When I started to come to terms with who I was as a queer person, I took it upon myself to learn the history of my queer forefathers. I needed to know everything about the community I was finally able to claim as part of my identity with unwavering pride.
I started reading and watching everything I could find and one of the first pieces of herstory I stumbled upon was “Paris is Burning” – the pivotal documentary about the 1980’s Harlem Ball scene. That documentary transformed my view of the queer community (especially queer people of color) and allowed me to better understand the roots of the modern queer experience. Most importantly, the documentary brought what could arguably be the most marginalized group of people (queer, trans people of color) into the mainstream along with their lexicon. Tea anyone?
As for my own experience, I recognize the privilege that has been afforded to me as a white, upper-middle-class, cisgender, queer kid. Yes, I was bullied growing up and my parents had a hard time accepting me (my dad still makes one-off comments and my sister still thinks it’s okay for her to say “that’s so gay” and “faggot” as she pleases), but I haven’t been put out on the streets and haven’t had to struggle with my gender identity as so many other people in my community have to deal with on a daily basis.
For a time, it seemed like we’re getting closer and closer to true equality for LGBTQ individuals – then the unfathomable happened: Trump became our President. And much to Caitlin Jenner’s surprise, Trump didn’t waste too much time rolling back the advances the Obama Administration took to legitimize the queer experience and secure our equal rights. First on the docket was to withdraw the Obama protections allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
It baffles how behind half of our country can be when it come to LGBTQ equality, particularly that T. So many other countries have made strides in equality for transgender people. Yet, we’re still having to have people like Gavin Grimm head to the Supreme Court just to so he have an average high school experience and use the bathroom that matches his gender identity and not be forced to use a gender neutral bathroom. So what’s next? The fact is our Vice President is one of the most well know anti-LGBTQ politicians – so much so Time compiled everything he has said over the years about LGBTQ issues. (By the way Pence, conversion therapy doesn’t work). It baffles how out of touch some people on the far-right can be.
Unfortunately, the fight for equality seems to be far from over. What can we do to combat the current administration? A lot. For starters, if you’re queer, live your life authentically. Wake up every day and walk out the door as you, even if it may seem hard. Want to wear pink eyeliner? Do it. Be fearless. Next time you encounter someone on the far-right, try to have a conversation with them. Sometimes it takes just meeting someone and showing that we’re real people to wake them up.
If you can invest more time, get out and get dirty. Protest. Volunteer for local nonprofits. Donate money if you have the means. Fight the good fight until you can’t fight anymore. There are so many different organizations to be a part of from GLAD to the HRC to the ACLU.
Even if you’re not in a position to protest, volunteer or donate, there’s something even simpler you can do: just stay woke. Part of the strides made by the Obama Administration allowed us to get comfortable. That comfort zone is gone now and I don’t think anyone can predict when we can sit comfortably again.
“Get up, stand up / Stand up for your rights / Get up, stand up / Don’t give up the fight” – Bob Marley
As for this shoot, I wanted to express colorful authenticity. In homage to the gay pride flag, designed originally by Gilbert Baker during the Gay Liberation movement in 1978, I painted my and my friend Logan’s face in a rainbow. Freedom is liberating. The freedom of self-expression is sometimes lost in the mix of adhering to societal norms. And to that, I shout a loud “Fuck You” with the images showcased below. Paint your face, kiss a strange, hell, kiss whoever you want, and keep fighting until you can’t fight anymore.
Special shoutout and thank you to Logan for modeling with me and Nicki for being a bomb photographer once again.
Photography by Nicki Gitter