Kemi and Taro
Identity: Cis queer woman
"Taro the tripod came into our lives at the perfect time, it was the same time my partner came out to her mum and brother. Taro’s from the middle east, (coincidently the same place as my partner) and was in the shelter system for a long time because no one wanted a ‘damaged’ dog. I’ll be honest - she looked a little scruffy - but all she just needed was a bath, a trim and a bit of love. She’s perfect now, this 3 legged wonder is part of our family, and we couldn’t imagine our lives without her.
Even though none of us are from Canada we have so much gratitude for this country, and in particular, Toronto. It’s somewhere we’ve all been able to thrive and live freely. My partner came to Toronto 7 years ago to study at university and that’s when we first met. We’ve been together ever since and not a day goes by that she doesn’t feel lucky to have had the resources and tools available to be able to leave the middle east - many LGBTQ people can't.
When her mum and brother were visiting last year, Taro became the icebreaker we all needed. It was the first time we were seeing them since she’d told them she was gay. There’s definitely a lot more pressure when family are visiting - things happen less organically when you don’t live in the same place, and it felt like the stakes were high. That’s what happens with homophobia - it creates distance. I’ve had nothing but full support from my own family - sometimes I think that makes it harder for her, but mostly it helps create more of a sense of family and support.
I wanted her family to see that she was happy and I wanted it to go as well as it could for her sake. It did go well, but it’s still a work in progress. Homophobia has had not only a tremendous impact on our lives, but also upon her family - it affects everyone, it’s just so corrosive. And it just feels so unnecessary - all of that pain and for what? We can’t be anything other than who we are. The rest of her family still doesn’t know she’s in love with someone, and that’s a shame they’re missing out on such a huge part of her life - but it could mean her being ex-communicated from the family and that would be devastating for everyone. We’re are all too aware that her situation is so much better than many other LGBTQ people from similar backgrounds. It’s not lost on us that we feel ‘lucky’ yet still have to be careful about our physical safety. Not everyone would say we were lucky.
She still goes ‘home’ to the middle east twice a year because her family are important to her. It takes weeks for her to recover once she returns home. She has to hide who she intrinsically is in order to keep safe and that takes a toll on you. She couldn't be included in the photoshoot as it could have real life and death consequences for her but we’re taking part in this project because visibility matters. Queer people in the middle east simply aren’t visible or represented through any medium because of the horrific consequences and very real threat of physical violence. If you can’t see yourself reflected in society, it’s so much harder to fully be who you are so even though you can’t see her, you can read her truth. "