By: Lauren Walleser/TRT Assistant Editor—
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Charged with the assignment of creating an activism project for his “Queer Practice” course, Harvard College Senior Curtis Lahaie joined forces with Kyle McFadden, Harvard Class of 2018, to found In the Making—a photo project featuring LGBTQ and allied Harvard students and alumni sharing their stories and opinions about how the LGBTQ Movement is a work in progress.
Lahaie has worked for many LGBTQ nonprofits while at Harvard, including the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, the LGBT & AIDS Project of the ACLU, and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
“One major issue discussed at these organizations is how to convey to the larger public that nationwide marriage equality is not the end of the LGBTQ Movement,” said Lahaie. “Given the recent flurry of rulings on same-sex marriage, I wanted to find a way to communicate—in an accessible and powerful way—that the LGBTQ Movement is still a work in progress; it’s in the making.”
Given, McFadden’s background as a freelance photographer who was also interested in social activism, Lahaie reached out to him to join as a co-creator. Together, they refined the idea, and it became “much bigger than just something for a class,” according to Lahaie. [pullquote]”There is no room for me in this binary. There is only room for me in your porn. But I have a voice, and I am going to use it.—Vanessa Rodriguez[/pullquote]
“We reached out to the Harvard student community through primarily LGBTQ student organizations, social media, and word of mouth,” McFadden said. “While the majority were current LGBTQ Harvard undergraduates, we were enthusiastic about including allies in the project as well; we can’t progress our movement without their help.”
The messages in the photos cover a wide array of issues important to LGBTQ and allied people, including breaking down stereotypes, challenging transphobia and biphobia, and confronting the intersectional issues of racism and heterosexism. While Lahaie and McFadden worked with those pictured to refine their messages, participants ultimately chose the lines written on the chalkboard in each photo.
“There is a real need for queer and trans people to share their stories,” said Lahaie. “Watching the participants write their messages on the chalkboard was often a visceral experience. You could tell that they felt passionate about their messages and truly wanted to share them.”
Lahaie noted that while marriage equality is important to achieve nationwide, the focus on that issue has overshadowed others still pressing for many LGBTQ people.
“The reality is that for some segments of the LGBTQ community—such as some queer and trans people of color and LGBTQ youth—safety is a top priority, not marriage,” Lahaie said. “We think organizations involved in the LGBTQ Movement should join forces with organizations working to achieve racial and economic justice. Our identities can’t be reduced to our sexualities and gender identities alone.” [pullquote]“The reality is that for some segments of the LGBTQ community—such as some queer and trans people of color and LGBTQ youth—safety is a top priority, not marriage,” Lahaie said.[/pullquote]
McFadden shared where he felt the LGBTQ Movement is headed, as well as what issues he feels we need to focus on moving forward.
“The purpose of the project isn’t to point the LGBTQ Movement in one single direction, but rather to make clear that there’s still so much left to do beyond achieving nationwide marriage equality,” said McFadden. “Many of the photographs expressed frustration with harmful stereotypes about LGBTQ people: “No girl is too pretty to be lesbian,” “Bi, not ‘confused,’” and “Gay ≠ promiscuous” are a few examples. Another theme focused on the incorporation of race and ethnicity into the LGBTQ Movement: “Brown & Gay, but no less a person,” “Where are the queer Asian stories?” and “Intersectionality is my reality” are a few examples. Religion also appeared frequently: “My identity is not a sin,” “Your religion shouldn’t control my life,” and “Can’t pray away my gay.”
Vanessa Rodriguez, featured in the photo with the message “No girl is too pretty to be lesbian,” further explained the issues she wished to express in her photo.
“I feel that femme lesbians, for the most part, are absent in the larger LGBTQ narrative,” said Rodriguez. “Our absence from the narrative is in large part due to stereotypes—you have the stereotypically gay male and the stereotypically lesbian female. There is no room for me in this binary. There is only room for me in your porn. But I have a voice, and I am going to use it. This is my attempt to tell everyone to stop with the stereotypes. This is my attempt to make it clear that we exist. This is my attempt to write us into the story.” [pullquote]Another theme focused on the incorporation of race and ethnicity into the LGBTQ Movement: “Brown & Gay, but no less a person,” “Where are the queer Asian stories?” and “Intersectionality is my reality” are a few examples.[/pullquote]
For Lahaie’s photo, he came up the line “We’re not done here,” which is the message he hopes people will take away from viewing the project.
“I chose it because I thought it reflected the overall message of the project: that marriage equality is not the end of the movement. There’s still so much left to do,” Lahaie said.
In addition to the photo project, Lahaie and McFadden also started a fundraising campaign to raise money for Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the National LGBTQ Task Force, and The Sylvia Rivera Law Project.
“While a primary goal of the project was to raise awareness about issues that are still pertinent to the LGBTQ community, we wanted to support some of the organizations that are actively addressing some of these issues,” said McFadden.
The goal is to raise $10,000 by January 2, 2015.
McFadden said they are also in talks with galleries at Harvard and beyond about adding a physical component to the project, which they hope will expand their audience and continue to spread the message. The first round of photos included 45 LGBTQ and allied Harvard students and alumni, although McFadden shared that they have since photographed several more.
Lahaie said people can get involved by making a contribution to the fundraising campaign, and also encouraged LGBTQ people and allies to accept the #inthemaking challenge by sharing their own photos on social media.
For more information and to view photos of those who have joined the challenge, visit www.inthemakingproject.com.