This weekend we focused on potential themes for the project and from this came up with a name. I created a YouTube playlist which we spent about an hour watching. We took down notes on the themes that emerged from the playlist and, aside from marriage equality, one of the main stories we focused on was the Asher’s Bakery being in the news for refusing to bake a cake that supported same sex marriage. From this, we came up with the title ‘Let Us Eat Cake’ for the project. This title has a historical context of rebellion and is also intertextually related to the Asher’s Bakery story. I was initially concerned about focusing the entire project on this single, divisive issue. I am still slightly uncomfortable with this name on a personal level. Both my family, my partner and I believe the Asher’s Bakery incident should not be seen to be a defining factor of the community through this photography exhibition. There are many other important issues and events that have happened in Northern Ireland in regards to LGBT equality, such as the DUP using the petition of concern against Gay Marriage. However, after much debate with the rest of the participants, I do not believe this is an issue that I can personally resolve. We also looked at each other’s photographs from the last month during this session. I had been to New York over Easter so most of my photographs were cityscape related, a few were to do with NYC AIDS walk advertisements and public statements of equality, such as the NIKE store’s inclusion of the sports-wear hijab and pro-equality t-shirts, which I loved. I found it interesting that most of the group’s photographs were based around rural landscapes or urban graffiti artwork. I wonder does this suggest that Northern Irish LGBT people are very influenced by their public setting? I also really enjoyed that most of us depicted the people we care about in our photographs. This reinforces my thoughts in my first post, that LGBTQ+ people in Northern Ireland live a very normal lives, except for the equality issues we face and I believe this should be truthfully depicted in our work together.
Our thoughts about the word ‘queer’: It was interesting to hear how different people viewed and used the word. For me it always had negative connotations and had been used in the past as an insult when I’d showed a sensitive and open side to my personality. Queer was used to imply weakness, softness, girly characteristics in men, and strangeness. It was great to learn from the others how the word has been reclaimed and used for so much good for the LGBTQ+ community.
LGBTQ+ history: We each shared out thoughts on LBGTQ+ history, the good and the bad, people in power who had been vocal about their opinions on homosexuality, and the insults that have been used to describe gay people. ‘Repulsive’, ‘immoral’, ‘sinners’, ‘more likely to abuse children’, were only some of the views which have been expressed publicly and plastered over the media. It was interesting to think about how free speech can be dangerous in the wrong hands, how those who talk so much about their entitlement to free speech and other things, yet strive to withhold entitlements such as that for same sex couples to have a civil marriage. These points seemed to focus around politicians, particularly unionists – which I would classify myself as.
We visited the Ulster Museum to see an exhibit on LGBTQ+ people during The Troubles. It was great to see how some people bumped the trend and didn’t flee to more liberal countries across the water. Even more interesting was how religious divisions seemed less prominent within those communities who stayed. Being gay or lesbian actually brought people together, sexuality topping religion and encouraging acceptance. Perhaps there is a correlation between those who have suffered suppression and societal separatism or conflict along with being attacked for being gay, and those people being more accepting themselves. Therefore, it’s an interesting concept that we’re viewed by some as ‘monsters’, yet are kinder and more accepting of others, celebrate diversity and difference, and do more for society, particularly in terms of pioneering investing in mental health and sexual health.
We discussed how some LGBTQ+ opposers say the LGBTQ+ are too ‘loud’ and ‘in your face’. Which raises the question as to how we, as a minority, have our voices heard on issues we think important. There is an important need for a LGBTQ+ politician that’s actually in a position of power. Why are there no openly gay leaders? Are political parties scared to put forward a leader in case they are too charismatic, too fabulous, change things too much? Maybe they will ‘turn’ everyone gay, or force them to live homosexual ‘lifestyles’?
At the beginning of the workshops this weekend we discussed the direction of our photography project. During this meeting, some main themes arose. These themes included the impact of politics and religion on LGBTQ+ identity in Northern Ireland, and how these subjects affect family and personal relationships. We mapped our conversations about all kinds of keywords, themes and ideas, including options for a name for our project, and potential ideas for the work we are making that will be exhibited. Although we have not yet officially named the project, we considered the idea of re-enacting news stories and important events regarding the subject of LGBTQ+ life in Northern Ireland. We also discussed whether we should give a negative, neutral or positive view of these events. I believe our depictions of LGBTQ+ life in Northern Ireland, either positive or negative, could be a very important element of the project, as this contributes towards the message we are perpetuating to the public in general through the exhibition. I personally would like the project to depict LGBTQ+ life as truthfully as possible. I have personally found that whilst I experience some prejudice, my life is fairly similar to that of a heterosexual woman and this human aspect is something I feel is not represented enough in media surrounding LGBTQ+ people.
Later in the afternoon on Sunday, we explored the Belfast Exposed archive and then went into the darkroom to experiment with making photographs. Inspired by this experimental work, we went home with the task of photographing our everyday lives, using both digital and disposable cameras, in relation to some of the themes that emerged over the weekend. The thought process of taking out the camera and setting up the shot has so far helped me to create some really interesting images. However, I have found that frequently I have forgotten to bring my camera to certain places and have ended up taking quite a few pictures on my phone!
Getting to hear everyone’s views is good, to know we’re all not alone. There are so many of us who believe in the same rights for LGBTQ+ people.