in 2019 I realized I wanted to put together a photo blog with my wife ( a writer) to celebrate the queer community. We released it during Pride month. My intention was to make this a yearly project, but 2020 was a difficult year for me and I didn't make it Happen. in 2021 I was determined to make it happen again, but my schedule was so hectic, I decided didn't have time to produce a large shoot again. The next day ring of Key's reached out about me photographing a pride shoot and they would produce it! It was even better than i could have imagined! I hope you enjoy!

pride

Joyously Out & Proud

an essay by Emily Elkind

Beneath the willow tree, I sat. I sat with my knees up to my chest hugging myself tightly and breathing deeply. The tree’s vines encircled me creating a veil of protection. An old man in his car at the end of the parking lot was staring at me. Perhaps I looked out of place, an 18 year old at a park with no agenda. Most people around me were there with a clear purpose. Time to play with their children. Time to read. Time to jog. Time to stroll and hold hands. And me, staring back with stinging and puffy eyes at that single old man in his run down white car with a navy blue top and a bag of breadcrumbs in his hand. He did not smile. Neither did I.

When I was a child I’d often go to this park with my babysitter who lived just up the hill. Together, we would bring stale bread in plastic bags and while we sat under the willow tree we would crumble up the bread and throw it out to the ducks. They would flock to us from all edges of the pond. The details of the park had grown dull in my mind but I could remember feeling freedom to explore and ponder. I remembered feeling open to my own findings and those of others. I remembered feeling pride in myself through the simple act of giving. Those feelings guided me through the windy roads of my hometown that morning and led me to the willow tree’s safety. I could see the memories of who I had been tangled in the vines of the tree, lost under the wings of the ducks, and treading quietly below the surface of the pond. I had come here searching for something, some reminder of who I had been as I now sat on the precipice of who I was becoming.

At 18, I came out to my parents, or rather, they “figured it out”. “It” being a euphemism. “It” being a stand in term for something I could not yet comfortably name. “It” being denial and fear that sprouted first in myself and soon would spread seeds to others. Over the last decade (and then some) the “it” has taken on many names and forms. “It” continues to change in the wake of passing decades, expanding language, more nuanced manifestations of identity, and an ever changing me in the context of everything I have experienced. At 18 my parents figured something out and knew what I did not yet have the foresight to see. They knew that this would be my first coming out of many, that life, as it happens, would invite me to come out again, and again, and again, and again. Perhaps they knew that the coming out might look differently as the years went on. That it might sound differently. That it might feel differently, too.

Sometimes I wonder if we know ourselves best as young children and then society teaches us what we should be instead. We cover ourselves in self-made layers like we’re offering protection from the cold. A sweater made of parents’ expectations. Gloves made with a teacher’s doubts. A hat knitted with messages from the media. Wool socks with fibers of “what ifs” and “not ready’s”. And a heavy down jacket of fear. It’s stifling, but probably safe. Throughout our lives we learn to shed the layers one by one. Some come off with ease while others wear out slowly over years and years of use. With a lot of love and grace, we find warmth from within.

It is no surprise that the first time I came out I returned to the park where I had spent time as a child. The phrase “coming out” implies that there is something that is being held inside, that we must let it out to experience freedom. A coming out story is usually considered a one time event. But in reality, we are always coming out. I’ve come to think of coming out as a recognition of self, an embrace of self love. It is a lifelong process of navigating how to be authentic in different contexts. How can I be out when I start this new job? How can I be out when I walk down the street? In what confines can I be myself as I travel to this new country? New state? Through this new political climate? How does this new language change the way I have always thought about myself? Am I a lesbian? Am I gay? Or am I queer? Am I queer enough to call myself queer? And what does that mean? Our self awareness grows and we evolve. I recently got my first tattoo and my brother saw it and said, “I didn’t think you were the type of person who would ever get a tattoo.” And I thought, well, who are you to decide what kind of person I am? Maybe we are never one “type of person”. Maybe we are ever-evolving.

