Guest Post - The Identity Project by Shannon
Today I am sharing a very special blog post about the very small world that is The Identity Project, written by my dear friend, Shannon. I have been thinking a lot about the project lately because today January 2nd marks the one year anniversary of the project being launched on FB. It has been one hell of a ride and I'm excited about what I will accomplish this year. Take it away, Shannon!
Shannon’s blog post:
Let’s get this out of the way – I am a San Franciscan through and through. I moved to San Francisco shortly after I finished my undergraduate degree in Indiana back in the 90s. I came out in San Francisco and the city is one of the great loves of my life. I recognized and felt my Bay Area status more than ever after leaving the City in 2012, spending two years in Chicago for graduate school, and then pursuing a career/home/life in Portland, OR. Chicago and Portland are amazing cities in their own right, no doubt about that, but San Francisco will always be my heart; it helped mold me into the fabulous queer urban explorer I am today! I’d never be so trite to say I left my heart in San Francisco, because I subscribe to the belief that we must live in the present moment and since my heart goes where I go, I know I didn’t leave it anywhere. I’m convinced I’m a San Franciscan through and through because it doesn’t seem to matter where I live; SF ties are the ties that continue to sustain me.
I’m pretty certain Sarah Deragon’s path crossed mine and vice versa at several points over my long tenure in San Francisco and more importantly in the inner sanctum of the Castro. The Castro is really just a very small gay town implanted into a larger city. We have over 35 mutual friends according to Facebook and who am I to argue with the social media behemoth. But it wasn’t until the early part of 2014 that we were properly introduced. Sarah had shot a best friend’s wedding in Sept of 2013 and I’d heard amazing things about her talent, her energy, and her grace. My bestie had said to me numerous times, “You and Sarah must meet!” Sarah’s Identity Project launched with the New Year in 2014; I was immediately enamored with the project. One, because she originally shot photos of San Franciscans and the project included so many faces I missed while I was away working my tail off in graduate school in Chicago. And two, because I wholeheartedly supported the visibility the project was creating for non-conforming persons. Sarah and I “met” via email in early 2014 and I shamelessly begged her to come to Chicago and shoot the local LGBTQ community. One of the most interesting parts of living in different cities (and outside the SF bubble) is learning about a community’s vibe. I was eager to see the similarities and contrast of the two LGBTQ communities living side-by-side on the Identity Project’s site. Once I decided moving on from Chicago and heading to Portland, post-graduation, was in the cards I once again shamelessly begged Sarah to bring the Identity Project to Portland. She ended up shooting in both cities and we officially met, face-to-face, in Portland’s Washington Park Rose Garden. Perfection.
I got the opportunity to assist Sarah on day two of the Portland shoot. I was able to meet a ton of Portland queers, gays, unicorns, and all-around fabulous human beings. I got to witness the beauty that is our community, the courage of the community’s youth, and the camaraderie that comes with being surrounded by self-actualized humans that all have a vested interest in more visibility. The Identity Project came to be an important part of my socialization in Portland in ways I had never imagined.
The San Franciscan-born Identity Project has continued to sustain me here in Portland. I went to the Rose Garden shoot with a new Portland friend and we ended up dating soon after. I went on another date with a woman I had met through the shoot, I became friends with a couple of the people who assisted Sarah on the same day I did and one of them set me up on date with a friend of hers. I also met an ambitious young couple transplanted from SF and have since grabbed a beer or two with one of them. We talk all things San Francisco! Additionally, I met a fabulous performing artist who continues to invite me to great Portland events!
Even though I had moved away from Chicago by the time Sarah took the project to the Midwest, I got to see familiar faces once the photos were posted! It’s been a pleasure watching this project grow and receive amazing press that continues to create visibility. I’m looking forward to seeing what Sarah does with version 2.0 in 2015!
The Identity Project means so much to me as gender non-confirming person, as a San Franciscan, as a new friend of Sarah’s, and because of the wealth of connections it continues to afford me. The Identity Project allowed me to expound on my “Queer Urban Explorer” identity and develop new and lasting connections here in Portland. The Project increases visibility, opens conversations, and creates new connections in ways I wasn’t expecting.
(Thank you for this lovely post, Shannon! Can't wait to get back up to Portland for more food adventures!)