Letting illustration tell the individual hopes behind the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. When words aren't enough, let art speak instead.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gay Marriage New York!

Today was the first day for gay marriage in the state of New York, and I went down to the City Clerk's office in Lower Manhattan to draw the event. An hour and a half before the office opened, the line was already down the block, so I squirmed my way to the front to get a peek at who was going to be the first legally married gay couple in New York.

I arrived to find that the two women in front, Erika and Yolanda, were not a couple, but two friends waiting for their partners to arrive.

Erika's partner Sari arrived fairly quickly, and the two had a sweet, tearful "reunion". But Yolanda's partner, Nancy, was still on her way, and she was starting to get nervous she wouldn't make it with their children before the doors opened.

She texted Nancy nervously as countless TV crews interviewed the three women, wanting to get a word from the first in line.

Finally, after working her way through the barricades and police officers, Nancy found her way to Yolanda and the two embraced as Yolanda burst into tears. To me, this was the most beautiful moment of the entire day. It was so touching to see a couple, that had already had their more symbolic wedding in 1997, still be so overwhelmed with emotion on this day.

To me, that shows just how important marriage equality is. It's not the certificate, or the benefits, or the political implications of it all. I think what matters is finally being able to say "wife" or "husband" about the person you love without hearing a little voice whisper "less than" or "not quite", even when you know it's not true.

The event organizers began saying that the first couples would be going in soon, so I raced around to the other side of the building to where they'd be making their grand entrance as wife and wife!

Two women burst out of the building smiling and laughing, to a roar of support from the crowd. Apparently, though, these were not really the first two women married in the city...the first two, were just taking a little longer to get out.

Then, to an even bigger roar, Phyllis Siegal, 77, and Connie Kopelov, 85, came out slowly, with Phyllis pushing Connie's wheelchair.

She helped Connie to her walker, and the two, who had been together 23 years, stood at the microphone in front of the press, and showed their certificate proudly (we in the non-press audience couldn't hear what they were saying).

More couples came out of the doors, happily waving to the crowds as supporters threw rice and glitter in the air, and shouted even louder congratulations any time a protester tried to spew any hate.

Ah the protesters...I was unsure whether I actually wanted to include them in this reportage, because I feel like it's not even worth engaging their negativity. But I decided it was still an important part of the event, and illustrates the need for this change all over the country, so I did one little drawing. Fortunately, at their strongest, there were only about five protesters at a time. Usually, it was just one angry man with a sign across the street from the building, shouting horrible things all day long. I don't even get angry with them anymore, because to me, it's only themselves they're hurting on a day like today. These people in line are having a wonderful day, marrying the people they love to overwhelming support, and all this man gets to do is stand in one place, shouting awful things, and being ridiculed by passers by. They're not worth getting angry at; they've got plenty of anger themselves.

The rest of the day was an enormous line of people, wrapping their way around the building, waiting for their chance.

Happy couples would stroll along the small park across the street, posing for photos and stopping for interviews with the never-ending stream of journalists.

The couples would often wait in line with their entire wedding parties, everybody dressed up in dresses and suits, slowly meandering through the line.

For some, it was more than a two hour wait in the hot sun. But when you've waited 5, or 10, or 20 years, what's another couple of hours?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Seattle Gay Pride

More from my trip with Dalvero to the West Coast! Our first three days were in Seattle, which happened to coincide with Seattle's gay pride parade! I was very excited to be able to do a reportage of the parade, especially after the gay marriage bill passed back home in New York (yay!), and I wasn't going to be there to celebrate.

The Rainbow Flag was atop The Space Needle for the second year in a row, as a response to a fund-raising effort by the Seattle gay community for local causes and an overwhelming outcry when the Space Needle announced it would not be displaying the flag this year. As I waited for the parade, I sat next to a sweet lesbian woman and her preteen daughter (who pointed out every mostly nude person that walked by to her mother). It was cute seeing a family that had made Pride (nudity and all) a family tradition.

The parade began, as New York's parade does, with the sputtering engines of the Dykes on Bikes. The crowd erupted in a roar of cheers as they circled around, studded leather jackets flying in the wind (among other things).

The Dykes were followed by a troop of drag queens in sky-high platform heels and gothic black dresses. The crowd itself was no less diverse, with it's share of...everything, shouting and cheering as the parade marched down the street.

Soon after was the familiar explosion of muscley male gyration, rainbow flags, and even more drag queens.

Some new additions from Seattle were the completely nude, painted rollerbladers and bike riders and another, more "free-wheeling" Dyke on a Bike.