Shortly after my wife, Shani, and I started dating, we were spending time with her family and Shani clenched her fists in a sudden joyful fury and spoke high pitched as she proclaimed, “I’m so GLAD I’m a lesbian!” I giggled at her cuteness. Her parents smiled. But in my mind, what I heard Shani say in that moment was, “It feels so effing good to be me. Look at all the love I can find when I am my authentic self and I deem myself worthy of it.” Perhaps true love exists when we come out in self love and self recognition.

When Shani told me she wanted to do a pride themed photo shoot, it didn’t take me long to see that this was an opportunity to create something special while working with my incredible wife. Shani is a gifted photographer, not just because of her eye, but because of her innate ability to bring out people’s authentic selves in front of a somewhat exposing instrument. When we sat to plan ideas for the shoot we asked ourselves, how can we use the camera as a tool for people to show joy? Our answer: colors! We wanted to document the joy that comes from thriving in our own identities.

While responding to our questions, participants shared the beautiful ways in which their own coming out journeys have created space for others to live authentically. They shared stories of family acceptance, the pursuit of normalizing queer identities through the arts and fashion, and the impact of being a queer role model in religious communities. According to them, true joy comes from knowing that who you are is enough to powerfully impact the lives of others. For some participants, this project was their coming out! And the joy that exudes in their photos is enough to make you pause and consider the beauty of life’s journey. For others, this project brought reflection on the fears that they still hold, and the pain that comes from the layers of self judgment. However, through this fear shines a light of appreciation for unapologetic authenticity and hope that all our journeys will eventually bring us there. The way we express ourselves to the world has an impact on how we feel and thus, the way we express ourselves opens true expression for others. Wearing our pride and documenting it in a photo creates opportunities for others to claim pride in themselves.

We who identify in the LGBTQ+ community are always coming out. Coming out is a recognition of self, a proclamation of who we are and who we have always been. I’ve come to think that people never really change, but within ourselves, we learn to shrink or grow. Being joyously out and proud is evolution. Evolution of self and evolution of a community that has transgressed. A community that still has a fight to be fought, still has disappointments to fuel that fight, still has victories to celebrate. Pride in ourselves and pride in community is resistance. Self love is triumph. We are all always on the precipice of who we are becoming, for we are always becoming who we are meant to be.

The old man moved out of his car. He slowly made his way to a bench five steps away from the willow tree where I sat. He had the bag of breadcrumbs in his hand. I watched him carefully, studying his movements and breathing. He moved as if not to disturb the placement of the air. He reached into his bag and tossed out a fistful of bread crumbs to the ground. It took a moment, but the ducks did come. They flocked around his feet from every stretch of the pond. I came out from under the safety of the willow tree and moved to the bench beside him. He did not say a word to me. He just smiled and held out the bag. I grabbed a fistful and tossed the bread crumbs to the ground. The remnants stuck to my hands and I brushed them off with a quick swipe on my jeans. This old man, he was not a stranger. He was a reminder of the freedom that had once lived inside me. I felt the layers shedding and I suddenly felt like a child again. Joyous. Open. Proud.



Emily Elkind identifies as a queer cisgender woman. She is an educator and an author currently working on her first novel. She enjoys sipping coffee while writing in the early mornings. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her wife Shani and their dog Beans. Follow her on Instagram @emilyelk

Joyously Out & Proud

an essay by Emily Elkind

Beneath the willow tree, I sat. I sat with my knees up to my chest hugging myself tightly and breathing deeply. The tree’s vines encircled me creating a veil of protection. An old man in his car at the end of the parking lot was staring at me. Perhaps I looked out of place, an 18 year old at a park with no agenda. Most people around me were there with a clear purpose. Time to play with their children. Time to read. Time to jog. Time to stroll and hold hands. And me, staring back with stinging and puffy eyes at that single old man in his run down white car with a navy blue top and a bag of breadcrumbs in his hand. He did not smile. Neither did I.

When I was a child I’d often go to this park with my babysitter who lived just up the hill. Together, we would bring stale bread in plastic bags and while we sat under the willow tree we would crumble up the bread and throw it out to the ducks. They would flock to us from all edges of the pond. The details of the park had grown dull in my mind but I could remember feeling freedom to explore and ponder. I remembered feeling open to my own findings and those of others. I remembered feeling pride in myself through the simple act of giving. Those feelings guided me through the windy roads of my hometown that morning and led me to the willow tree’s safety. I could see the memories of who I had been tangled in the vines of the tree, lost under the wings of the ducks, and treading quietly below the surface of the pond. I had come here searching for something, some reminder of who I had been as I now sat on the precipice of who I was becoming.

