Mik and I had a wonderful evening last night at the awards where I was once again reminded of why we do what we do. I was so proud to sit by my partner who has been doing an outstanding job, as the Transgender Advocate Fellow for GLAAD, protecting and promoting representations of trans folks in the media. Sometimes I think it's selfish of me to pursue a life in the arts and then I remember why I felt inspired to take the pictures I take and tell the stories I tell - I didn't feel like the communities I was a part of were being represented in the complex and beautiful light that they should be. The majority of people probably take it for granted that they see themselves in entertainment and popular media portrayed in a way that doesn't degrade or exploit them. I've never had that luxury. If you're reading this blog, I probably don't have to tell you that if you don't see yourself anywhere, then it's hard to be yourself. That's why this David Wojnarowicz quote will always be my favorite. And I firmly believe that those alternate histories that we are trying to preserve should have their rightful place with the rest of history told with the same dignity and the same care.
It was so fascinating to sit there and listen to speeches that echoed the same sentiments as my mentor and friend Sekou Seundiata; allowing people to tell their own stories and change through personal narrative. He was another person that reaffirmed my belief in the power of story to change the world. Representation is such a powerful thing and it never ceases to amaze me. If you look at the way black americana proliferated after the abolishment of chattel slavery and the ways in which marginalized populations continue to be portrayed - so that they can remain on the margins- you can see that false representation is the first tool of control, of separation and of fear.
Despite the fact that my main passion is to express all the places I call home in their complexity, I sometimes forget the urgency of this work. But when I look into the eyes of parents whose child was murdered just because he was gay or see the teenage boys confined at Rikers - all Black and Latino except for two, I am completely overcome and overwhelmed by the violence that is caused by these overlapping and interlocking systems of oppression of which racist, anti-queer, anti-trans imagery is very much a part.
More on my visits to Rikers and how this all fits together coming soon...