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Thank God I’m Queer
Stories of religion, tradition and LGBTI identities in today’s South Africa

« Thank God I’m Queer » is a photo-biographic project realised between April and August 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. A photographic project because portraits are images that put a face on a story. A biographic project because portraits are words that put a story on a face. It is through such a complete approach, and with the help of the organisation Triangle Project, that I have met 13 people willing to share their story.

I sat with each of them and asked them to unravel the story of their life. I asked no questions, or very few, for the purpose of that ramble through time and memory was to let the participants share what they felt comfortable sharing. For LGBTI individuals like the participants of this project, digging into the mind in search of memories can be both a traumatic and a liberating experience. This is the reason why I gave them lines to follow along the course of their recalling.

The first and main line sticks to their LGBTI identity, either about their gender expression, their sexual orientation, or both. The second line deals with tradition, how traditional values might have affected their choices, binding them to expected roles or guiding them onto familiar paths. Tradition is here addressed in a very open way. Because South Africa shows a great diversity of languages, ethnicities and cultures, tradition is, in the first place, what ties people to their community and land. But tradition also shows up in the very mindset   
one inherits from their surroundings, through
morals, customs, myths or religion. The latter is the third and last line I asked the participants to walk along. Religion plays a big role in South Africa. Again, because of the diversity of its people, South Africa presents a wide array of cults and beliefs, with christianity being the most prominent one nationwide.

The cluster of these 13 individual stories aims at opening a debate about identities in South Africa. The list of identities found in this project shows how crucial such issue remains in the country. Black, christian, lesbian, amaXhosa, non-binary, Coloured, anglican, African, transgender, Afrikaner, female, white, queer, catholic, gay, muslim, male, jewish; are as many identities as there are ways to conciliate them together. Another debate this project tries to open is about the place LGBTI identities can play in religion and tradition, and vice versa. It all seems like growing up queer in a religious and/or traditional environment is a problem. This project is here to show why and how it can be a problem. This project is also here to show, with the help of its participants´ own views, how to effect change for a better future.

And because this project is unapologetically pro-LGBTI, it is unapologetically named « Thank God I’m Queer », winking at those who believe LGBTI people cannot connect with a higher spirit.


Find more information about the work of Triangle Project here; and stay up to date with their activities here.

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