DEI: Pride Month 2021

June is Pride Month which commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots and recognizes the impact of LGBTQ+ people have had in the world. As we reflect on the history of Pride and the impact made by activists such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, we celebrate the work of today’s advocates of equality and members of the LGBTQ+ community — near and far. Hear the stories of local LGBTQ+ community members and learn more about their impact on our city.

Colleen Maynard is a visual artist, writer, and arts administrator. She was awarded a 2019 “Let Creativity Happen” award from Houston Arts Alliance and the City of Houston, and was selected for the research exhibition collaborative “Visual Pathology” with University of Texas Medical Branch and Galveston Art Center in 2018. Her work has appeared in places such as “Spectral Lines” Anthology (Alternating Current Press), Cold Mountain Review, and Sand Journal. She studied writing and painting at the Kansas City Art Institute.

What does being part of the LGBTQ+ community mean to you? 

Getting to be around and in dialogue with the LGBTQ+ community can be deeply restful and creative. We tend to be scrappy, punky, determined nerds and weirdos. We’ve pushed against assumptions made early on for us, whether that’s gender or sexuality or being required to fit in one box only. And I have to believe the queer community of 2021 is more informed, more integrated, and more openminded than ever as we keep working together for progress, unity, and safety.

What unexpected joy or inspiration did you discover over the past 12 months?

First, a reuniting with a poetry group in a city I used to live in — thanks to technology and lovely people determined to forge community come hell or high water! Second, at some point in the last year I realized I have only been reading LGBTQ+ writers, mostly for a sense of much-needed “they get me” comfort. I especially appreciate writers who aren’t pandering to a queer-curious heteronormative/cisgender base, but just writing their socks off because it’s how they process the world. Danez Smith, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Torey Peters, Jericho Brown, Bryan Washington, Audrey Lorde, Carmen Maria Machado, and Imogene Binnie are a few I’ve recently been sinking into. I’ve been considering reading exclusively queer fiction and poetry as long as I can in the future.

What’s next on the horizon?

More play! I have plans of sculpting, painting, and collaging more, collaborating more, traveling again. While my drawings stay fully focused on a pre-anthropocene or human-absent set of species like coral, echinoderms, and bryozoans, I’m drawn to writing about the messiness of humans. I’ve been returning to poetry after a long jag of flash fiction. I have less patience for the exhibiting/publishing/proposing cycles, but feel grateful to have a few of those in the works. The pandemic mellowed me: I make these things to process and creatively question, and just to be happier.

Omar Lisandro is a wardrobe stylist and set designer who has been a Houston native for more than 20 years. His most notable work has been working on music videos and design for Blueprint Film Co, as well as assisting on a GQ cover. He is the co-founder of STRUT, a Houston-based fashion organization dedicated to sharing trends and promoting acceptance of any and all styles. 

What does being part of the LGBT community mean to you? 

Being part of the LGBT community means love and legacy. To be part of a monumental family of fighters, survivors, incredible people, and artists alike, championing their truths through so many social changes. It’s like being a soldier in a fabulous army of rainbow warriors.

How do you celebrate Pride? 

I always celebrate pride by finding new champions. Artists, activists, allies to learn about, share, and be inspired by to live my truth as a gay man. In addition to that, in years past, I’ve served alongside the incredible President of Houston’s Pride, Lovely Lo, coordinating their annual Rock the Runway fashion show.

What unexpected joy or inspiration did you discover over the past 12 months?

I got to slow down and take time to be inspired by nature and quiet moments. Everything was at a standstill and taking in the silence, accepting it, making peace, and seeing nature carry on in a very different light. Also seeing people rediscover the importance of community and socialization in any way possible inspired me to reach out via a live stream called the Style Hour and help people validate themselves aesthetically.

What is one way we can all support each other right now?

I can’t stress enough the importance of shopping local/person to person. Our buying power has the ability to change lives, save neighborhoods, and empower others to be the positive changes we want to see in the world. It also champions more diverse options in goods, services, and retail spaces that really want to support and cater to exactly what our community needs are.

Thank you to all of our participants for sharing their experiences with the AIGA Houston community.

By aigahouston
Published June 11, 2021
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