21 Queer BIPOC Photographers Illustrate What “Pride” Really Means

by W Staff

A person resting their head on another person's shoulder

In 2015, it became legal to marry someone of the same gender in the United States. In 2019, an openly gay (white) man ran for president. Just this month, the Supreme Court declared that members of the LGBTQ+ community couldn’t lose their jobs for being who they are. It’s easy to think, then, that this country has progressed past the point of treating people unequally. But any recent major headline or broadcast proves this tempting assumption gravely wrong; look no further than the national uprising following the death of George Floyd to see that American society grossly values the lives of white people above all others—especially those who are Black. Between this historic moment and the pandemic, this June has been a Pride Month like no other in recent memory. But, welcomely, it bears close resemblance to Pride Months past, when the emphasis was on protest and rebellion—often led by Black and brown LGBTQ+ activists—rather than empty, corporate parades. “This year, now and always, we must remember that Pride was always intended to be a revolt, an uprising, a confrontation with the anti-Black police state and transphobic regimes,” says Golden, a Black gender nonconforming trans-femme photographer. They are one of the 21 queer photographers—all of whom are also Black, indigenous, and/or people of color—whom W asked to illustrate how they personally define pride and queer identity this June. Celebrate Pride with a spectrum of opinions on what exactly that means, here.

Maya & Ciera (June 2020). Photograph by Simone Thompson.
Simone Thompson

“Pride 2020 is about disrupting boundaries and carving intersectional paths in stone. It’s about claiming your identity and finding solace in the warm embrace of community. Most importantly, pride is about empowering yourself to live honestly and unapologetically.”

Untitled (Feyi) (August 2019). Photograph by Isabel Okoro.
Isabel Okoro

“This is a photo of my friend Feyi John Majek from last summer. To me, pride is about feeling free in your being, regardless of how you choose to express yourself or whom you choose to love. At the same time, instances of homophobia, queerphobia, and the often violent transphobia that members of the LGBTQ+, especially black and brown trans women, experience every day remind us that we have to keep fighting.”

Cille, Ace of Hearts(2018), from the ongoing series Pur·suit. Photograph by Naima Green.
Naima Green

“…tired, angry, and full of dreams, too.”

Plutonia Blue, (2019). Photograph by Avion Pearce.
Avion Pearce

“My work is an ongoing visual manifestation of dreams, desires, and longing. Pride for me exists in the freedom to create, populate and inhabit worlds specifically as I envision them. It is creating with intention, as well as consideration of the beauty and complexities of a collective whole.”

Keisha (curepe) (2019). Photograph by Kearra Amaya Gopee.
Kearra Amaya Gopee

“My gender has been ‘lost in the mail’ from the inception of this anti-Black world—anticipated, albeit with a sense of resignation. It is not here. It will never come. It was not sent because it cannot be given. Thus, my work serves as a series of revisions and drafts made in isolation and in community, firm in its fungibility.”

I just want to wear my orange dress to the tennis courts & come back home unbothered (June 2020). Photograph by Golden.

“Oftentimes when people talk about ‘after the pandemic,’ or ‘after this moment,’ or ‘what does Pride mean’ in conversations of revolution, they forget that many Black trans people have never felt safe enough to be our authentic selves in our own communities and neighborhoods. I have never been able to do some of the activities people take for granted, like going to the bodega/corner store, playing tennis with friends, going to the gym, holding hands with lovers/partners, and commuting to/from work without the fear of facing harm and violence. This year, now and always, we must remember that Pride was always intended to be a revolt, an uprising, a confrontation with the anti-Black police state and transphobic regimes.When we are chanting #BlackTransLivesMatter, we must understand that the violences that happened to Iyanna Dior, Tony McDade, Riah Milton, Dominque “Rem’mie” Fells, Nina Pop, Layleen Polanco, and many others who have gone unreported (nationally), parallel a history of Black trans individuals being brutalized and targeted by (systemically) cis white-centered policy/laws, cis-Black men, and the police. When we are discussing the defunding and abolishment of police on a national level, we must remember that people in the streets have always started these larger nuanced conversations around care and community—uplifting what is serving us and denouncing what doesn’t. This time we are not asking the state, institutions, or the people that make them up to listen to us—we are ready to take our cities, our streets, our governments back, by peace or by force if needed.”

Looking Inward (2019). Photograph by Leo Xander Foo.
Leo Xander Foo

“I love photographing individuals (such as Arca, pictured above) who embrace the variations of self while inspiring others to do the same. Pride is about looking inward, recognizing the alien inside, and surrendering to the dynamics of your truth with the greatest compassion.”

WILD IS THE WIND (August 2019). Photograph by Texas Isaiah.
Texas Isaiah

“As a Black trans, queer man, Pride is nothing short of being complicated. Trans people, especially Black and Brown trans women, are frequently erased from the historical narrative. I find myself frustrated by Pride’s commodification because the very individuals who contribute the most to our communities are disproportionally experiencing homelessness, unemployment, and violence. But as time passes, I witness more individuals reclaiming their histories and spaces. We certainly have so much more work to do. We must live, thrive, and take care of one another. Every single Black and Brown trans, gender-expansive, and queer individual deserves flowers at their feet.”

