During a time of ongoing cultural rhetoric regarding immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, and the pervasive fear of Islam photographer Lee O’Connor made the decision to tell the stories of Pooya, Hilal, Sarah, Naz, Salma, and Hope. So we all can understand what it means to be queer, Muslim and American.
When we all awoke on November 8th, reminded of the bitter news confirmed in the early hours of the morning, many of us were lost, hurt, depressed. After what felt like the longest two months, came January 20th. It was here. It was real. During a time when political discourse spews hate, photographer Lee O’Connor takes on a passion project to tell the stories of LGBTQ+ Muslim-Americans—we’re honored to be the platform their voices are heard on. Below Lee shares a personal testimony, portraits, and a short film titled I Am Many Things.
We all wind up in New York for a reason. What it boils down to is that we’re here to self-realize. We come to this city to test our boundaries, pushing to find our most perfect selves, the self that epitomizes the truest essence of who we are. A spiritual rite of passage. We face our own preconceived notions of what we think is possible in our lives while simultaneously trying to break social barriers and expectations.
Through this process, hopefully we find the resilience to go deep—face our fears, our judgements about ourselves, and judgement by others. The truth is it’s hard enough in this world to be gay, a woman, a minority … A teenager from a small town. But imagine dedicating your life to a faith—to find yourself and fear that self won’t be accepted by a higher power, your family and community. How do we reevaluate our connections to these communities? Are we angry? Resentful for these beliefs preventing us from finding ourselves sooner? Or do we find love, acceptance … God … again?
During a time of ongoing cultural rhetoric regarding immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, and the pervasive fear of Islam coupled with my thoughts of not only the journey I’ve taken, but learning about others, I wanted to understand the daily challenges of being queer, Muslim, and living in America. In this pursuit, I met six incredibly, courageous humans: Pooya, Hilal, Sarah, Naz, Salma, and Hope. Each one of them have faced personal struggles with identity—agreeing to be interviewed and photographed in hopes of letting other Muslim LGBTQ people know, they are not alone. That there can be a community. But the first step is to raise awareness of their presence, their stories. Because they are us, and we are them—living in a world, trying to be the most fully-realized versions of ourselves.
Below Lee O’Connor and The Wenck Brothers team up to produce a short film, sharing a culmination of of experience ⬇️
Photography + Direction Lee O'Connor | Cinematography + Editing The Wenck Brothers I Styling Jamie Ortega | Casting Nina Day Casting | Production Ryan Morris | Sound Recording Jessica Leibowitz | Music Drum & Lace | Talent Hope Ghazala |
Hilal Khalil | Naz Seenauth | Pooya Mohseni | Salma Roy | Sarah Mohamed | Photography Assistant Valentina Osorio |