Global Roundup: Ukraine LGBT+ Community, India Artists Celebrate Women’s Agency, Comedian Creates Space for Black Women, Queer Black Chosen Families, Women & Non-binary Photographers vs Climate Crisis
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Activists hold the rainbow flag on Volodymyrska Street during the Equality March. (Pavlo_Bagmut/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty) via Pink News
LGBT+ activists in Ukraine have sent powerful messages of resistance to President Vladimir Putin as Russia invades the country after weeks of rising tensions. The countries have been at war since 2014, but fears have mounted over the last month that violence would spill over after Russia deployed tens of thousands of troops to its border with Ukraine. On Thursday, Putin launched a “military operation” in Ukraine. Explosions could reportedly be heard across the country, while Ukraine’s foreign minister warned that a “full-scale invasion” had begun.
In recent weeks, Ukraine’s LGBT+ community have spoken of their fears for the future if Russia were to invade. Kyiv Pride, one of the country’s biggest LGBT+ rights groups, hit out at Russia and Putin on Twitter on Thursday morning as news of the invasion broke.
We remain strong, we are not intimidated. Putin will break all his teeth trying to bite us. We have left far behind the past to which he seeks to draw us. We are a country that has chosen the values of human rights, humanity, life and personality. Putin lives in the past, he has a place there. - Kyiv Pride
While Ukrainian LGBT+ activists often encounter abuse and harassment from far-right sectors, Russia's LGBT+ community has faced growing persecution since the Kremlin adopted a gay "propaganda" law in 2013. LGBT+ people are now feeling increasedy unsafe and are seeking refuge in the west of the country.
QUA, an organization that provides assistance and support to LGBT+ Ukrainians living in the United States, condemned the invasion on Thursday morning and immediately announced plans for a protest in New York City in front of the Stonewall Inn. They also called on LGBT+ advocacy groups in the United States and Europe to raise awareness of the threat a Russian invasion poses to queer Ukrainians, who are especially vulnerable.
If we still believe in freedom and democracy, we must stand in solidarity with Ukrainian society at this challenging and dark moment in Ukraine’s history. - Bogdon Globa, co-founder of QUA
Portrain of Sumana Bano painted. by Shilo Shiv Suleman as part of Haq Campaign by Fearless Collective via Outlook India
The Haq campaign by the Fearless Collective is extending solidarity to all Muslim women fighting for their right to choice amid the ongoing hijab controversy in India. Fearless Collective is a South Asia based public arts project that creates public art interventions with women and misrepresented communities across the world. It was founded in 2012 by Bangalore-based visual artist Shilo Shiv Suleman. Since then, the collective has worked in over 10 countries, co-creating 38 murals.
Wrapped in an iridescent red shawl, a woman is looking down, engrossed in reading a book. Over her eyes is a pair of red spectacles and on her head is a black headscarf, a hijab. This portrait celebrates the life of Sumana Bano, 52, a physics lecturer. She was the first woman in her family to be educated and one of the few women in her university to study physics. Painted by Suleman, this portrait is part of the new Haq campaign to show solidarity to Muslim women. Suleman and her team are making portraits of ordinary Muslim women, who have overcome numerous obstacles and asserted their voices at difficult crossroads in their lives to become who they are.
The campaign is in response to the Karnataka government introducing a ban on hijab in colleges across the state earlier this month. The move triggered outrage across the world, as young girls and women are being forced to choose between their right to education and their right to practice their faith and choose what they wear.
Many Indian artists have been exploring this larger question of women’s agency over their identity and their right to exercise their choice. Artist Mayuri Chari believes the issue is that women are viewed either as an object of pleasure, or someone who needs to be shielded or protected. In her 2021 work My Body My Freedom, she stitches across the canvas three nude female torsos, alongside which she scribbles a poem, also stitched.
It is not to be treated as a holy temple, neither, it is available for others to visit as the purest place. [A woman’s body is a] place where I live comfortably. - Mayuri Chari
For Mumbai-based artist Sarah Naqvi, who identifies as non-binary, queer, and a Muslim, all these identities go hand in hand, and her art is a way of documenting her own process of navigating through the intersection of these identities. She believes the situation in Karnataka is not really about just the headscarf.
It's about having a constant agenda to make minorities into second-class citizens. It is systemic because it's been happening for the past three-four years. - Sarah Naqvi
To celebrate women’s agency over their own bodies and rights, Naqvi created the “Blanket of Solidarity” where she quilts the image of a Muslim woman wearing a hijab with her fist in the air on a pink blanket.
She's wearing a headscarf, but that's not the centre of emphasis. Her hand up in the air is an act of resistance. That's the imagery that emerges. - Sarah Naqvi
PHOTO: OLIVIER PONTBRIAND, LA PRESSE
Though the mission of Audace au Féminin is to help Black women entrepreneurs through events and education, they support women from all backgrounds. The organization also hosts the annual Salon International De La Femme Noire where mostly Black women entrepreneurs from across Canada and overseas meet, network and coach each other. This summer’s edition will be the third.
