A note - This article contains discussions of homophobia including usage of slurs that some people may find upsetting to read.
Each year during the month of June LGBT+ communities and their allies worldwide turn their focus to celebrating the diversity, brilliance, history, and power within LGBT+ identities. The month is also used to raise awareness and encourage non-LGBT+ people to get involved with campaigns that actively work to dismantle the homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia that LGBT+ people face every single day.
In order to participate in both this celebration and in raising awareness, the OCASA organised an artist talk with Paul Harfleet - founder of The Pansy Project - which was attended by many OCA students. The Pansy Project is a street art movement that Paul started after noticing how flowers left at the site of car crashes changed the way the general public engaged with the area. He decided - after a day in which he experienced three seperate homophobic attacks - to plant pansies at the location they occured in. This, to him, was a healing and grounding process. It helped him process the attacks and left him feeling powerful and free.
During the talk, Paul spoke at length about how The Pansy Project has been taken worldwide and helped many people deal with the anguish of their own homophobic and transphobic attacks. He often plants pansies on behalf of other people who have experienced violence in public, and has marked the sites of several tragic and needless deaths. He also talked about his own experiences with managing the homophobia he receives, and about the importance of the LGBT+ community, especially in regards to supporting each other.
Inspired by Paul's project and talk, the OCASA ran a collaborative project for the rest of Pride month. This was open to all students - LGBT+ or not - but with a reminder that the focus here was on LGBT+ pride. Students were asked to create a pansy of their own using whatever medium they desired. LGBT+ students could also optionally send in a piece of writing sharing their experiences and inspiration behind their work. The collaboration was a huge success - thank you to all students who participated! Below you can see all of the submissions together.
The OCA South East Regional Group worked together to create a collage of their work in the shape of a pansy in order to allow everyone to take part, even if their work didn't directly relate to the pansy brief.
Clara Maciulis, a painting student, tried her hand at animation for the project, creating the following video.
Several pieces of writing were submitted for the collaborative project, including an emotive learning log entry by Katrina Arden which can be found here. Joanna Moore submitted this poem inspired by The Pansy Project and the collaboration:
You nod your head in the gentle
Zephyr, which does buffer and
Berate you. Your stem your backbone,
A rod of cellular magnificence.
You stand tall and proud, briefly,
Until the breeze catches you once more.
Your head bends at forty-five degrees
And you are forced to look downwards-
Until you spring back up, resilient, and bold.
Your face full of expression, sometimes
Shock, sometimes laughter, sometimes
Solemnity. But more often than not, a
Jolly joker. A colourful, smiley face,
Surveying the confused and often ignorant
World of bigotry and prejudice. But you do
Not go unnoticed. And your appearance
Leaves a residue of hope in my heart.
Michelle Stannard combined words with artwork in creating her submission. She had this to say about it:
I am gay and my piece is based on the experience that I had when I first came out to my family by text message. It also highlights a different type of homophobia. Even though on the outside this particular family member accepted it, she still introduced me as an object rather than a person. I was a topic of conversation that she could discuss at parties and events. This was not done with pride but a type of ignorance that I have not witnessed before, and it made me want to go to the top of a hill and scream. Then after the long discussions, her friends would look at me with disgust, and she'd assure them it was 'just a phase' and I'd soon be having a family like their own children were. My sexuality doesn't define me, but it is part of who I am, a woman, who loves women.
You can see Michelle's work by clicking the link on the right.
Finally, Chelsea Bodley wanted to share her inspiration and the meaning behind her submission (above).
My name is Chelsea, I am 33 and I have been out of the closet for 18 years. During those 18 years I have faced a lot of homophobia for being myself; shouted at, spat upon and continue to experience a veiled homophobia to this day. However, the words that hurt me all those years ago, I now wear them with pride as I am now proud of myself and of who I am.I am a pansy; I am sensitive, delicate and flamboyant. I wanted to surround myself (the pansy) with all the words that have ever been used negatively towards me, because I am gay. I wanted to create an embroidery piece, as floral embroidery is what springs to mind with flowers. I sketched some pansies and selected one, which looked defiant but a bit broken- like myself. I love working with embroidery and felt,, with its bright and garish, which reflect me well.I created a pansy from the felt and attached it upon some cheese cloth then embroidered all the negative words that I now use positively. Please find attached images of my piece, which I shall call 'I am a Pansy'.
For me, as a lesbian, reading over your emails and seeing all of your submissions has been a powerful and emotional experience. There is something that unites us and bonds us as a community - the power we have to keep on going, and the brilliance that is within us all. An enormous thank you to Angela Trencsak, Ashley Mclaughlin, Chelsea Bodley, Clara Maciulis, Hannah Roche, Helen Rosemier, Jade Chaplin, Jaki Knowles, Joanna Moore, Joanne Mulvihill-Allen, Juanita Ozamiz, Judith Thursfield, Katie L'Ala, Katrina Arden, Krystyna Farrell, Laura Gillett, Natalia Koryakova, Michelle Stannard, Simon Rees, Stefanie Gadow, and the whole SERG group for participating in this collaboration.
As we move away from pride month and into the rest of the year - please don't forget that the LGBT+ community continues to exist. We are unfortunately facing discrimination all year round, and we continue to be proud in the face of that. Consider donating to an LGBT+ charity such as Stonewall or The Albert Kennedy Trust, or think about how you engage with LGBT+ artists in your own work.