Social Encore: ‘Truths’ shares LGBT pride
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
The Self Evident Truths Project is a compelling photo project that was started by photographer, artist, activist and writer iO Tillett Wright. The Los Angeles resident’s goal is to capture 10,000 faces of various LGBT community members across the United States. Wright will be in Honolulu on Saturday at the LGBT Center Waikiki, located at The Waikiki Community Center.
THE SELF EVIDENT TRUTHS PROJECT
» Where: LGBT Center Waikiki, 310 Paoakalani Ave. #206E
So far, the project has captured photos of over 8,500 Americans in 39 states and will kick off a nationwide tour after Hawaii. Self Evident Truths project manager Tyler Renner said via email that he and Wright plan on visiting various pride festivals in order to represent the most diverse cross sections of America’s LGBT community.
To help elevate the conversation and encourage global legal equality for people of all sexual orientations and genders, the project plants on installing the 10,000 portraits on the National Mall at the Washington Monument next year.
A revamp of the project came in the form of the “WE ARE YOU” campaign, which launched a video featuring Amber Heard, Sia Furler, Kyle Minogue, Gabby Hoffmann, Penn Badgley, Steve Buscemi and other celebrities backing the message of inclusivity and support for the LGBTQ community. People can sponsor photos that will be at the national monument.
“I have been honored to be a part of this project and each person we meet is special to us,” said Renner. “It’s a connection, a story, a moment that we share together.
“We do this because it feeds our soul. Every trip reinforces why we do this.”
The project has helped people feel a sense of validation and as if they have a support system. Having the opportunity to meet many LGBT people from all over the country, it has highlighted the nuances of adversity and the discrimination people face but has assured both Renner and Wright of the strength and pride the LGBT community has.
Creating connections with many people has been positively overwhelming for the two and they said some of the most rewarding moments have come from parents that are supportive of their LGBT children.
“We have seen parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans youth all over the country and the feelings of support and unconditional love are priceless,” said Renner.
Hawaii Pride Festival producer Ramon Del Barrio believes the project is imperative for the LGBT community and helps educate others. He hopes the project sheds light on the reality that we are all human beings and it is the community’s responsibility to work together in order to create a mutual understanding that rises above labels imposed by hatred and fear.
“We need to share with each other what makes us different,” said Del Barrio. “We are all original, authentic, and one of a kind.”
One of my good friends, Dayna Kalakau, is transgender and plans on going to be part of the project. She and I have been friends for almost a decade and I’ve never asked her about her trans journey until now. Her being transgender has never been a factor in our relationship. However, hearing her unique story has opened my eyes to what is going on in Hawaii’s LGBT community.
Kalakau’s transgender journey started in the sixth grade. At the age of 12, she viewed herself as gay but knew her journey wasn’t going to stop there. She started to meet people who were transgender and it opened up a whole new realm of possibilities. When she was in high school, she made the commitment to transform her life the way she felt that she was meant to live.
Luckily, her family was supportive of her decision — especially her mom. Kalakau said her family told her to not do things because it wasn’t appropriate for her gender but were never harsh on her. No matter where she was in her journey, she said her family was most concerned about her happiness and wanted to make sure that the essence of who she was never changed. She admitted the journey wasn’t easy but is glad her family stood by her the entire way.
“When I hear about other people and their journeys, sometimes it makes me sad and hurt because they weren’t as fortunate as I was,” said Kalakau. “I was raised with love and a place of no judgments … In my Hawaiian household, we take you as you are and who you will be.”
Offering love and support to friends who need a shoulder to lean on, she said she doesn’t tell her friends what to do but gives them a sense that they don’t have to go through the process alone. She sees the core of the project as a way to uncover the feeling of LGBT as being taboo and said it is not a LGBT issue but a people issue.
“We are all people, we deserve all the same things,” she said. “I am a person, you are person … We all have the same rights and deserve to be treated with the same common courtesy.”
While Hawaii is known as a melting pot of cultures, Kalakau said Hawaii has a very interesting way of handling things considered taboo. Residents are very liberal on the surface, but internally are more conservative than others realize.
“It’s okay for people to exist when we are trying to exercise our rights,” she said. “But when it comes to issues like sexual orientation, everyone starts to make a bigger deal about it.”
Kalakau said she looks at each person she meets as who they are on the inside and hopes this project opens the hearts and minds of others, giving them a different point of view of people’s personal struggles. She said she remembers when she was 12, she heard Oprah Winfrey say on television, “true humility comes from the understanding that everyone in the world has had a life just as hard as yours.”
The project has gained attention from countries such as China, Australia, and Germany and hopes to go overseas in the future. The project has always highlighted different communities and the issues they face, hoping the people of Hawaii will leverage the photographs from the project as a way to spread awareness of what is going on in their state.
“I want people to know that we work hard, strive and try to achieve just like everyone else,” said Kalakau. “I hope that this project helps create positive strides for Hawaii.”
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.