For most of my life, I have been surrounded by individuals who have embraced their identities. While photographing, this photo essay changed from an exploration of LGBTQIAP+ identities to something more intimate. My subjects were able to convey their self-perception and how their identities impact their lives. I created my project through portraits of myself and others. After interviewing each person, I took notes of images or objects they compared themselves to and tried to recreate them with a certain mood in mind. Many of them did not have an outlet to express themselves. I wanted them to look at my photographs and see themselves in them. In a way, I was looking for answers to inquiries I had often asked myself: do you feel comfortable in your romantic orientation, sexuality, and gender? Do you feel the constant need to be validated? Do you find comfort in knowing that others resonate with your experiences? I wondered if it was acceptable to reclaim the gray indescribable area within me I had neglected for so long.
It is difficult to feel like an outcast in one’s home, to constantly put up a facade for the sake of one’s safety. Many people I interviewed allowed themselves to be vulnerable enough to admit that their safety would be compromised if they were their genuine selves. They have no choice but to conform to this unaccepting society where queer children are overlooked and their feelings are dismissed. I remember talking to my cousin about his experiences as a trans masculine person. I can never forget the way they would not meet my eyes as he took my hands in theirs and told me that they wished he could live his life as a child.
We should be able to exist without holding ourselves back because of this cisnormative, heteronormative, and amatonormative society. Our complexity and nuance are beautiful. My subjects gave me the courage to embrace who I am, and I’m forever thankful.