A new video initiative in Ottawa called Identity Blossoming provides a fresh look at diversity within the LGBT community and shares personal, authentic stories from people who have something to say about standing out.
Ottawa-based videographer and photographer Fangliang Xu has created three videos so far, with three more videos currently in production. She’s relied mostly on mutual friends and word-of-mouth to find volunteers and says that she wants the project to be as inclusive as possible.
“[The participants] represent themselves as individuals but it doesn’t represent the whole LGBTQ,” she says, noting that it’s essential to have more people and that her short-term goal is to make about 10 videos.
For the first video, Xu interviewed her neighbour, Christine Delaney.
“I think there’s an element of shame by not coming out,” says Delaney, who identifies as lesbian.
“When you withhold something about yourself because you’re fearful of what other people will think of you, I think you really lose a piece of yourself,” she says, noting that it’s essential to be authentic with others — and yourself.
Delaney is optimistic that her video, and the project in general, will help others.
“I hope that sharing our stories will be an inspiration to people and hopefully it puts a little bit of love out there into the universe,” she says.
Each video takes about 50 hours to complete when you include all of the preparation, production and editing, even though the final product is only about three-and-a-half minutes.
“It takes a lot of trust, a lot of connection . . . and it’s very intimate. It’s a really nice feeling,” says Xu.
Another project subject is Stewart Walker, a scientist in Ottawa who has no reservations about wearing his collection of dresses and skirts in public. While Walker identifies as heterosexual, Xu feels that he has a place in the project too.
“I call [the project] Identity Blossoming because identity can mean so many things,” she says.
“Straight people struggle with themselves too. Everyone struggles and if we’re lucky, we forgive ourselves.”
In the third video, viewers are introduced to Twiggy who is gender-neutral and tells Daily Xtra that creating the video, on a personal level, was anxiety-ridden but important.
“Giving people a voice to talk about their experiences to other people, and to show that they’re not alone, is important. I talked to [Xu] because she wanted to talk to me,” Twiggy says.
Each person shares their own story of adversity as it manifests in many forms. The stories revealed by Identity Blossoming aren’t all gloomy but they don’t convey fairy-tale endings either. Instead, they display authentic testimonies from people who show that differences don’t come without hardship and that there is a lot of diversity within our communities worth sharing, and celebrating.