Identity Exploration

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.

It was A’s idea to surround his face with flowers. It is a contrast of masculinity and femininity, of how they feel about themself.

A blouse peeking out of my closet. It is a form of self-expression as I seek to embrace my femininity.

The tree looms over my patio. 

“The leaves represent my emotions, coming and going for periods of time. Slowly they grow and then slowly they leave.” - C.

The hands that cover my face are a form of protection and concealment. I want to feel what is within me.

This is a tree in my neighborhood. It represents growth and development.

“I found myself in fluidity. I exist on this spectrum without labels. I just am.” - C.

Houses in my neighborhood. We house our emotions toward our identities.

An illustration of a circle alongside a description of how M. feels. 

“The end is the beginning, the beginning is the end. That is how I feel.” - M.

C. faces sideways. I still don’t know what she was looking at that made her grin.

Nail polish is dripping from the bottle. Nail polish is a form of self-expression that always seems to be leaking from its container. 

“My expression is a reflection of myself.” - A.

“I’ve spent a very long time wondering if I’m valid enough to consider myself a specific label, but recently I just stopped. I’ve come to realize that I don’t need validation from anyone else…I am who I am.” - C.

There is a veil over my cousin’s face. From toxic households to dangerous societal expectations, they try to put up a facade to hide their fears.

“I constantly feel the need to validate my identity…I find myself trying to tell myself that I’m something I am not…I just want to be a child.” - M. and A.

“I would associate myself with a flower because, although they might be the same species-wise, they can look vastly different.” - C.

My cousin delicately holds an index card they scribbled on. His insides are a complex scrawl of emotions. 

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