It’s a way also to give tools and it’s a safe space for Black women to celebrate. - Dorothy Rhau
Rhau supported herself for years as a comedian, blazing a trail as the country’s first Black female Francophone standup comic, even winning a Black Canadian national award in 2014 for best entertainer of the year. She sees herself as someone who will always have a reason to laugh.
Since I was a little girl I’ve had to fight for my space…for me it was time for us to have a platform so people can hear our voices, can include us in part of the decisions of society. - Dorothy Rhau
The city of Montreal helps host the Salon International De La Femme Noire event. Bochra Manaï, the city’s commissioner for the Fight Against Racism and Systemic Discrimination, stressed that events like it help to sensitize and educate people who don’t experience racism or discrimination.
Claire-Anse Saint-Eloi who said she’s inspired by the fair is relieved to have the space.
Our diversity of experiences and being is presented, and there’s a space where we can learn more about what other Black women were doing in Montreal. - Claire-Anse Saint-Eloi
Rhau hopes the event will continue to grow, but she also wants to return to comedy eventually as she still has a lot to say.
Many LGBTQ groups are building out their own “chosen” family trees in the face of rejection from their biological families.Eliana Rodgers for NBC News
Morgan Mann Willis, 38, created their own family over a decade ago when they joined bklyn boihood, a Black queer party and event collective that operates in cities across the U.S, to connect with LGBTQ people who identified on the masculine gender spectrum. For years, Willis dreamed of having a community where it would be safe to openly talk about queer identity, explore sexual desires and be supported by others.
Being a part of it has meant being able to dream beyond the boundaries of gender, of sexuality, of identity, and give us room to kind of fully bloom into whoever we are. One of the ties that binds us is kind of the way that our masculinity is presented and maybe isn’t presented or lives in the world. - Morgan Mann Willis
E. Patrick Johnson, the author of “Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South” and the dean of the School of Communication at Northwestern University, said chosen families have long existed in the Black community. Johnson says Black chosen families are not only to escape homophobic familes, but to also find pleasure and communion with others. He gives examples of house parties which have been safe spaces for Black queer people since the 1900s as well as chosen families during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The history between Black queer chosen families is actually connected to the history of chosen families within Black communities in general because of the long history of displaced families among Black folks who were enslaved for 100 years and broken and removed from their biological families and so out of necessity had to depend on each other. - E. Patrick Johnson
Sean Ebony Coleman, 53, is a Black transgender man who is the founder of Destination Tomorrow, an LGBTQ organization in the Bronx, New York. Coleman is also part of the ballroom community, where houses often provide members with food, shelter and mentorship in exchange for participation in ballroom competitions. He says that the ballroom community helped him build confidence, affirmed his LGBTQ identity and ultimately saved his life.
Ciora Thomas, a Black transgender woman, ran away from home at 14 to escape a transphobic household and had to engage in sex work for survival. She was embraced by a group of trans women sex workers, who took her in as their own family.
I found my chosen family finally. I just felt protected. If I had a client outside, the girls were watching my back, if the police were coming around, the girls were watching my back, and we were watching each other’s backs. - Ciora Thomas
Thomas later founded SisTers PGH, a Black- and trans-led advocacy group in Pittsburgh that acts as a bridge to help LGBTQ people who are rejected because of their sexual orientations or gender identities.
Amid the marginalization and violence queer communities face, it is powerful when they create communities, take care of each other and practice joy.
Image credit: Lib Ferreira / Everyday Climate Crisis) via Digital Camera World
Women and non-binary photographers have joined forces to highlight the devastating impact and results of climate change in Australia through methods of powerful and intense imagery. Australia is the driest inhabited continent, and therefore identified as one of the most vulnerable areas impacted by the effects of climate change. The excessive heat is responsible for drought, destruction of habitats and dangerous bushfires.
Professional photographer Hilary Wardhaugh is based in Queanbeyan, the south-eastern region of New South Wales in Australia, and has initiated the Everyday Climate Crisis Visual Petition. This project by Women Photographers Australia is a call to action from women and non-binary people to contribute and supply images that illustrate climate change in Australia. The project began with an image from Wardhaugh of deceased ladybirds.
…The image of the poor ladybirds acted as an unintentional catalyst that kickstarted the project. It was heartbreaking, and that's why I wanted to start this project. I wanted to crowdsource images that illustrate climate change in Australia, and sourcing images from women and non-binary people only… I think it's important that women have a voice, and a voice through photography and creativity. - Hilary Wardhaugh
The goal is to collect 1,000 photographs from photographers and once that number has been reached, the petition will be submitted to Australia's federal parliament as a visual response to the government's climate change policies.
Contributors have produced some varying creative works in response to how climate change has made them feel and the way that these emotions are interpreted in the project overall. The project and petition are important in recognizing the extensive cultural contribution that women and non-binary photographic artists have made in Australia. Wardhaugh feels that having only women and non-binary people submitting images for the project challenges the industrial, capitalist and economic systems that have gotten residents of Australia to this point.
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She has experience working with survivors of sexual violence in her community, as well as conducting research on gender-based violence. A lot of her time is spent learning about and critically engaging with intersectional feminism, transformative justice and disability justice.
Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She refuses to let anyone thwart her imagination when it comes to envisioning a radically different future full of care webs, nurturance and collective liberation.