I Want the World to See Us Kissing

I was raised in New York City, so I didn’t fully appreciate the privilege I had of growing up seeing queer love on display in public. But when I was in high school, I moved to Atlanta. I’ll never forget seeing two Black boys kissing, then being ridiculed and verbally assaulted with slurs.

Ever since, I have wanted to show how L.G.B.T.Q. people of color share their affection for one another; I want the world to see them — to see us! — kissing and holding hands, whether in New York City or a small town. Showing our feelings and our desire should be considered not just normal, but beautiful, too.

Rìo and Fear
Samuel and Diego
Rìo and Kenny
Tiffany and Zhe

Last week, a gunman attacked Club Q, a queer nightclub in Colorado Springs. Five people were killed; at least 18 were injured.It wasn’t the first shooting attack on a queer club, and I fear it won’t be the last,though I hope that it is.These tragedies show that being L.G.B.T.Q. in America can still be deadly. But it shouldn’t be hidden; we shouldn’t live in fear.

I started making these images last Decemberto make that point. I wanted to capture people in our community sharing intimate moments. While I was making these images, my subjects and I would sometimes receive homophobic remarks. That just reminded me how necessary these photographs are.

Jonah and Ethan

These images are also for queer people of color, too. It’s not just about normalizing our love for people outside our community; it’s also about normalizing it for ourselves, becoming more confident and cherishing one another shamelessly. Witnessing the backlash against that young couple in my high school kept me from allowing myself to fully express my sexuality. When I listened to the stories of the people in these photographs, my confidence grew in not being ashamed of showing affection in public. I hope these images can have the same effect on other people.

Kadar R. Small (@kadarsmall) is a photographer and director.

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