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Life + Arts April 20, 2011 //  by  // Comments

Photo exhibit opens in library

The UH community has a unique opportunity to evaluate their perceptions and redefine gender roles as the “Love Makes a Family” exhibit makes a stop in the city today until May 4 on the third floor of the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library.

What makes a family a family? How have the expectations of society shaped our definition of gender? This traveling photography and text presentation will no doubt challenge a number of preconceptions as the exhibit presents images of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples with their families in a wide variety of familiar scenes.

Featuring the work of photographer Gigi Kaeser combined with short excerpts from the in-depth family interviews conducted by Peggy Gillespie, the exhibit explores how these types of relationships work within the traditionally heterosexual context of the family.

“I am very excited about bringing the ‘Love Makes a Family’ exhibition to the University of Houston campus,” said Lorraine Schroeder, the director of the UH LGBT Resource Center, in a press release. “The best way to increase acceptance of any marginalized population is through exposure and these photographs and interviews do just that. Our hope is to make visible LGBT families to people who would not normally have this chance.”

The exhibit is an initiative started by the Family Diversity Project, a non-profit organization co-founded by Gillespie and Kaeser that’s dedicated to increasing awareness and tolerance of largely misunderstood demographics.

With a variety of exhibits that tackle issues such as mental illness, race and disability, the project uses family as the thematic core of its work to show how love and companionship flourishes in all humans, regardless of their lifestyle or condition.

Overall, the exhibit works to spread a message of tolerance and acceptance that is key to the Family Diversity Project and its endeavors.

Nabowire Stokes, a sixth grader and a member of one of the families featured in the exhibit, explained how her family is just as connected as others when she spoke in her interview.

“Family means the people who look out for me and treat me with love and respect. My family are the people who are in my life practically every day,” Stokes said. “These people are my mother, her partner Jaqué, and my twin brother Edwian. We all like to ride our bikes as a family and go places together. We always do things that include our whole family. Don’t be ashamed of who your parents are.”

Doug Robinson, one of the parents included in the exhibit, explained in his interview that his experiences are no different than what people would normally expect from a more traditional family.

“‘Our family life is a very traditional American one –– early morning getting up, eating breakfast, getting dressed, making sure everyone has matching socks, getting the boys off to school, and then going to work,” Robinson said. “We could not imagine living without children. It’s a wonderful experience to watch our boys develop and mature.”

The exhibit is also available as a book that unites all the images and stories detailed in the presentation into one compendium, with other examples not included in the traveling exhibit.

Distributed by the University of Massachusetts press, the publication, also titled “Love Makes a Family,” features over 40 families all put together for a comprehensive look at LGBT life.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information about the Family Diversity Project and its exhibits, visit www.familydiv.org.


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