Living in Limbo: Lesbian Families in the Deep South

A close friend was locked out of her home by her recently deceased lesbian partner's family. Worse, at the funeral their straight friends said they were unaware that the couple was gay, or that gay couples lacked legal rights as a family. I knew it was time to function openly as part of the social fabric of our community at large. But in Alabama there were no legal protections— and many of my peers still struggled to keep jobs, child custody and acceptance from families of origin because of or sexual or gender orientation. This series was created to challenge that disparity. It is a southern perspective. It is also the public coming out story for me and much of my community.

Because of the conservative social mores of my hometown, I developed a conceptual framework to provide lesbian couples control of their environment. The participants were photographed in a studio to eliminate any public trace of their home. They decided to face the camera or not, and many turned their backs to the camera due to fear of public recognition . Participants were asked to focus on their feelings about three words delivered in series: “Lesbian,”  “Pride,” and “Prejudice” while being photographed.

This collection of images represents a cross-section of a previously invisible and largely marginalized lesbian community with Alabama roots. Groundbreaking at the time it was created in 2011 and exhibited at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in 2012, it opened just ahead of President Obama and the NAACP endorsements of gay marriage.

Living in Limbo offers the viewer an opportunity to reflect on politics and portraiture, and contemplate the nature of family. The exhibition was also shown at the African American Museum in Dallas and a solo Wynwood pop-up show as part of the Miami Basel celebration.  Selected images are currently available for travel through the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.