity/heritage, and how has that cultural backgroud affected your queerness? I am Jamaican and First Nations. This hasn’t really affected my queerness in any huge way.

Generally speaking, POC (People of colour), are under-represented in media, particularly queer POC. What are your thoughts about representation and visibility? I think that more representation is needed to give the next generation a chance to see themselves in media, to show there are others out there like them.

What does PRIDE (the celebration) mean to you personally? Pride is a way for us to show how strong our community has become over the years and how far we’ve come. And it’s also a way of saying “the fight isn’t over!”

  LAUREN - LGBT"Q"     Age:   27    Occupation:   Barista    How do you identify? What does your identity (label) mean to you? What, if anything, do you want people to know about it?    Queer, Gay, Non-binary  As it is right now, at this point in history, I feel that Identity involves two disparate movements, one towards inclusivity as well as one celebrating distinct narratives, separate from one another yet complimentary. It’s a way of putting people in a box and also a way of breaking down the stereotypes associated with these boxes.    What are typical stereotypes/assumptions made about your identity and what is inaccurate about them?   Great question. We should never assume someone’s gender as a rule. Obviously I’m femme-presenting, yet find myself to embody more masculinity than femininity.    What is your ethnicity/heritage, and how has that cultural backgroud affected your queerness?   I’m half white, half Sri Lankan. Coming from a mixed race background, I experienced differential treatment both interpersonally and institutionally (I’m not white passing). This negative experience has had some beneficial effects on my life including giving me a skill set to deal with societal prejudice.    Generally speaking, POC (People of colour), are under-represented in media, particularly queer POC. What are your thoughts about representation and visibility?   Right now I’m seeing a huge shift in the media. Companies campaigning to advertise their products are calling for more open ethnicities as representatives for their brands. Broadcasting platforms such as Netflix are also pushing for more diversity on screen. A shame that the movement takes hold here and is dictated by consumerism but hey, we are getting somewhere and it’s important.    What does PRIDE (the celebration) mean to you personally?   I feel quite ambiguously about Pride as a celebration. Historically, Pride is a testament to the history of the LGBTQ+ movement; it’s the struggle to be acknowledged and accepted as individuals all positively contributing towards a society where inclusivity prevails. It’s also a great marketing strategy.

LAUREN - LGBT"Q"

Age: 27

Occupation: Barista

How do you identify? What does your identity (label) mean to you? What, if anything, do you want people to know about it?

Queer, Gay, Non-binary

As it is right now, at this point in history, I feel that Identity involves two disparate movements, one towards inclusivity as well as one celebrating distinct narratives, separate from one another yet complimentary. It’s a way of putting people in a box and also a way of breaking down the stereotypes associated with these boxes.

What are typical stereotypes/assumptions made about your identity and what is inaccurate about them? Great question. We should never assume someone’s gender as a rule. Obviously I’m femme-presenting, yet find myself to embody more masculinity than femininity.

What is your ethnicity/heritage, and how has that cultural backgroud affected your queerness? I’m half white, half Sri Lankan. Coming from a mixed race background, I experienced differential treatment both interpersonally and institutionally (I’m not white passing). This negative experience has had some beneficial effects on my life including giving me a skill set to deal with societal prejudice.

Generally speaking, POC (People of colour), are under-represented in media, particularly queer POC. What are your thoughts about representation and visibility? Right now I’m seeing a huge shift in the media. Companies campaigning to advertise their products are calling for more open ethnicities as representatives for their brands. Broadcasting platforms such as Netflix are also pushing for more diversity on screen. A shame that the movement takes hold here and is dictated by consumerism but hey, we are getting somewhere and it’s important.

What does PRIDE (the celebration) mean to you personally? I feel quite ambiguously about Pride as a celebration. Historically, Pride is a testament to the history of the LGBTQ+ movement; it’s the struggle to be acknowledged and accepted as individuals all positively contributing towards a society where inclusivity prevails. It’s also a great marketing strategy.