As the world is flooded by the perils amassed by war, other far-reaching demands persist in the shadows. Only three months into the year, and 238 bills that limit the rights of the LGBTQ community were filed by state lawmakers in America.

Throughout the years, activist and human rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Freedom for All Americans have advanced the rights of LGBTQ people, but still the annual number of bills have skyrocketed from 41 in 2018 to 238 in less than three months. These legislations will restrict LGBTQ permits on religious exemptions, block LGBTQ histories in school curriculums, limit gender-affirmation health care, and restrict the ability to play sports and use bathrooms that correspond with an individual’s gender identity.

Paint Me Like One of Your Pre-Raphaelite Boy-Girls by Laurence Philomène. Image courtesy of Laurence Philomène.

How are these bills allowed to expand? Despite the discriminatory and conservative nature of these legislations, the arguments in defense are rooted in the premises of parental rights, religious freedom, or the right to protect children.

“It’s important for people to pause and think about what is happening — especially in the health care context — because what we’re seeing is that the state should have the authority to declare a population of people so undesirable that their medical care that they need to survive becomes a crime,” Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, states. “What more terrifying intrusion of the state could there be?”

As the number of anti-LGBTQ bills multiplies, so does the support for LGBTQ rights and policies restricting prejudice against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. Where does art stand regarding this matter?

Drinking Strawberry Milk in My Kitchen with Vashti by Laurence Philomène. Image courtesy of Laurence Philomène.

Non-binary artist from Montreal Laurence Philomène spearheads this movement, leading us through a personal journey of dealing with questions of identity and selfhood through a colourful queer + trans lens, blending documentary and fine art approaches, stressing the importance of legislation in favour of equality.

Philomène's photographic collection investigates the notion of adolescence and the body's social roles, delving into a sense of ritual as the artist documents their testosterone shots weaved with daily self-portraits. The diaristic and intimate quality of the photos blend with concrete text written on an in-between the photographer, a colourful and playful sensibility giving the spectator the notion of belonging to an outer entity — a mixture of the body in the outside world and a documentative view of personal atmospheres.

One of their ongoing projects by the name Puberty explores an autobiographic odyssey inwards looking at the intimate processes of self-care as a non-binary transgender person undergoes hormonal replacement therapy (HRT). The vivid flaming-orange-dyed hair of the artist and the more subtle domestic settings bathed with light celebrate transition as a space for exploration. The visual explorations challenge the preconceived Western understandings of masculinity and femininity and investigate how they co-exist outside of the binary.

Self-Portrait in Lava Fields, Iceland by Laurence Philomène. Image courtesy of Laurence Philomène.

"Having dedicated my practice to documenting non-binary lives over the last 5 years, Puberty allows me to dig deeper into what it means to have autonomy over our stories as marginalized individuals,” the artist explains.

"In addition to this, I work with the hope of providing representation to and solidarity with future generations of queer and trans individuals as they navigate both personal joys and institutional hardship and erasure."

Philomène's ongoing fight for freedom to create their own story as an integral part of embodying queerness and equality merges with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to Reduced Inequalities and the fight for Good Health and Well-Being.

Self-Portrait at My Studio by Laurence Philomène. Image courtesy of Laurence Philomène.

Their striking, experimental aesthetic that mixes with their personal surroundings augments the notions of queerness, raising awareness of the subtle and contrasting environments of the LGBTQ communities. Philomène has been awarded with multiple accolades, such as becoming an honouree for the 2020 PDN’S 30 and recipient of the same year Getty Images Creatives in Quarantine Bursary. In addition, their work has been presented in several exhibitions and publications worldwide, including solo exhibits in Canada, Germany, France and Poland.

See more of Laurence Philomène here.

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