Pride is here, though online-only parades mean it might feel less like a celebration than usual. To mark Global Pride 2020, we chatted to three of the UK’s leading LGBTQIA+ journalists, artists and activists – Fox Fisher, Jake Hall and Judy McNicol – about the state of LGBTQIA+ art today.
Fox Fisher is an award winning artist, film maker and campaigner. Fox has an MA in Sequential Design and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Brighton for their contribution to trans equality. When asked about LGBTQIA+ arts, they explained…
“Creative expression is massively important to the LGBTQIA+ community, and a lot of film-making, exhibitions, conferences, festivals and marches have either been cancelled, postponed or have morphed into online versions. Lockdown has been an opportunity for more people to make art. I think our LGBTQIA+ community has proved to be incredibly resilient over the years. Barriers still exist, like lack of funding and lack of exposure.
“This strengthening of the online community is helpful to so many who are feeling isolated. For those who have online access, there are exhibitions like Trans Vegas (https://transcreative.uk). This provides a positive focus, particularly during such an unusual Pride season. This presence is particularly important to connect us to each other online, however nothing can fully replace the heart-swelling Pride of marching along-side individuals all going through similar issues, at annual Trans Pride in Brighton & Hove. There is something very bonding about marching together, united in exploring our gender while educating nearly everyone around us.
“Increasingly I am using typographic illustrations to convey messages which might seem quite basic to the transgender community, like Trans Women Are Women, Trans Men Are Men, Non-Binary Is Valid. However, language is always evolving. Non-binary has been much more talked about in the past 5 years. The phrase ‘non-binary is valid’ (despite being first spoken by non-binary leaders) is now being rejected by some non-binary people, who prefer the phrase ‘non-binary is non-binary’. And so we adapt. I love that about language. We find new words, new ways to say what we really mean.
“As a queer, POC, non-binary trans masculine trans person, who is also an artist, my art doesn’t always have an in your face message specifically related to my sexuality or gender identity and expression.”
We posed the same question to Jake Hall, a London-based freelance writer who covers everything from sex and fashion to music and technology. They had this to say:
“I think we need to reach a point where ‘queer artists’ can be described as ‘artists’ without being segmented off from the rest of the industry. There are some incredible artists making work informed by their queer identities, but the industry has a tendency to ghettoise marginalised artists across the board – the fact that ‘queer art’ get so little airtime outside of Pride month is extremely telling, and I think it says a lot about how institutions work…
“There’s such a special sense of community in queer scenes worldwide, which I think really set them apart. For many of us, we’re taught to repress fundamental elements of our character to survive. Growing up queer means learning to self-censor and code-switch, so art gives us this incredible opportunity to explore, perform and celebrate our identities, or in other cases, communicate the hardships we face in a way that’s visceral, beautiful and conceptual. I would definitely say that queer scenes are more energetic; there’s usually so much love in the community spaces we create for ourselves. I think the issue is working with big institutions who have the power to fund us, and take us outside of those contexts: I’ve found that some galleries only want palatable queer artists and they don’t want to give us the control to curate these spaces and translate that magic, so I think there’s a real chasm between independent scenes and some of the queer exhibitions we see in huge galleries.”
When asked about their favourite LGBTQIA+ artists, Jake listed: “Victoria Sin, Tourmaline, Chris Hinojosa, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, Kia LaBeija… and if we’re talking all-time, I’d add Zanele Muholi and Vaginal Davis to the list!”
Judy McNicol, also known as Wee Moody Judy, is a Scottish multi-disciplinary creative living in London. She’s been getting to know the London art scene over the last two years:
“I had a lot of anxieties around [the London art scene] as the art scene in Paris that I was used to wasn’t exactly welcoming, and I was accustomed to very firmly closed doors… But what I found really surprised me; I found that the people within the art scene in London… I’m talking about the thriving Queer run spaces, artists, writers, editors… are for the most part, and in my experience, people ready to embrace you into the community and people that want to see you and the community thrive.
“I can only speak from my own experience, which also includes my white privilege, but in my time here I have found that the Queer Art Spaces of London are powerful to the community and hold such incredibly talented people, and since that power comes from community it is something to be shared. It’s been really encouraging moving to London and seeing how many people in the Queer community want to extend a helping hand and to pass their wisdom along rather than watch one another struggle in Cis-Het spaces.”
Among Judy’s favourite London artists are Wednesday Holmes (@hellomynameiswednesday), Rene Matić (@bad.gal.rene), Mélanie Lehmann (@melony.lemon), Florence Given (@florencegiven), Char Ellesse (@ellessechar), Sonny Flynn (@sonny_flynn), and Jamie Windust (@jamie_Windust).
“And of course” Judy adds, “my beautiful love and girlfriend Sarah Maxwell @sarahmaxwellart. I’ve surely missed a heap of the artists that I admire, as there’s so many… but these are just a few that I think everyone should be following!”
Judy also highlighted a few LGBTQIA+ and LGBTQIA+ inclusive publications that readers and creators should look out for:
“To name a few would be Gurls Talk, which has submissions that are always open to contribute to on their site; Fruitcake; BRICKS Magazine; QAZAR Mag and Polyester Zine, which do calls for submissions on a semi regular basis – you can look out for those opportunities by checking their instagrams, website or newsletters! Gurls Talk and Polyester Zine also both have podcasts and host events and panels that cover and discuss a wide range of topics including the arts, queer rights and becoming an entrepreneur along with many more wonderful things – again you can keep informed of these events through their social media!”
What’s important to remember is that LGBTQIA+ people exist, work and create year-round, not just during Pride season. London, the UK and the world are packed with talented LGBTQIA+ artists, writers and activists whose work makes their respective areas vibrant and diverse.