An Outing for ‘Coming Out Stories’


I’ve not blogged for a while because I’m currently knee deep in illustrating women’s ‘coming out’ stories – a project that I’ve wanted to do for years and have finally given myself permission to do. The project is called ‘Oh, but you wear lipstick’ (a homage to a ‘one liner’ a mother said to her daughter in response to the coming out moment). The project is not easy and continues to be a fascinating challenge, one which should accompany me for most of this year.

The project involves interviewing gay women (mostly people I don’t know – amazingly generous women in the U.S., Venezuela and the UK so far) and then visually representing an aspect of their coming out story. The plan is to create a series of at least 15 pictures, so one picture might work on its own but it also has to work as a set. One way I’ve done that is to set a size (a fairly large size of 70x100cm) for each picture and I’ve also created a set of common characters – one ‘mother’ is used for every mother in every story. Also there is a need to respect each story and its diversity (and wow, are they diverse!) – both in terms of adding a concept and retaining original words the women have recounted. So yes, it’s difficult and at the moment it’s difficult to think of anything else!

What is really wonderful is the opportunity to share the first three stories (the image above is a detail from one of the visual stories) with a new audience at Leeds City Art Gallery on the 22nd February. I’m giving a talk about the project and showing images as part of the ‘Queer Culture Project’, a new project to engage the LGBT community with art and creative activity in Leeds.

So my images get their first outing, as do three women’s stories. If you’re in Leeds and are interested then please come along (coming out is optional!).


4 thoughts on “An Outing for ‘Coming Out Stories’”

  1. A persons sexual orientation is their own business. Why do they need to make it public? I’m not really interested! Is it because they have nothing else meaningfull in their lives? No offence intended.


  2. Brian
    I haven’t yet seen the exhibition but I suspect neither have you. In answer to your question ‘do these people have anything meaningful it their lives?’ Well I can’t speak for all of them but I do know something of one brave woman involved. She had a ‘meaningful’ career in the forces until the day she came out. As far as I am aware almost overnight that meaning in her life was taken away. I am imagining some of the stories in the exhibition will be worse. However people taking the brave step to publicly come out over the last thirty years have undoubtedly made a things a damn site easier on the next generation. It’s encouraging you think that sexuality is one ‘s own business, this is how it should be. However in a world where people are still persecuted, imprisoned and even murdered for who they love then I feel this issue is far from meaningless.


  3. Suitably chastised Charlie. I have some friends to whom this does apply but it never crops up in conversation. I remember one ‘old Colonial’ who used to proudly boast that ‘he was the only European in Nyasaland to be convicted of buggery’ and another who was a Portuguese barber. I have enjoyed the music of Elton John and Freddie Mercury but it never occurs to me that they consider themselves ‘different’.

    I was brought up in a generation where Gay meant happy and carefree, nothing more. I believe you have a point, but so do I?


    1. Sorry, should have mentioned that I will not be able to visit the exhibition as health matters make it impossible.

      Recent event s in Uganda and previously in Malawi and other countries worry me as do the events in Syria, forced marriages of child brides in Afghanistan and Pakistan etc. These are perhaps just as worthy of comment?


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