Stories of hope and transformation - a new antidote for pandemic times

Stories of hope and transformation - a new antidote for pandemic times

Think Humans of New York except with queer people and rescue dogs. This exhibit is bringing people to tears. 

If you’ve been to Cherry Beach or Withrow dog park recently you might have noticed a new outdoor art exhibit. Not in the east end? No problem, the Don’t You Want Me photography exhibit will be on display at Stackt Market from August 4-18.

The Don’t You Want Me project examines the lives of queer people and their rescue dogs by creating a visual global platform for them to tell their stories. Finding strength and purpose in the unconditional love given by dogs we watch the project’s subjects heal and transform. 

The project’s aim is to highlight what happens when the marginalized receive unconditional love and support. This bond and the subsequent personal growth form the backbone of the Don’t You Want Me project. 

A quick Q&A for you!

Why rescue dogs and why queer people?

This was simply the combination of our life experience, Deb, my project partner was involved in dog rescue and is a portrait photographer, I’m a dog photographer and happen to be trans. The narrative side of the project documents the transformation of each of the subjects, something that I drew upon from my own transition. 

Why now?

People need art now more than ever and with the drive to hold more events outside and a visual project that embodies people overcoming great adversity, the timing was perfect. I know the pandemic isn’t the worst time in some of our participants’ lives and that in itself might prompt a much needed discussion.

Do you think the pandemic has brought more awareness to the vulnerable in our community? 

Yes and no. Because of the news people are more aware of how the pandemic has impacted our most vulnerable, but oftentimes the thought stops there. Perhaps more powerfully however, I think people have been forced to be a little more introspective. 

Certainly when the pandemic first hit, people were scared. Scared about losing their jobs, losing their businesses, scared about how they were going to pay the rent or mortgage. Alcohol sales rocketed at the onset of the pandemic, and continue to be considerably above average so I imagine people may have more insight into how it feels to experience more uncertainty, not to work, not to have routine, not to have those support networks around them that so many took for granted, yet the more vulnerable simply don’t have. Isolation and poverty are their own pandemic.

I feel like we are living through a revolution and people are no longer tolerating discrimination and injustices or abuse of power. I believe the events of the last few months have taught us that we need to radically change how we support and help our most vulnerable. 

The project has just announced a partnership with Wild At Heart Foundation - a dog rescue, education and advocacy organization whose values align so perfectly with the project that we’re working together to offer a first of its kind grant. The grant will provide ongoing support to individuals from the LGBTQ community who desperately want and would benefit from having a dog, but who can’t afford one. The grant will also include dog walking services (courtesy of Doggy Dates Toronto) for a community that often earn less, live alone or are without family help nearby. We will also be integrating DYWM’s mission into WAHF’s education curriculum! How cool is that?!

Move over pharmaceuticals, all some people really need is love.

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