Juno actress Ellen Page 'came out' of the proverbial closet this weekend, days after NFL hopeful, Michael Sam, made a similar public announcement. Lesbian, gay, bisexual andtransgender awareness and self-acceptance have become mainstream conversation. The United States is, indeed, having a 'pro-gay' moment.
Internationally however, it's a different story.
On Friday Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced that he will sign an anti-gay bill into law which could mean life-imprisonment for some ‘homosexual acts.’ And, Russia has been in the spotlight for months leading up to the Olympic Winter Games, held in Sochi. The country’s anti-gay laws have concerned many people in the international community. That’s why Toronto-based photojournalist, Kristy Boyce, decided to do something about it.
Boyce, 32, created a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to allow her to travel to Russia to photograph and interview LGBT people. Her goal was to bring attention to the socio-political conditions LGBT Russians are living under.
“The majority of LGBTQ folks I've talked to [since arriving in Russia] have experienced some form of violence, intimidation or gay bashing,” she said via e-mail. “The issues here are complicated and the people give complicated, but thoughtful answers and opinions."
Boyce had asked for $5,000(Canadian), and the total amount raised was $5270, with 68 people contributing to her campaign.
"I think a big part of why the Kickstarter [campaign] was successful was the fact that the ‘What Dyke Looks Like’ project has been around for awhile and so I have a certain amount of homo art credibility based on that, " she wrote in an email.
Boyce began her 'What Dyke Looks Like' (WDLL) [Link may be NSFW] portrait anthology in 2011 and said she has captured the faces of "over 100 women." She has traveled throughout Canada and the U.S. but she didn't want to stop there.
"The goal is in part an effort to take the WDLL photo book project international and make it more diverse and include this dark part of our communal history," Boyce said. "It's also (especially in the video interviews) an attempt to have LGBTQ Russians speak their minds about what's going on in their country from the perspective of the people actually living it.”
Boyce has done seven photo shoots since landing in Russia last week. [She shared a selection of edited portraits for this story.] She'll be heading to St. Petersburg for at least 10 more shoots before moving on to Moscow and then the Ukraine before returning to Toronto.
Shooting the video interviews and portraits in the same session, "makes it a bit labor intensive for me but because of the amount of time we spend together, we get into these really great conversations and friendships often by the end of it," she said.
Long term, she'd like the Russian project to have a place in Toronto’s World Pride in June. "I'm going to show the work on its own and some of it as part of the 'What Dyke Looks Like' book I hope to put out."
If you’d like to support Boyce’s work, she is still accepting donations via the WDLL site.