Fifty Shades of Gay

The Power of Photography to Break Ignorance iO Tillett Wright is an artist. As a child-actor growing up, she spent many years living as a boy. Convincing everyone (friends, teachers, fellow actors and directors) that she was a boy. She even turned her shoes around in the bathroom stall to make it look like she was peeing standing up.

She gave this TEDx talk a couple months back. In it, she describes a project she undertook called the Self Evident Project.

Her goal was to travel across the country and photograph people who identified as "not 100% straight."

Why?

She describes how Proposition 8, and the ensuing country-wide discussion about equality for LGBT folk, caused her to realize that she had become, in her own country, a minority based on one facet of her character.

She was legally a second-class citizen.

"How can anyone vote to strip the rights of the vast variety of people that I knew based on one element of their character," she asks, "and had these people ever even consciously MET the people of their discrimination? Did they know WHO they were voting against and what the impact was?"

Her idea, then, was to present the world with the reality that non-straight people are, well, people.

Just like me. Just like you.

And a photograph embodies the power to communicate precisely that.

"If they could look in to the eyes of the people they were casting in the category of second-class citizenship, it might make it harder for them to do... it might just give them pause."

I love her insight in to photography. She says, "photography is about exposing the viewer to something new... to people they might otherwise be afraid of."

So she is traveling around, taking people's pictures, to show the world there is nothing to fear.

And if you watch the video, the most poignant moment comes when she shares what she has learned thus far: while many people might identify as 100% straight, and others identify as 100% gay, there are many, many people who just fall somewhere in between.

The impact, then, on the discussion of civil rights and equality for all becomes very muddled. For where do you draw the line on who is considered "gay," and by extension, who can (for instance) be fired for being a "homosexual?"

Where, on the spectrum of sexuality, does one BECOME a second-class citizen?

Keep snapping those pics, iO, and keep helping break down people's fears and ignorance.

Eshet chayil!

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