At 18, I came out to my parents, or rather, they “figured it out”. “It” being a euphemism. “It” being a stand in term for something I could not yet comfortably name. “It” being denial and fear that sprouted first in myself and soon would spread seeds to others. Over the last decade (and then some) the “it” has taken on many names and forms. “It” continues to change in the wake of passing decades, expanding language, more nuanced manifestations of identity, and an ever changing me in the context of everything I have experienced. At 18 my parents figured something out and knew what I did not yet have the foresight to see. They knew that this would be my first coming out of many, that life, as it happens, would invite me to come out again, and again, and again, and again. Perhaps they knew that the coming out might look differently as the years went on. That it might sound differently. That it might feel differently, too.

Sometimes I wonder if we know ourselves best as young children and then society teaches us what we should be instead. We cover ourselves in self-made layers like we’re offering protection from the cold. A sweater made of parents’ expectations. Gloves made with a teacher’s doubts. A hat knitted with messages from the media. Wool socks with fibers of “what ifs” and “not ready’s”. And a heavy down jacket of fear. It’s stifling, but probably safe. Throughout our lives we learn to shed the layers one by one. Some come off with ease while others wear out slowly over years and years of use. With a lot of love and grace, we find warmth from within.

It is no surprise that the first time I came out I returned to the park where I had spent time as a child. The phrase “coming out” implies that there is something that is being held inside, that we must let it out to experience freedom. A coming out story is usually considered a one time event. But in reality, we are always coming out. I’ve come to think of coming out as a recognition of self, an embrace of self love. It is a lifelong process of navigating how to be authentic in different contexts. How can I be out when I start this new job? How can I be out when I walk down the street? In what confines can I be myself as I travel to this new country? New state? Through this new political climate? How does this new language change the way I have always thought about myself? Am I a lesbian? Am I gay? Or am I queer? Am I queer enough to call myself queer? And what does that mean? Our self awareness grows and we evolve. I recently got my first tattoo and my brother saw it and said, “I didn’t think you were the type of person who would ever get a tattoo.” And I thought, well, who are you to decide what kind of person I am? Maybe we are never one “type of person”. Maybe we are ever-evolving.

Shortly after my wife, Shani, and I started dating, we were spending time with her family and Shani clenched her fists in a sudden joyful fury and spoke high pitched as she proclaimed, “I’m so GLAD I’m a lesbian!” I giggled at her cuteness. Her parents smiled. But in my mind, what I heard Shani say in that moment was, “It feels so effing good to be me. Look at all the love I can find when I am my authentic self and I deem myself worthy of it.” Perhaps true love exists when we come out in self love and self recognition.

When Shani told me she wanted to do a pride themed photo shoot, it didn’t take me long to see that this was an opportunity to create something special while working with my incredible wife. Shani is a gifted photographer, not just because of her eye, but because of her innate ability to bring out people’s authentic selves in front of a somewhat exposing instrument. When we sat to plan ideas for the shoot we asked ourselves, how can we use the camera as a tool for people to show joy? Our answer: colors! We wanted to document the joy that comes from thriving in our own identities.

While responding to our questions, participants shared the beautiful ways in which their own coming out journeys have created space for others to live authentically. They shared stories of family acceptance, the pursuit of normalizing queer identities through the arts and fashion, and the impact of being a queer role model in religious communities. According to them, true joy comes from knowing that who you are is enough to powerfully impact the lives of others. For some participants, this project was their coming out! And the joy that exudes in their photos is enough to make you pause and consider the beauty of life’s journey. For others, this project brought reflection on the fears that they still hold, and the pain that comes from the layers of self judgment. However, through this fear shines a light of appreciation for unapologetic authenticity and hope that all our journeys will eventually bring us there. The way we express ourselves to the world has an impact on how we feel and thus, the way we express ourselves opens true expression for others. Wearing our pride and documenting it in a photo creates opportunities for others to claim pride in themselves.

