“No Femmes. No Fats. No Asians. No Blacks.” This phrase is commonly found in profiles on apps such as Grindr or Growlr, which allow gay men to meet other gay men for, more often than not, casual sexual encounters. Masked as a tool for dating, these apps bestow upon gay men the ability to freely participate in the hookup culture the gay communities have so meticulously crafted. The hookup culture itself may not be problematic, but the practices and attitudes it cultivates are—Practices such as feeling free to blatantly exclude members of an entire race, body type, or other discriminatory characteristics as if they were, as author Wancy Young Cho puts it, listing “foods one must avoid: No Spice. No Rice. No Curry. No Chocolate.”
The LGBTQ+ communities constantly preach unconditional acceptance, yet are very exclusionary when it comes to features such as body type, race, or gender expression. There are expectations and stereotypes about what a gay man should look like, act like, and live like. These expectations and stereotypes are, unfortunately, not just projected upon gay individuals from the heterosexual majority, but also projected from members within the LGBTQ+ communities themselves. Not only do non-LGBTQ+ people tell us what to be, but our fellow community members are telling us too. The heteronormative becomes the homonormative, and once we fall short, we are rejected from the rejected.
While constructing one’s identity, individuals tend to either establish a majoritarian identity, such as whiteness or straightness, or a counter-identity, such as blackness or gayness. Through choosing either an identity or counter-identity, one is expected to assimilate into the social codes of that identity or counter-identity. A third option—disidentification—exists, allowing LGBTQ+ individuals to establish an identity that embraces all parts of themselves and disidentify from majoritarian structures. This series, titled “Disidentifications,” demonstrates my frustration as a member of the exclusionary LGBTQ+ communities. Through surreal photographs of myself and other LGBTQ+ individuals, I am exploring LGBTQ+ disidentification—How LGBTQ+ individuals construct, engage in, and practice their own disidentity. Additionally, these photographs serve as an exploration into surreal and ambiguous portraiture. Reflective of disidentification, the use of body and facial manipulation and obstruction toys with and blurs the strict discriminatory and compartmentalizing nature of LGBTQ+ identities, allowing the viewer to construct and project their own thoughts, interpretations, and identities.