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Celebrating Queer and Trans Elders During Pride Month

This year, our Pride Month series looks at those LGBTQ+ elders who inspire us and on whose shoulders the rest of us are standing. When I started pursuing my studies in art, there were very few role models to follow, particularly those who were accessible and proudly discussed their own queerness as integral to their work and art, and not as a biographical detail they would rather not discuss. I had the good fortune of having professors like the scholar of 18th-century French art William McAllister Johnson, who helped me feel confident in the field of art without feeling like my sexual identity hindered my success. Looking back, that was probably one of the reasons I decided to stay in the art field, having been welcomed in by someone older than me who felt it was his duty to mentor me, even if that mentorship was simply in the form of small comments of support and taking the time to respond to my queries. I never forgot that attention, which felt like a lifeline at the time. 

I was reminded of that experience when I visited the video work by Sharon Hayes, “Ricerche: four” (2024) which invites visitors to sit in a circle to listen to LGBTQ+ elders reflecting on their lived experiences. The artwork is one of many reasons we decided to focus on those in our community who have helped make it more inclusive and have been engaged in the struggle to speak up and make change in their own ways, which are sometimes quieter than what younger generations might have wanted, but effective nonetheless. 

As Hyperallergic approaches our 15th anniversary this fall, we’re proud to have always featured LGBTQ+ voices, particularly as the only queer-owned international art publication out there. Our podcast has been a great platform for many of these conversations with LGBTQ+ people of all ages, and I encourage you all to check out our interviews with Abstract Expressionist Judith Godwin, artist Deborah Kass, critic Christopher Knight, artist Kent Monkman, gallerist Antwaun Sargent, features about David Wojnarowicz, a recent interview with Stonewall veteran Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, and so much more. The queer community is diverse, and I hope you will all take time to explore the lives and work of these LGBTQ+ elders, all of whom have made a difference even if that change was more active behind the scenes and not always in the spotlight.

Thank you to everyone who agreed to participate, we know it continues to be an act of bravery to be public about your identity at a time when our community faces many threats. You all continue to inspire us all in the work you do. And thank you for paving the way for those of us who benefit from your work as we follow in your footsteps toward our collective liberation. 

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