WRESTLING THE ANGEL

Many queer people have negative or complicated relationships with religion, myself included. For those who grow up religious it’s not unusual to accept the teachings without questioning what it means to them personally or why they believe. But it is different for those people who then realize they are queer. This realization is a moment of reckoning. It forces people to contemplate what it means to have two identities that are often believed to be contradictory. Does one dismiss a part of themselves in favor of the other? Do they meld the two? That is the choice many religiously-raised queer people must make. I had to make this same choice.

 

For some the decision is easy, and for the others it is hell. It is inconsequential to turn your back on something you never really believed. But it becomes distressing when both identities are valued equally. The impact–or lack of one–this reckoning has on queer people interests me from a personal and social standpoint. My interest in this topic and visual explorations of it began in 2019 when I did a self-portrait as Saint Sebastian. Over time, the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian has been reinterpretted as a coming out story, adding queer icon to his long list of saintly roles. He is an example of the integration of faith and queerness and the impetus of this project. 

 

My thesis was inspired by the way these two concepts interact, specifically from the viewpoint of queer people. I wanted to capture the nuanced relationship between queerness and spirituality and highlight the experiences of navigating these two identities. To do this I conducted interviews–some with friends and many with strangers. The interviews were extremely important to the process as each piece responded directly to the information I received. This resulted in work that merges the interviewee’s ideas with my own. These glimpses into the lives of real queer people create a space for viewers to contemplate the topic’s history and how they integrate the two into their own lives.

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Photographer: Jerrell Hahn

Stylist: Dale Jordan

Client: Aronah Skincare

Date: 2023