To represent and be seen, we gathered some Femme representation within the Las Vegas queer artist community. This photoshoot meant a lot to all of us, and what a fantastic bonding moment it was as well. We see you, queer femmes, and acknowledge your value in the queer community.
Here is a Q&A with our photographer and one of our models.
Our queer femme photographer, Gina Barbara: Why did you want to be part of this project?
I want people to know that queer femmes are just as valid and beautiful as any other queer-identifying people. And there’s no such thing as “looking gay/queer.” Fashion is genderless and sexless. I have known I was gay since I was a little girl. I’ve been out in the world as a queer woman for 22 years. My queer experiences are just as valid as anyone else’s. And I think there needs to be a loving place for queer femmes just like there is for everyone else. My queerness is not a phase. And I don’t “look straight.”
What inspired your style of photography/what inspires you most with your art and creative process?
I have always been a daydreamer and feel like I bring a level of fantasy and dreaminess to my art style. Through creating and photography, I make people feel like the most beautiful and powerful versions of themselves. I help them celebrate where they are today in their life or journey. And I get to make them feel seen. And it inspires me and motivates me.
What would you like to see at the Las Vegas PRIDE events this year?
I’d love to see more diversity and self-expression in fashion!
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride to me means celebrating! Celebrating my truth, celebrating my peers’ truths, celebrating love and expression!
How would you describe to other people what it’s like being a queer femme individual in the LGBTQIA+ community?
I would say the queer femme scene is small, but it’s beautiful. And I would love to see more visibility and celebration for queer femmes. I’ve had people question my queerness and my taking up space in the queer & lesbian scenes since I was outed at 13 years old. I’ve always been teased about being “in a phase.” Etc. I’ve never really found a space that I felt SEEN in, including in San Francisco, where I was born.
Our interview model, Miss Rockwell DeVil: What difficulties have you faced in the LGBTQIA+ community as a femme Puerto Rican woman?
My challenges were mostly internal and stemmed from my upbringing. Coming “out” to my mom felt almost impossible, but I had to truly think about what would be the worst possible outcome and whether or not that held any truth. I grew up in the church. I was required to attend Sunday morning services (there were two), Sunday night service, Wednesday Bible study, Thursday choir practice, and Friday youth group. I went to the church’s private Christian school. So you can imagine what I was taught to believe and why that could have been challenging. My mother and the rest of my family were very supportive. Even though they have their opinions on what might happen to me in the “afterlife,” they never made me feel like I was no longer welcome.
From a cultural perspective, however, I have had to do some deep work to release myself from the indoctrination and learn to love myself for the unorthodox way I approach life and appreciate this gift of queerness.
What’s a way or ways you believe people can be better allies to the queer community?
Being a better ally to the queer community involves actively supporting and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, inclusion, and equality.
- Educate Yourself. Take the initiative to learn about LGBTQ+ history, issues, and terminology. Understand the challenges faced by the community, including the experiences of different identities within the queer spectrum.
- Listen and Validate. Create a safe and supportive space by actively listening to the experiences and perspectives of queer individuals. Validate their feelings and avoid dismissing or trivializing their concerns.
- Use Inclusive Language. Be mindful of your language and try to incorporate gender-neutral or inclusive terms. Respect individuals’ chosen names, pronouns, and identities, and avoid assumptions based on appearance.
- Amplify Queer Voices. Share and promote the voices of queer individuals and organizations. Use your platform to elevate their stories, experiences, and achievements, helping to increase visibility and understanding.
- Challenge Homophobia and Transphobia. Speak against discriminatory comments, jokes, or behaviors perpetuating homophobia or transphobia. Use your privilege to intervene in situations where LGBTQ+ individuals face harassment or discrimination.
- Support LGBTQ+ Friendly Organizations. Contribute your time, resources, or donations to LGBTQ+ focused charities, community centers, and organizations that work towards equality and provide support to queer individuals.
- Vote and Advocate. Support politicians and policies that champion LGBTQ+ rights and equality. Stay informed about legislation affecting the queer community and actively advocate for inclusive laws and policies.
