To be honest, when I was writing a post on social media that I am looking for people to participate in my project, I didn’t expect many responses. In Ukraine where I am from, there is still a significant problem of LGBTQ+ discrimination. People from the community prefer to keep their personal life hidden for understandable reasons. I guess this is why during all my living before I moved to France, I knew only two openly queer people while LGBTQ+ people represent 5-7% of the population. In France where same-sex marriages are legalized and where you might see queer couples holding hands in the street (not all of them can still do this), the human rights situation is much better but still is far from ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That’s why first I thought, that my post would not be published by admins, and then that nobody would respond.
But I was wrong. Only one thing held me back from my project — it was the button ‘to publish’. André was the first person who has responded. We discussed the idea and set up the date very quickly.
The day of our meeting there was no transport in Paris because of a strike and I remember I was walking more than an hour to the photoshoot location — Andre’s partner’s apartment. I remember nothing from that hour of walking. I was preparing for the shoot the whole previous day but my mind couldn’t hold a single image in it for a second.
Usually, I am a bit nervous before shootings, and it always passes soon because I know what to expect from straight couples. That time I didn’t know, but every second of the next couple of hours I knew what to do: feelings do not care about anyone’s identity or gender — love is love.
I might compare inspiration, engagement and mindfulness like during this shoot only with hypnosis — I had no strength to resist. I do not feel this with all my shootings, but if I do, I could feel physically that don’t play anyone’s role anymore — I am just myself.
Meet André & his partner's story in the first person
I am currently a student studying human rights and organization management. I live in Berlin and my partner lives in Paris. I am originally from California, and he is originally from Italy. I love reading, cooking vegan food, taking long walks in nature, traveling, and photography.
If I had to describe myself in three words:
curious, radical and compassionate
I and my partner met in Paris as naïve exchange students who did not know much about intense romantic relationships prior. After 3 months, we were forced to be physically separated by an entire ocean. We have been dating long-distance for more than 2 years now, and hope to live together in Paris very soon. This entire relationship has taught us many things about ourselves, our relationship, and our positionality in the world as a queer interracial couple.
The most precious thing in our relationship is that no matter how our lives and our relationship continue to change, we will always share the fond memories we have made together.
Exploring the streets, grabbing pastries at a boulangerie (maybe two, even!), having a picnic at the park, cooking a dinner, and feeling cozy while watching our favorite shows in the evening — that's how I would imagine a perfect day together.
For me, inner freedom means taking the time and energy to deconstruct the ways which systems of oppression have caused me to internalize so much negativity, leading to the loss of my own humanhood. Inner freedom is a process of unlearning what I have learnt as good, moral, and correct, and instead replacing these societal expectations with validation centered on my experiences and my humanity.
What has an impact on my freedom? The patriarchal system continues to oppress those who do not conform to it. Thus, as someone who identifies as queer, if I do not behave based on the patriarchy's sexist and misogynist interpretations of what it means to behave "like a man," I am ostracized and dehumanized. Being queer is direct resistance to gender roles, it is direct resistance to toxic masculinity, and it is direct resistance to the patriarchy.
I think many people think that there is "equality" now in many Western societies simply because same-sex marriage has been legalized. However, just because a law has been passed does not mean that we are entirely safe, or even feel safe.
There has never been a time whenever we walk outside that we are not afraid of being verbally or physically assaulted — this is a reality for many queer couples. Even the idea of holding each other's hands in public can be frightening, because we know that hate crimes are still prevalent, and many are still unable to accept the fact that queer people have always faced additional layers of oppression. Because of this, it is difficult to ever feel fully "human" or fully "normal" in a society where we still fear for our lives every time we step foot outside.
People are inclined not to accept people that differ, even in the most progressive and liberal societies. A typical fault is to think that a person from our social group is pretty different from a person from a stranger one, but sociologically that is not true: two people of the same social group can be more different among themselves.
In the 21st century, you can still be killed because of your sexual orientation. Besides, a myth that all human rights have already been obtained for LGBTQ+ is still strong. I believe one of our problems as a society is that we are judging people from this community not having their experience. We (I mean straight people) do not know how it’s like to fear to show your feelings in the street, how it’s like not to have a safe space, how it’s like to face the hate on everyday basis etc. We do not fully understand, but this should not be a barrier to treat people like humans, should it?
The world doesn’t divide in only black and white, human’s sexuality is complicated enough to be binary. There are no people on Earth bearing only ‘typical feminine’ or ‘typical masculine’ features. Everyone could be what they want to be or born to be. That fact some differ from the majority cannot be an excuse for violence and moving them outside the edge of ‘normality’.