By Alexis Getscher, Dec. 18, 2014.
Headlines of marriage equality, and related issues, have dominated the media landscape throughout 2014. While this movement toward the mainstream is worthy of celebrating, there are still countless other issues facing the LGBT community that are still not being talked about.
Matters of inequality are precisely what Harvard students Curtis Lahaie and Kyle McFadden wanted to address when they created In The Making, an internet-fueled photography campaign to promote discussion of the more invisible LGBT issues and to quell thoughts that marriage equality means full equality for the community.
And, as stated on the project’s website (bit.ly/inthemakingproject), “The LGBT movement is a work in progress. It’s in the making.”
The Path to the Ivy League
Lahaie, a native Arizonan who graduated as valedictorian of Peoria’s Centennial High School in 2011, said he was out to his close friends before graduation. According to Lahaie, the environment in school wasn’t hostile, but wasn’t inclusive either and, he added, he didn’t have any gay friends.
Additionally, Centennial lacked a Gay Straight Alliance as well as a LGBT community.
“I think it says a lot that I really didn’t know any out gay people,” he said. “I could count I one hand, if that, gay people who were out in my high school … and my school had over 2,000 students.”
Lahaie came out to his parents before leaving for Harvard – an LGBT environment he considers a “totally different” world than high school.
McFadden grew up in Cavalier, N.D., a town with a population smaller than all of Lahaie’s high school. Still, McFadden recalled coming out at age 14, adding that the process was fairly simple because his older brother is also gay.
“When I came out to my dad it was very much a non-issue, which was a bit of a change from when my brother came out to him,” McFadden said. “With me, it was just like ‘oh, OK, that’s great.’
The Big Idea
When Lahaie’s Queer Practice class required him to do an activism project, he reflected on all he saw and learned while interning for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.
“Something I noticed at the nonprofits I’ve worked at is that agencies have been grappling with the issue of how to convey to the larger public, as well as the LGBT community itself, that we can’t become complacent once marriage equality becomes a reality across the country,” he said. “I wanted to think of a way to start shifting discussion away from marriage and onto other issues as well.”
It was then that he called on McFadden, a freelance photographer he had met earlier in the year, and the two got together to begin brainstorming.
Working through Harvard’s LGBT groups, email lists and word of mouth, 45 individuals came forward to participate in the photography project that would go on to be dubbed In The Making.
For the project, each participant contributed their own sentiment and was photographed holding their words written on a chalkboard.
“The overall goal is to get people thinking about these other issues that have not been getting as much attention,” McFadden said. “The LGBT community needs help from everyone. So using these photos to share really powerful, personal stories, we’re hoping that all of the people who helped make marriage equality a reality are going to continue to support and push for more solutions to a lot of these issues.”
Lahaie agrees and says the purpose of the project was never to point in one direction, and through the people he has met he realized just how many different obstacles members of the community face on a daily basis.
“Personally, in my opinion, one of the most important issues that baffles me it hasn’t been addressed yet, is the lack of nondiscrimination legislation in employment and housing,” Lahaie said. “But there are so many segments of the LGBT population that are especially marginalized like the transgender population, homelessness … there’s just so many, and its hard to put them in any sort of order because they’re all important for different reasons and to different people.”
The photos and powerful messages are being shared on the In the Making website as well as across its corresponding social media accounts.
Although all of the individuals photographed thus far have been Harvard students, the project encourages the LGBT community and allies around the world to share similar pictures of their own and post it with the #InTheMaking hashtag (the sharer is also encouraged to challenge three friends to do the same). All photos with the hashtag will be featured on In The Making’s social media accounts.
“We have been able to reach hundreds of thousands of people with our stories, not only share the photos with them, but get them talking about it,” Lahaie said, as he pointed out a recent post of a gay man holding a sign with the message, “My blood is too gay to save a life.” The photo has garnered thousands of “likes” and “shares” as well as hundreds of comments discussing the controversial ban on gay blood donors.
Lahaie said that he thinks one of the projects the biggest functions is giving the community a forum to share their words and their photos, but considers this space it’s created – a forum for people discuss the ideas that are presented – just as important.
A fundraising aspect was launched alongside the project and In the Making is accepting donations through its Indiegogo page through Jan. 2. By that date, photos of 61 Harvard students and one alumnus will be shared in the In the Making online gallery.
Additionally, funds raised will be divided between the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), National LGBT Task Force and Sylvia Rivera Law Project.
“We wanted to pick organizations that are actively addressing some of the issues that were highlighted in the project … [and] people whose issues are often overshadowed by marriage,” Lahaie said. “GLSEN is a good example of focusing on a more marginalized part of the community. That organization has no focus on marriage but is doing extremely important work.”
The National LGBT Task Force works to mobilize activists to talk about and work on related issues and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project works to achieve justice for gender nonconforming, transgender individuals and especially people of color and who have become homeless.
Donating parties will receive a thank you, depending on the amount donated, ranging from social media shout outs and signed photograph to digital graphic of the entire gallery and high quality canvas prints.
At this time, it’s difficult for Lahaie and McFadden to determine the future of the project, as Lahaie will be graduating in May and McFadden will be beginning his sophomore year. But, McFadden said, “we’re keeping our options open.”
In the meantime, the duo said they’ve already been in talks to create a physical gallery on campus where large printed photos could potentially be on display throughout the spring semester.
To donate: indiegogo.com/projects/in-the-making—2
Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram: InTheMakingProject
Submit a photo: #InTheMaking