We who identify in the LGBTQ+ community are always coming out. Coming out is a recognition of self, a proclamation of who we are and who we have always been. I’ve come to think that people never really change, but within ourselves, we learn to shrink or grow. Being joyously out and proud is evolution. Evolution of self and evolution of a community that has transgressed. A community that still has a fight to be fought, still has disappointments to fuel that fight, still has victories to celebrate. Pride in ourselves and pride in community is resistance. Self love is triumph. We are all always on the precipice of who we are becoming, for we are always becoming who we are meant to be.

The old man moved out of his car. He slowly made his way to a bench five steps away from the willow tree where I sat. He had the bag of breadcrumbs in his hand. I watched him carefully, studying his movements and breathing. He moved as if not to disturb the placement of the air. He reached into his bag and tossed out a fistful of bread crumbs to the ground. It took a moment, but the ducks did come. They flocked around his feet from every stretch of the pond. I came out from under the safety of the willow tree and moved to the bench beside him. He did not say a word to me. He just smiled and held out the bag. I grabbed a fistful and tossed the bread crumbs to the ground. The remnants stuck to my hands and I brushed them off with a quick swipe on my jeans. This old man, he was not a stranger. He was a reminder of the freedom that had once lived inside me. I felt the layers shedding and I suddenly felt like a child again. Joyous. Open. Proud.



Emily Elkind identifies as a queer cisgender woman. She is an educator and an author currently working on her first novel. She enjoys sipping coffee while writing in the early mornings. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her wife Shani and their dog Beans. Follow her on Instagram @emilyelk

"Everywhere we go, we look to red to guide us. Red is the color of exit signs, pointing us in the direction of safety and freedom. It is the color of stop signs, asking us to pause and check our surroundings. It is a color that represents urgency. Act quickly! For your time is precious. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve embraced red as not just a color that demands and guides, but as the color of deep love and passion. In my adult life, I have pulled away from what is “acceptable” and instead walk right towards what is authentically me. I embody love as my superpower. It is the deepest root that guides me in all my choices and actions."

"I think as children we judge others by their favorite colors. We are conditioned to assign traits to colors. As a child, I was embarrassed that red was my favorite color. It was so bold for such a shy and quiet girl. So I painted my room colors like pink and yellow, colors that appeared softer and were deemed more acceptable in a little girl’s room. I’d like to say I grew up and cared less about what was “acceptable”, but the truth of my journey is that it has taken time, and I am still learning that what is authentically me should be celebrated. "

"For I cannot be out in only one facet of my life and still feel like me in the others—a shut door always bears a burning red exit sign, gleaming in my eyesight, calling me forward. There is no “work me” or “home me” or “family me”. I am me always, everywhere."

Emily Elkind - she/her - educator and author 

(@EMILYELK)

"Orange is definitely the color of the rainbow that gets the most hate: I often hear people say it's the ugliest color, it's too "out there", that it never looks good on them...Despite what anyone says about it, it exists and takes its place in the rainbow anyway: and I relate to that on every level. No matter what anyone has ever said about me to try to put me down or make my dreams and goals seem frivolous, the negativity never dimmed my light: it never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do anyway, and I've always prided myself on that!"

"Once I started learning more about myself, figuring out those parts of me- that I'm pansexual and genderqueer- and being out about it made other parts of me make more sense. It made me feel more at home in my body and that I didn't have to ascribe to any physical expressions of what I "should" look like. I'm proud to be a lover of minds and hearts and people, and I'm proud to embrace that my identity is always evolving as I evolve!"

"To meet the audience after the show and hear them say how they felt represented for the first time and how they were so excited to finally see happy and joyful TGNC folx portrayed on stage and to have them cry in our arms saying how much they needed this show in their lives: it reminded me that the power in being totally and completely yourself empowers other people to be themselves."

Sushma Saha - she/they - actor and

ICE CREAM LOVER (@SUSHMASAHAHAHA)

“Out to me means freedom to be, freedom to love and freedom to be loved, and all of those things are reason enough to be proud and joyous.”

