What sort of publicity do queer and especially trans people need these days?
I would love to see queer stories and narratives celebrated and being present outside of the one dedicated month of Pride. It’s also just so clunky, it’s like everyone just wants to tick that rainbow box. I think queer people need complex, genuine, compelling, thoughtful, intellengent and affirming publicity. I would also love to see queerness woven into the fabric or whatever is happening without it being pointed out or highlighted to prove that it is there.
What does being visible mean to you?
I think visibility can be a little bit of a trap. It’s kind of like when we thought that gay marriage was gonna bring equal rights. Now we know that it’s absolutely not true. Yes, we can get married yet we still are being discriminated against.
I think being visible is not an end goal, but the bare minimum. We are visible, queerness is visible and it’s getting more visible. But let’s talk about the below-the-surface level of visibility. Look at a corporate office or even a creative house. How many queer people, trans people, people of color are there? How many of them hold meaningful positions?
Putting visibility on the top of the pile to me is giving yourself up to tokenization. We need to be more than just visible. We need to be part of the overall conversation in a way that creates meaningful diversity.
How do you imagine the groundwork for this social change to be?
Education is a huge part of it. I think the groundwork is making sure that queer people – and I’m not only talking about cisgender white guys – are all present and have a seat at the table in all of the rooms. That’s how real change could happen. And this can be said for all marginalized groups. There is so much value and wisdom that can come from having true diversity. Complex and layered narratives that truly reflect the world we live in.
When you’re a queer artist, there is a flip side. People think that’s all you can do so you get pigeonholed. You’ll be labeled as someone who can only shoot queer content and your pictures will be always seen through the lens of queerness.
If a straight person comes in and does a project around queerness, they still have the mobility to go back out and get to do other kinds of work, while queer people can get stuck in this and if they do a portrait, it’s never gonna be a good portrait, but a good queer portrait.”
I feel like acting is a really good example. Straight actors can come in and take queer roles, – although it’s being called out now more and more – then have the abiltiy to move out that role and do other things. An openly queer actor, especailly someone who is trans, doesn’t have the same mobility. They will unlikey be cast as a cisgender, straight person. It’s prejudice and I feel like this is the biggest trap of being a queer artist. You gotta work twice as hard and prove that you are versatile. I love being queer and creating queer art. I wouldn’t change any of it. I love celebrating who I am but I’d be lying if I’d say that there is no flipside to it. And to change that, it will take us much more than visibility.
You can buy Soraya’s latest book, American Boys here.