I'm grateful that Allégorie approached me about collaborating with them to design and hand-paint a collection of crossbody bags and wallets for Pride Month. Allégorie is an Asian and Woman owned company that believes fashion should be sustainable and eco-friendly. The leather they use for their products is made of apples!
For the collaboration, I used the same designs in a collection of stationary - Greeting Cards and Stickers. I also could not resist creating a surface pattern collection available for sale on wallpaper, fabric, and ready-made home decor at Spoonflower. All products are made to order or produced in small batches to minimize waste.
In this blog post, I talk about some of my experiences as a queer person and share links where you can learn more about legislation impacting the LGBTQIA+ community and how you can protect and educate queer youth.
Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that I can not represent everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community. It's a very vibrant and diverse community. Everyone has a different experience, and each one of those experiences is valid. So, instead of failing to represent everyone, I decided to be vulnerable and create art based on my personal story.
In the '90s, in Washington Heights, I heard homophobic slurs in English and Spanish. I was taught to believe anyone who was not cis or straight was a sinner, deviant, or mentally ill. As a child, I started developing feelings for the same sex. Because of my environment, I tried rationalizing those feelings: "I am normal; therefore, I am straight."
As I learned to hide my sexuality, I started hiding my emotions too. When I was 11, I didn't grieve my father's death properly because I feared my sadness would impact others. I became obsessed with achieving in school and was so hard on myself when I was less than perfect. I felt shame, depression, self-doubt, and loneliness.
I pressured myself to date in Highschool. I was terrified of being alone and finding myself. I often thought of suicide.
When I was 28, I was in a relationship with a straight man and felt very depressed. I felt like I was suffocating.
One day, I set up my table at a craft market. I looked up and saw a beautiful, confident woman, and our eyes met. It was electrical. I remember that exact moment - I gave myself permission to feel everything and not hold back.
She and I spoke for hours. She sat behind my table at the market and returned the next day. I remember flirting and being so happy that my entire body tingled. I proposed to her a few months later. We have been married for nine years and together for ten.
It was challenging to tear down my old life and build a new one. It was difficult to explain the dark place I was in after I had hidden my feelings for so long. I continue to heal and learn about myself daily through self-reflection, faith, and therapy. It was only a few weeks ago that I read a passage in "What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality" that resonated with my experience:
"....people who are afraid of their sexuality are constantly in hiding from their own selves. As a result, they are handicapped in all their dealings with other people and especially in their capacity to love deeply. All interior growth is stunted when people repress their affection, for heartfelt passion is really the engine of human achievement." -Daniel A. Helminiak
I am grateful I had a chance to have a second first kiss. I'm thankful that my family, friends, church, and community shower me with love and support for being exactly who I know myself to be.
When I make art, I think about all those who still have to hide who they are to survive. I'm proud to work on a project like this that helps amplify a queer voice, so we can share information about how to show up and stand up for each other. Here are links where you can learn more about Federal, State, and local legislation and how to take action to protect and educate queer youth.