- Foster Inclusivity in Your Community. Encourage inclusivity and diversity within your social circles, workplace, school, or religious institution. Promote LGBTQ+ friendly policies, events, and initiatives, and strive to create a welcoming environment for all.
- Attend LGBTQ+ Events and Pride Celebrations. Participate in LGBTQ+ events and Pride celebrations to show your support and solidarity. Remember to be respectful and mindful of the space as an ally.
- Recognize Intersectionality. Understand that LGBTQ+ individuals can belong to various intersecting identities such as race, religion, disability, or socioeconomic status. Acknowledge and address the unique challenges queer individuals with multiple marginalized identities face.
Being an ally is an ongoing commitment. It involves continuous learning, growth, and taking action to create a more inclusive and equitable world for everyone. It starts with you.
As a femme individual, how do you feel you contribute to the queer community?
I make it a point to show up by not living in fear, not denying my queerness, and supporting those around me to live in their truth and authenticity. By embracing and expressing my femme identity, I can contribute to the visibility of other femme individuals within the queer community. This can help challenge stereotypes and provide representation for others who may be struggling with their own identities. Actively advocating for the rights and well-being of the queer community is an essential contribution. I use my voice, knowledge, and experiences to promote inclusivity, challenge discrimination, and support efforts to create a more accepting society. Many queer individuals, including femme individuals, express themselves through various art forms. By creating art that explores queer themes, challenges societal norms, and celebrates diversity, you can contribute to the cultural landscape of the queer community. I like to hunt for this in my burlesque.
It’s important to embrace your unique strengths, passions, and interests and find meaningful ways to make a positive impact.
Where do you see the future of the Las Vegas LGBTQIA+ community headed? What changes would you make if you could?
This city has grown so much since I moved to Las Vegas nearly 8 years ago. The pandemic brought many more people here and with that came new views, possibilities, and some challenges.
Las Vegas has a vibrant LGBTQIA+ community, and its future could involve continued growth, inclusivity, and acceptance. Society has been moving towards greater recognition and support for LGBTQIA+ rights and equality, and Las Vegas will likely reflect this progress in the future, or at least that’s the hope.
As a “purple” state, we must increase awareness and education. Continued efforts to educate the broader community about LGBTQIA+ issues can help foster understanding and empathy. When I was in High School, I started (with the help of my honors English teacher) The Diversity Student Union. I would love to see local schools take the initiative and provide diversity training, an inclusive curriculum, and public awareness campaigns.
We must start strengthening and expanding legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to help ensure equal rights and opportunities for LGBTQIA+ individuals in areas like employment, housing, and public services. We also need to encourage inclusive policies within organizations, businesses, and government to help promote diversity and representation. This includes efforts to increase the visibility and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ individuals in various sectors, including politics, entertainment, etc.
And I can’t stress this enough, but it’s vital that we ensure accessible and inclusive healthcare services that address the unique needs of LGBTQIA+ individuals. This is crucial! This involves providing culturally competent care, mental health support, and addressing healthcare disparities that affect the community.
Progress is a continuous effort, and the specific future of the community will be shaped by the collective actions and advocacy of individuals and organizations dedicated to LGBTQIA+ rights and well-being. We ALL need to do our part and support one another, so the future truly has a fighting chance.
We are grateful to Las Vegas PRIDE magazine for giving us a place to be seen and represented. The femmes that participated in this project hope to contribute more to the local community at upcoming PRIDE events and beyond. We want other queer femmes to feel seen and respected. In a perfect world, it would be beautiful for the queer community to feel comfortable expressing themselves and being who they are in whatever form they choose.
Rockwell De’Vil (She/Her)
Jasmine Charisse (She/Her)
Kandi Kween (She/Her)
Mayven Missbehavin (She/Her)
Jona Venzor (They/Them)
Kate MacIntosh (She/Her)
Jennifer Howe (They/Them)
Elyse Elaine (She/Her)
Kate Gelbart (She/They)
Talia Rose (She/Her)
Kaci Machacyk (She/Her)