A LGBTQ+ South Asian anthropology photography project called ‘Gaysian Faces’ has gained prominence recently, seeking to build a support network for Asians who are homosexual – regardless of whether they are ‘out’ or not.
In her own words, founder Peta Cooper said, “I’m documenting stories of South Asians across the world from the LGBTQ+ community, primary as of now the project has mostly South Asians from the UK and a few from the US.”
Cooper has stated that the creation of the project was inspired by Kip Fulbeck’s ‘The Hapa Project’, which has led to Cooper running an Instagram account where they post weekly a new ‘Gaysian Face’, featuring a headshot of a homosexual subject and a short message written on a piece of paper in order to encourage others to express themselves.
Not everyone is ready to ‘come out’, though, and this is an important point which Cooper is well aware of, saying, “coming out is a very personal and private journey, with no expiration date”. For those who are not ready, but still want to partake in the project, the option of a mask is equally viable because – as Cooper states – “Those who wore masks for Gaysian Faces – maybe in five years from now or ten – might come out and shed their mask metaphorically.”
Asked about the project’s genesis, Cooper stated, “The project kicked off in March 2015, I connected with Birmingham local Khakan Qureshi over twitter, in 2014 he founded the first LGBTQ South Asian social/support group in Birmingham. I asked if him and his members were interested in this project. His response was positive and he was only expecting two or three Gaysians to show up.
We decided to meet up at the Loft in the Gay Village (you’ll be able to see the wall paper in the background if you scroll down the Instagram account) instead of two or three – 11 showed up! At the time it was Khakan’s biggest turn out, we were both pleased.
It is clear that ‘Gaysian Faces’ is of the utmost importance to Cooper, having personally experienced the problems that are common to homosexuals. Speaking on her personal experience, Cooper revealed, “In my early 20s, my first love and I we broke up, her parents didn’t accept our relationship. At times she would mention she felt alone, so to creative visibility within the South Asian LGBTQ community is very important to me. Regardless if someone is out or not, everyone has a story to tell and their stories need to be heard. In some ways, if there’s someone who felt lonely and isolated like my ex, maybe they will find comfort in these stories on Gaysian Faces and won’t feel alone. They will know there’s a community ready to accept them and embrace them.”
To find out more about Cooper’s project on social media visit @gaysianfaces and website gaysianfaces.com.
By Arjen Gill