The Queer Portrait Project is a collaboration with the queer community, pairing each participant's narrative with my portrait of them. Queer people are often seen as faceless, autologous, nameless. One queer person becomes a representative and stand-in for a monolithic whole, robbing them of their own autonomous story. The Queer Portrait Project illuminates the breadth, depth, joys, struggles, and particularities of individual members of the queer community. The paintings and writings together allow the viewer to see and identify with the personal, distinctive, and particulate examples of each project contributor.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Killian, Indianapolis, IN, USA -- they/them

The beauty of Queer is that it can have a plethora of meanings to a diversity of individuals. Personally, just existing as Queer is an embodiment of defiance and resilience. My Queerness is hard fought and highly valued.  As a nonbinary person, I have had to (and continue to) carve that path myself.  My Queerness is both personal and political.  Being Queer means not being beholden to societal restrictions and having the freedom to change – reflecting on who I am, who I want to be, and moving closer to my ideal.  I refuse to live according to cis het norms.  But I was not always empowered in my Queerness.

Even before I knew that I was Queer, I knew that I was different.  I was an awkward, blushing, freckled redhead with a rat tail and an obliviousness of conventional norms.  I vividly remember my mom videotaping in the park, calling “Hey, little boy” to me, and emphatically disagreeing because I was confused and afraid it was a trick.  Even though my parents tolerated my tomboy expression and active bucking of gender stereotypes, expectations became increasingly restrictive as I aged.  I was raised in a military family, which meant an environment where Queer slurs were pervasive.  As a budding Queer, it sent a clear message that being anything but heterosexual was not acceptable – not to even think about anything but cisgender!  The experiences of my youth deeply suppressed my understanding and acceptance of being Queer.

As a teenager and young adult, being Queer meant never quite fitting in.  At worse, it meant feeling confused, misunderstood, and isolated.  I rarely felt seen and I did not have the language to tell others who I was.  However, I did become comfortable with being different and alone.  At best, it helped to bolster my self-awareness and self-reliance.  While I appreciate the freedom and independence that comes with being Queer, it can also been a lonely journey.  At times I have felt like an outsider even within LGBTQ spaces.  When I learned about the nonbinary community, I finally felt that I had found a language for myself and people with shared experiences.

My Queerness extends beyond myself; it is about who I am with those in my life.  It is community and partnerships, specifically mentorship, collaboration, and love. The last being the most challenging.  Mentorship and collaboration come naturally to me. I work to surround myself with people from different experiences but who all see and appreciate me, as I do them.  Meeting a partner is something that has been easier to dismiss.  Perhaps I have internalized the narrative that it is harder to find a partner who will accept someone like me.  When I came out, it was not because I met someone (as some assume) or that I even thought I would find someone - I just wanted to be me.  I was more than okay with being single, as long as it meant living my life openly and proudly. Despite these real and anticipated barriers, I did meet someone.

I am a skeptical optimist; I hope for the best but prepare for the worst - it is the conundrum of an overthinker.  Despite many lovely Queer couples in my life, I never dared hope that I would meet someone who saw me completely and wanted me for all that I was – past, present, and unknown changing future.  That was until I met my person.  We met a week before I was to (finally) have top surgery – something that was imperative for me despite anticipating it would increase other’s confusion about my gender and possibly lessen their attraction to my body.  Serendipitously, he had top surgery just months prior and was an invaluable support through the process.  An unprecedented understanding of gender and bodies developed between us.  Uncharacteristically, I felt myself leaning into the energetic emotions that were welling up.  I knew this was something exceptional.  When we embrace and our scars align, I feel more connected than I have ever before.  I am finally in a place where I am the version of myself that I am proud to be and comfortable with sharing.  This love, this Queer love, is beautiful and messy and radical and has forever changed me.

My Queerness is one of the many worthy parts of me.

Love, respect, and solidarity,

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