"The one thing I do know is how much I don’t know, and how much I am willing to learn."​

"In the moments that I am proud and loving myself in my own skin, I feel like I receive appreciation and admiration, which I am completely grateful for. For example, just last night, I was wearing my Nasty Gal heels, and a new friend of mine told me that she was inspired by me walking the streets of Brooklyn true to who I am. "

Patrick Chico - him/her - 26 year old wallflower just trying to make it as an actor
 (@patrickjchico)

“There are several big factors of my being that affect my life in ways I at first thought annoying but now celebrate. These things, I initially used to fight against. I would tell myself, “Juwan, you are an entire human, you are so much more than black, and gay, and fat. Your voice doesn’t define you, none of these things are the roots of your being no, Juwan, these are just the branches.” I fought and I fought against these things because I so badly at my core wanted to be seen for who I was, not what I presented. So I ran, and I hid from myself. and I was so lost that I lost my light. Nothing radiated from me except fear.”

“Luckily for me, growing up I had teachers, and mentors, who would poke at the hardened shell of shame that was holding me, until peaks of light and authenticity got to break through.”

“Years later, especially after living in a particularly freeing New York City, all of those things that I was trying to hide, or change have become my very livelihood. They create space and love not only for myself, but for others. And what greater joy is there than the joy of knowing that your authenticity grants others space for truth. What greater resolve is there than knowing that I as myself, where I am right now, am enough. I hope you know that too.”

Juwan Crawley - he/him - singer, actor, writer, etc (@juwancrawley)

"Communication is what I think of when I see the color blue. As a kid I was seen as the quiet presence that listens, the shy kid, not confident at all. I didn't dare to say a word of the storm that was my creative mind. This was my reality until the wild woman in me grew stronger."

"Life is too short to live in a cage of judgement. It is our duty to speak up for people that don't have a voice. Create awareness for those whose vision is blurry. We won't all agree on the same way of living but without communication and compassion for one another there won’t be a world for anyone to disagree on anymore."

"My courage makes me feel proud of myself. Daring to live brings me joy."

Melissa Boode - she/her - dancer and sharer of stories that need to be felt through art (@melissaaboode)

"I like purple because I'm bisexual and a part of the TGNC community, and purple is a mix of all those flag colors, it makes me feel kind of like I'm wearing all my flags at once!"

"About a year ago, I turned my life around and in a moment of stubborn rebellion, forced myself to do something I told myself I couldn't do, which was to write a play."

"As a playwright, I am so proud and honored that people trust me to bring queer narratives to the stage. I want queer stories to be the norm and not just cis gay male white ones. Basically I just want the next generation to have it better than I did and do."

Morgan Dean - they/them/Morgan - non-binary/genderqueer playwright and actor who resides in Queens with their cute but neurotic black cat Ruby (@morganrosedean)

"Purple is my favorite color. To me, it represents being bold, fun. The color purple is often associated with ambition and represents meanings of creativity, wisdom, dignity, devotion, peace, pride, mystery, independence, and magic. These are all ways of being I strive to incorporate into my day-to-day living. As a bonus, purple was adopted as the color to represent the Asexual (Ace) community. Seems serendipitous to me :-)"

"Actually, this is my coming out publically as a hetero-romantic asexual (gulp!) There are no more questions to answer. No more compromises to be made. This is my nature and no explanation required. The realization of my sexual identity removed the veil of confusion from my past relationships and interactions. Knowing and accepting that I'm asexual has created for a profound level of freedom and liberation."

"I hope that other people in their 'mid-life' season can begin to understand the rest of the journey does not have to be downhill. There is so much life to be lived and why not do it on exactly your terms! Embrace who you are and love yourself!"

Michele Marshall - she/her - Co-founder of Authentic Voice

"Being out means being my full, authentic self and living as loudly as possible.For so long I was afraid to be me because I was afraid I’d lose it all. I had top surgery three years ago when I was 31 and it was only then did I see my actual self reflected in the mirror. Can you imagine waiting 31 years to see your own reflection? I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am and I’m so proud."

"People reach out to me all the time telling me how grateful they are that I’m so open about my journey and my identity because it inspires them to live authentically and because they learn so much from me sharing who I am. "

"I never had queer role models growing up and so it means the world to me when I can be that person for someone else."