But just as with the New York parade, for every muscle-Daddy in assless chaps and a leather g-string, there is a sweet moment between two people that are just happy to be out holding hands with the person they love.

What I love about Pride parades, is that it brings out all facets of the gay community, and makes them visible.

You can see everyone from young gay boys, who may be out for the first time...

...to an older lesbian couple who have been together, and watching the parade for 20 years.

So congratulations to New York on making a huge step towards equality, and good luck to Seattle's gay community! Here's hoping you're next!

Friday, May 21, 2010


I love Steven so much. If people or the world can not give me the chance and the freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless.
-Tiwonge Chimbalanga


Tiwonge and Steven were released from prison by Malawi's president on "humanitarian grounds." This is wonderful news, and although their future as gay citizens of Malawi is still uncertain, it is great cause to celebrate for them! Hopefully this is just the first step in more gains for gay rights, and human rights, in Africa.


On May 20th, 2010 in Malawi, two men, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, were sentenced to 14 years of hard labor because they had thrown themselves an engagement party. The official reason for the arrest was for "unnatural acts and gross indecency". The two men did not commit any lewd, public sexual acts or harm anyone, they simply had a ceremony to celebrate the fact that they are in love. They did not even intend the ceremony as a plea for gay rights, they just did not know what could happen to them as a result. Tiwonge said earlier this year in an interview, "I just wanted people to know we were in love."

The Malawian flag was created on July 6, 1964 when Malawi gained independence from Britain. The flag consists of three colors: Black, red, and green.

The black is symbolic of the black African people.

The red is symbolic of the blood shed in their fight for freedom.

The green is symbolic of nature.

Are Tiwonge and Steven any less black? Any less African?

Wasn't it also their freedom that was being fought for?

Who is to decide what is "natural"?

The rising sun on the flag is a symbol of the dawning of freedom and hope within the African continent. How can freedom truly be dawning, in Africa or anywhere else, when people are arrested for being in love? What do these symbols mean when they don't apply to every person within that country? What do our own symbols of freedom mean in light of the fact that not everyone can enjoy them?

Read the full article from the New York Times here:
Gay Couple in Malawi Receives Maximum Sentence

Writer/Illustrator: Evan Turk - Manhattan, New York

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Love You

Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no
right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of
rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities
(and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).
-Ayn Rand

(From an actual e-mail correspondence between Steven and Torrey)

all i have to do
is be near you
to escape
to breath
to release
to revive
to find me.

all i have to do
is look at your face
and i know that dreams do come true-
for this i thank you.
for this i thank God.

all i have to do,
is look in your eyes
and i know that i have a whole new world,
a new place,
where i am free
where i am loved
where i am safe...

Writer - Steven & Torrey - Manhattan, New York
Illustrator - Julia Sverchuk - Brooklyn, New York

Sunday, May 2, 2010

American Dream

You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the
other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free.
Clarence Darrow

Proposition 8 was an amendment to the California Constitution which limited the definition of marriage to being between a man and a woman, taking rights away from same-sex couples that had been granted to them earlier that year.

The following is an excerpt from the testimony of Helen Zia, a journalist and a lesbian, from the ongoing trial towards the reversal of Proposition 8 and the reinstatement of same-sex marriage in California. The trial was, thankfully, transcribed by the site: Prop8TrialTracker.com because cameras were not allowed in the courtroom. Zia describes how her life changed when she was granted a real "marriage" rather than a "domestic partnership."

Helen Zia: Difference between night and day having marriage certificate than Domestic Partnership. Suddenly within those six months between time we were married to time invalidated, we had taste of being out of closet, of not being on back of bus. We tasted freedom. Our families related together quite differently. For brief moment in time, we experienced equality. We could go to fountain that was not for Gays and Lesbians only and we tasted water there and it was sweeter there. Our families came together in ways Domestic Partnership could not.

You can read the rest of her testimony HERE.

Writer: Helen Zia (Testimony in trial)
Illustrator: Evan Turk - Manhattan, New York

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

What is uttered from the heart alone, will win the hearts
of others to your own.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When you open your heart and show someone a piece of your soul, you have the power to open eyes, open minds, and open hearts.

When you allow your heart to be open, you have the power to understand.

Writer/Illustrator: Evan Turk - Manhattan, New York

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Heart Has No Borders

"The heart has its reasons that reason does not know."
-Blaise Pascal

When you draw lines in the heart it breaks.
When the heart breaks, it cries.
These tears water the hope that we can have love without borders.

Only society and its laws try to define lines in the heart, keeping the LGBT community separate and unrecognized. How can anyone limit who we will love and what gender they might be?

Writer/Illustrator - Laura Vila - New York, NY