What comes to your mind when you think about LGBTQ+ people? For some, we are their safe place. We are their home and their community. Needless to say, there are some who think of us as deviants, and perverts. Weak and helpless, hiding behind a misappropriated boogieman called “wokeness”. When I think of queer people I think of strength. I think of beauty and resilience. Even now as trans and gender non-conforming folks feel the walls closing in around us, there is an absolute certainty and defiance. We are here and we will not succumb. Thankfully, I’m not alone in that sentiment.
Meet Barry Brandon
“We are pearls,” says queer and non-conforming digital creator Barry Brandon. You may recognize Brandon from their viral appearances on queer TikTok. I distinctly recall the “MOVE OUT OF OUR WAY” video leaving me breathless. Now ze is back to take my breath all over again with a new series of portraits and videos that celebrate queer resilience. The portraits also feature icons like Beltrán, Sister Trish, Tom Pipol Escobar, Joe Paquette, Calogero Cammilleri, Darling Peter, and Ovidiu Popescu. The stunning images were taken by Franco Dlp with the help of Sandra Quintero. If you ever needed a reminder of the beauty and strength of femininity in AMAB folks, this is it.
“I associate queer identity and expression with pearls,” writes Barry on Instagram. “We are sprinkled around the world, sometimes feeling as though we are alone […] We are strong and resilient beyond measure, contrary to popular perceptions.” The metaphor is so elegant and perfect, I truly hope it catches on. “We, like pearls, are rare, both delicate and strong, beautiful and unique, each maintaining our individuality.” We got the chance to connect with Barry about this project, including what the significance of the pearls meant to her. We also asked him for his thoughts on how AMAB folks can find the confidence to express their femininity without shame. If you’re not already following them, check out Barry’s work on Instagram and TikTok and support them in any way you can. Show a pearl some love.
Gayety: What inspired you to create this project? What is the significance of the pearls?
Barry: Pearls are so unique. They are something like 1 in 10 000 and even rarer than that in other mollusks. They come in different shapes, sizes, and colours and yet they grow and develop naturally all over the world. It’s like queer people. We are essentially pearls, potentially feeling as though no one around us understands us. Yet we are birthed with an intuitive understanding of how important our individual identity and expression are. We come from different spaces and places, and yet we are here.
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Gayety: What advice would you give to AMAB folks who want to explore their femininity?
Barry: Give yourself permission to be. To express how you feel and, so long as you are in a space enough place to do so, give yourself permission to explore. Not everyone wants to wear heels, Not everyone wants to wear jeans. But the truth is until you give yourself permission to explore your expression, you are abiding by someone else’s rule book for how you live your life. Give yourself permission to be. That is when life begins.
Before You Go
I want to thank Barry for her thoughtful responses to my questions and the much-needed reminder. We are so much more than the sum of our parts. We are pearls. Unique, resilient, and even more beautiful when we join together. Remember to follow Barry, and everyone involved in this project, and share their work. Pearls like us have to stick together.