Dubbs Weinblatt - they/them - genderqueer trans Jew living in Brooklyn (@eldubbs12)

"The color green represents new beginnings, growth, freedom and healing. That is relevant to my personal experience because it wasn’t until personally encountering all of these “color green traits” that I was able to come into who I am today."

"I always held the belief that “you don’t owe anyone an explanation for who you are (when it came to sexuality specifically)”. I’m now realizing a lot of that thought process was rooted in fear and shame of saying out loud what I was taught was not right."

"the act of openly being with my girlfriend and unashamed and Unafraid of the opinions of others is a defiant, rebellious act of pride."

Lindsey Hailes - she/her - NYC performing artist originally from Kansas City (@lindseyhailes)

"When I was in high school I remember telling my best friend that I felt like an alien because sometimes I feel like a boy and sometimes I feel like a girl. Now that I'm older, and our culture has developed a more extensive queer vocabulary, I feel so grateful to be who I am. Being genderqueer, being gay, having a vagina makes me feel extremely powerful."

"It's funny because I often feel like a boy that hides easily in women's clothes. It's like my own mischievous little secret. I'm a complex person and I like it. "

"I would hope that [being out] makes people question their presumptions. Long hair and "women's clothes" does not a femme make! I think it's often so easy for people to emasculate those they perceive as women. I would also hope that it makes people feel less pressure to explain themselves, or dress the part to fit into an easily identifiable category (butch, femme, trans). We humans are diverse individuals- whether gay, straight, trans, cis- all still exist on a spectrum of variables. That's a good thing."

Lori Laing - all pronouns - genderqueer womxn (@lainglaing)

“Orange is such a vibrant color; It brings a pop and vibrance that can't be ignored. As a New Yorker, we get lost in our wardrobe of all black because we like the anonymity. But when you wear a color like orange, you can't hide, you have to be loud and proud because people will turn their heads to check you out. So make a statement and be proud, which is who I have become as a person.”

“As a cis white male who is a thick muscle queen, I wear heels and earrings and caftans, and this shocks some people. But by strutting my confidence, it exposes people to a new world that they can now start to see as a ‘new normal’.”

“I went to see my extended family in our small town in Minnesota for the holidays this past year and I decided to be the real me, and not the ‘me’ I used to present to my family. So I wore my heels and told stories of me being gay, and did not care if it made anyone uncomfortable. In reality, no one was bothered; they loved me the same. I had pre-determined how I thought they would react without giving them a fair chance. I learned a lesson that if you give people a chance, most times they will meet you half way. So take a chance and share with everyone your true self. "

Travis Oestreich - he/she/gurl - proud gay fashion designer (@travis_oestreich)

“I find red kind of an intimidating color to wear because it makes you stand out, which is something I’m hardly comfortable with. So me wearing red for this photoshoot is like some Alanis Morissette lyric—“It’s like wearing red, when you’re hiding away”. Red is confidence and courage, which is something I lack. Even writing the “about me” section on this profile gives me anxiety because I’m still trying to figure out who I am.”

“At its core, the idea of being out extends to anybody struggling to speak their truth and be their authentic self. That’s what brings me joy—seeing someone being their true, authentic self because they know who they are and want simply to be a light in the world. Even as I write that, I know that’s something I should allow myself, but, like I said, love, including self-love, is a complicated thing.”

“When someone demonizes being gay, you only make the demon scarier when you agree to hide it away. For a long time, my goal has always been to ruffle as few feathers as possible, and I don’t think I need to start plucking the bird altogether, but I think it’s true that we grow to be better, more loving people the more we see past the labels, and see each other for our humanity.”

Hassan Nazari-Robati - he/him - Oklahoma transplant living in New York, chasing the dream (@hnrhasaninsta)

Celebrating Queer Joy

intro by Andrea Prestinario,
founder of Ring of Keys,
and Shani Hadjian, Photographer

Andrea Prestinario:
Our community has experienced so much trauma in the past year, particularly the trans community, as they face discrimination from over 100+ anti-trans bills in our state legislatures. We’ve also witnessed increasing violence toward our BIPOC and AAPI communities. This pride, we want to celebrate our community and remember what brings us joy, what brings us hope. This Queer Joy Campaign is an opportunity to share our queer selves, in our truth and authenticity, while creating visibility, which is at the core of our Ring of Keys mission.

