The Valentine’s ‘One Love’ exhibit spotlights local LGBTQ families from across the spectrum
As the understanding of what a “traditional family” is expands with LGBTQ equality, it can be hard to find folks who represent these new civil rights. But the Valentine’s newest exhibition, One Love: LGBT Families, shows how the LGBT community in Richmond reimagines the way families can be constructed.
One Love: LGBT Families is a 20-image photography exhibit of LGBTQ families in the Richmond metropolitan area.
Portraits feature different family units in an area around the city with a short quote. One Love was created collaboratively by the Valentine, Richmond Region Tourism’s OutRVA campaign and photographer Michael Simon, with sponsorship from Altria Group, Inc., Capital One, Diversity Richmond and Virginia is for Lovers.
One Love came about during a chance conversation among project partners during a spring 2016 interview on WRIR’s Diversity Richmond Speaks! radio show. Michael Simon and Katherine O’Donnell, VP of Community Relations for Richmond Region Tourism, were discussing their collaboration for the 2016 OutRVA project, “Say I Do LGBT Wedding Expo” and the city’s LGBTQ tourism campaign.
Domenick Casuccio, Director of PR & Marketing for the Valentine, was at the same interview, discussing the Valentine’s upcoming exhibition It’s All Relative: Richmond Families (1616-2016). The three floated an idea to include the photography exhibition as part of the OutRVA tourism campaign. Meg Hughes, Curator of Archives for the Valentine, signed on to the project, and One Love was born.
“I thought One Love’s content would complement our concurrent exhibition, It’s All Relative” said Hughes, who became the show’s curator. ”[It] provided an opportunity to focus on Richmond’s LGBT community, specifically families, building on the recent historic legal passage of marriage equality,”
Family as a social construct in America has been traditionally seen within a very heteronormative gaze, being a one man, one woman, multiple children set up, known as the “Nuclear Family.”
In both the mass media and various religious spaces of the mid-20th century, this setup was considered ideal financially and to produce more children. The man of the house would go off to work, while the woman was the homemaker and stayed with the children.
But, as the American economy and societal norms changed, this standard began to shift.
A study done by sociologist Philip Cohen in his book called The Family: Diversity, Inequality, and Social Change says that, “in 2010, 45% of households were headed by a married couple, whereas in 1960 it was close to 66%.”
“Family structures are and have always been more complicated than Ozzie and Harriet, the 1950s American nuclear family,” said Hughes. “There are constructed families, especially within the LGBT community, consisting of people who aren’t biologically or legally related. People often actively chose their families, especially if they have been ostracized by their birth family.”
For the LGBT community, alternatives to the traditional family structure have existed out of necessity in many cases.
Many queer and trans individuals, youths particularly, who are either outed or come out willingly are often ostracized in some way. Reports suggest that about 40% of homeless youth are LGBT, most of which were forced to leave their home. These groups usually form as LGBT individuals find and create families for themselves.
“It’s very interesting looking at some of the families in the exhibition, that there’s the family that we are born into, there is the family that we choose, and there is the family that we fall into a social circle with especially in the LGBT community that we start seeing as family members,” said Casuccio.
The families featured in One Love cross all lines of racial, sexualities, gender, and identity expectation of the the old standard – some even define the concepts of monogamous relationships. The 20-portrait exhibit shows the unique structure of each family. There are families that include children, and some that do not. There are interracial families, families that involve gender non-conforming and trans folks, families that aren’t married, single parent families, a family of drag queens, a 9-unit polyamorous family.
One particular family, Kate and Travis Hall and their three children, Piper, Forde, and Caroline (Seen below), are living proof of this change.
Over year ago their oldest child, at the age of 14, came out as trans and this past summer began socially transitioning and changed her name to Piper from Bryce. Having an openly trans child, Travis and Kate, though immediately supportive of their child’s gender identity, were concerned about the public’s view of their family.Their participation in One Love came with reluctance, but Piper felt that she wanted to be a part of the exhibit and they all followed her lead.
“There are people who will say, ‘I can’t believe they let their child do this” but we have seen Piper evolved incredibly since she socially transitioned. She’s a hundred times happier,” said Kate Hall. “When people hear our story, I hope they understand that this is who our daughter was meant to be. And that our family is just like any other.”
The Hall family, as well as the other families featured in One Love, question the traditional “nuclear family” structure that we’ve seen in the past.
“One of the drag queens Natasha Carrington said, ‘when you’re gay, you get to make your own family.’ Family has never only meant that only your blood relatives, family is a group of people that you hold dear,” said photographer Michael Simon. “These families are changing the way we understand family by simply by existing.”
One Love: LGBT Families is currently on view in the Valentine’s Lower Level through September 4, 2017.
“We know more than ever before about what transgender children need to grow up safe and healthy, and a large part of that is being accepted”September 29, 2016
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