Prince (London, 2019). Photograph by Myles Loftin.
Myles Loftin

“Pride started off as a protest, a riot actually, led by Black trans women. So I think it is important now, especially more than ever, that we hold onto those origins. In the time since its inception, the meaning of pride has been commercialized, commodified, and sold back to us by corporations whose internal affairs seldom align with the causes they claim to support. Pride is a response to the system’s attempts to diminish the worth and the agency of queer people. It is a reminder that we’re here, and even though we have lost many on the way, we are still fighting. I hope that this year and the years that follow, we channel the rage that brought us to this place and continue the fight in the liberation of marginalized people.”

Untitled, (bell bottoms) 2020. Photograph by Clifford Prince King.
Clifford Prince King

“I made a new friend on this day. We talked about our Blackness, the men in our lives, Essex Hemphill, and our HIV journeys. As the day faded, so did our care to be anywhere, but present in the moment.”

Corey (May 2019). Photograph by Munachi Osegbu.
Munachi Osegbu

“During pride this year, it is imperative that we find ways to create and take in all forms of art in order to inspire and uplift ourselves within the chaos. A book that I would recommend to every queer person of color is Disidentifications by José Esteban Muñoz, which discusses the way those outside the sexual and racial mainstream exist autonomously—not by aligning themselves with or against exclusionary ideas, but rather by transforming and repurposing these ideas for their own cultural purposes, as a declaration of independence from them. Instead of looking to others to validate our identity, or internalizing exclusionary ideas, I hope we can collectively solace in our passion and creativity, in bigger concepts that don’t necessarily exist in this realm. It can take us to incredible places.”

Castro, Bayani and Candy (May 2019). Photograph by Gabriel García Román.
Gabriel García Román

“This year, pride means disrupting the norm and handing the mic to the queer communities that are often erased or silenced. It means being unapologetic about our existence in this world.”

Magdaleno Delgado in Zacualpan de Amilpas (January 2020). Photograph by Dorian Ulises López Macías.
Dorian López

“Nature is very rarely wrong. It learns over time. Our queerness is part of its sophisticated evolution. We all must realize that we played an essential role in our societies. Let’s raise our voices so that the world hears how proud we are of being what we are, learn about us, and recognize our importance and infinite beauty.”

Exotic Leo (2020). Photograph by Leonard Suryajaya.
Leonard Suryajaya

“I feel thankful to be alive. I feel very alive. I really can’t complain.”

Grace Preparing for Hot Pot (2019). Photograph by Mengwen Cao.
Mengwen Cao

“Hot pot is a love language. It is fluid, communal and nourishing. In hot pot, we celebrate diversity, champion innovation, and prioritize comfort. I’m proud of all the hot pot parties with my beautiful community. I’m proud to share a slice of our daily life without any performative elements. I’m proud to be a Chinese queer immigrant who takes savoring life seriously. When we talk about queer pride and visibility, what are we actually talking about? What narratives are we pushing? Who chooses to be seen? Who has the power to choose to be unseen? Who’s behind the camera? Who’s providing platforms? What is beyond labels and signifiers? I hope to live in a world where love and tenderness is the new normal.”

The Bride (2018). Photograph by Nelson Morales.
Nelson Morales

“Pride means for me to feel proud of who I am—of my roots, my origin, my color and my identity as Muxe. But also to be free to express it and make it part of my flag.”

All Eyes On Me (Summer 2019). Photograph by Richie Shazam.
Richie Shazam

“Pride is about survival ~ amplifying our voices and fighting for our rights ~ to be seen and heard at all costs. Exploring the depths of our minds amidst all of this chaos.”

Chale Wote Accra (2018). Photograph by Stephen Tayo.
Stephen Tayo

“This photo was taken in 2018 at a music festival in Accra, Ghana, where being gay is still illegal. Pride to me shouldn’t be negotiable, and it shouldn’t be something we only celebrate in June. Pride is the freedom to live. I hope one day in West Africa people will celebrate openly and not disguise as a clown or comedian.”

Wonderful – Moments of Youth (May 2019). Photograph by Daniel Obasi.
Daniel Obasi

“Pride is really about owning your true self… Individuality is original and celebrating that everyday is important.”

Untitled (Kari Faux) (June 2019). Photograph by Quil Lemons.
Quil Lemons

“I chose this photo of my best friend Kari to share with all of you. I picked it because this is her first year being an out queer Black woman! This is her Black queer booty! I wanted to celebrate her being out and proud.”

Excerpts from Acts of Boyhood Divination: Negation of Sight (Photographic Documentation of 2-hour durational performance on Lincoln Beach) (2019). Photograph by Derrick Woods-Morrow.
Derrick Woods-Morrow

“At a young age I was taught that blood does not make family—love, kindness, and community build lasting relationships. PRIDE — My grandmother often preached about community. BLACK — She’d say, ‘Treat friends like family, and family like friends.’ My most important life lessons seem to all be spurred by childhood interactions. SEX — Talk of ‘birds and bees’ came in adolescence, but I had already explored my own body, and those of others my age starting as early as preschool. TODAY — I wonder, if that seemingly apolitical exploration was lost to my childhood self? In my photographs I keep asking, are Black Queer Folx allowed to play and find ourselves, especially when many of our childhood moments of self-exploration had to remain hidden; are we allowed to rest; where is it we can go to live out the fantasy of seeing ourselves, and being seen as WHOLE —.”