I built Ring of Keys because there was no existing network of this specific community at the time, and watching Keys meet, befriend and hire each other because of this organization is a personal queer joy explosion.

Since you have to “see it to be it,” as Jeanine Tesori said famously, I hope that this representation gives more queer artists the confidence and motivation to share their truth with the world.

Thanks to Broadway Cares, I was able to bring on Key Shani Hadjian as our photographer - because Shani was already a member of our community, it made the photoshoot all the more intimate and created a safe space for the artists. And Shani’s queer lens and concept was *chef’s kiss* perfect!


Shani Hadjian:
After being physically separated from the community for the past year of uncertainty and strife, I really wanted this Queer Joy photoshoot to feel like a celebration, to uplift ourselves. I also knew I wanted to tie in a rainbow: different colors, unique and whole in themselves, but when put together create their own beautiful spectrum, much like the Queer community. I decided to go with an additive color mixing concept which, in theory, is a reverse rainbow. In practice, it produces a slight multi color effect in the subject's shadows, or the way I see it, creates their rainbow silhouettes.



Ring of Keys is a non-profit organization that fosters community and visibility for musical theatre artists - onstage and off - who self-identify as queer women, transgender, and gender non-conforming artists.

"Queer joy to me is embracing that there isn't one way to look non-binary/genderqueer. There's infinite ways. " 

Sophie Sagan-Gutherz (they/them), Actor/Writer

"Queer joy is singing, dancing, laughing, wearing what you want and kissing who you want."

Dionne McClain-Freeney (she/her), Music Director, Composer, Arranger, Pianist

"Queer joy to me is queer community coming together and uplifting each other. I built Ring of Keys because there was no existing network of this specific community, and watching Keys meet, befriend and hire each other because of this organization is a personal queer joy explosion."

Andrea Prestinario (she/her), Actor/Singer/Producer

"Queer joy to me is a work in progress. It is resilience, finding the places and people where I feel seen, loved and celebrated, and learning to free myself from the stigmas surrounding my AAPI bisexuality. "

Kristian Espiritu (she/they/siya), Actor/singer/fiber artist

"To quote the poet Toi Dericotte, “Joy is an act of resistance.” Queer joy to me is exactly this - living loudly and authentically as our true selves, standing defiantly in the face of people and systems that seek to diminish our existence. Queer joy is celebrating our unique identities — found at the intersections of race, gender(s), class, age, size and ability — while working together for collective liberation."

Madge Dietrich (she/her), Actor/Singer-Songwriter

"Queer Joy is the freedom to be. "

Kevin Paley (they/them), Actor/Director

"To me queer joy is self acceptance; it's living in the gratitude of how far we've come, alongside the ever-expanding liberation and empowerment of our future."

Ashley Blanchet (she/her), Actor/Singer

"Queer joy to me is being able to exist authentically and feeling a calm content, whether you’re surrounded by your community, your allies or yourself."

Will Shishmanian (he/him), Composer/Lyricist/Musician

"Queer joy is my inner child!"

Morgan Dean (they/them), Playwright/Actor/Model

"To me, queer joy is queer people of all ages seeing our own stories in art and popular culture (and not only sad stories). It comes from recognizing ourselves in not just the characters, but the actors, writers, directors, designers and producers. It comes from seeing that our stories are worth telling and celebrating, and that we can be the ones to tell them!"

Pearl Rhein (she/her), Actor/Composer-Lyricist/Musician

"My queer joy is a pleasure I share with myself and those who lift me up. Queer Joy means liberation and love. It means receiving abundant support for me, my art, PILOT and all that I am and become. My name, Temidayo Amay, actually means my Joy has come! I exist for my pleasure, and that is my joy."

Tẹmídayọ Amay (they/them), Writer/Actor/Producer/ Director

"Queer joy means: community, connection, and authenticity; being the real me ALL the time; kissing my girlfriend in public and feeling badass about it!"

Adriana Pierce (she/her), Dancer/Choreographer

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