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Local photographer collects LGBTQ stories in new photo project: Coming Out Sessions 

click to enlarge Laila Ireland, the first interview in Z Oviedo's ambitious new project. - Z OVIEDO / EYE OF Z PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Z Oviedo / Eye of Z Photography
  • Laila Ireland, the first interview in Z Oviedo's ambitious new project.

Though photographer Z Oviedo has been conducting interviews since August, she chose Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day, to launch her exciting new project: Coming Out Sessions.

Her goal is to “interview as many people as possible, and try to get their stories out, to shed light on the beauty that is the LGBTQ+ community.”

Through short interviews and a series of intimate portraits, Oviedo hopes to share a wide variety of coming out stories, and to reach LGBTQ people of all ages and demographics with the message that there is no one-size-fits-all LGBTQ identity, nor one standard coming out story.

Oviedo took some inspiration from the style of the Humans of New York project, but wanted to keep her focus on the LGBTQ community. Though the idea has been in the back of her mind for a long while, it took her some time to decide to pursue it. “I felt like this project was way bigger,” she says. “Definitely the biggest thing I’ve pursued in my life. It felt like this project was bigger than me. Who am I to even think that I can do something like this?”

But according to Oviedo, “the climate of hate” and society's desensitization to that hate has been adding “a little bit of gas to the flame every now and again.” The final straw, and the big push that inspired her to pursue this project, was the 9-year-old boy who committed suicide in Denver in August, after he was bullied for coming out as gay. The event shocked her. She remembers thinking at the time: “I really need to do something. I need to stop sitting on something like this and move forward.”

A musician, photographer and self-described “total creative,” Oviedo moved to Colorado Springs with her wife only six months ago, needing a change of scenery from Dallas, Texas where she grew up. Through getting to know the local LGBTQ community, and using social media to promote her project, she has already collected a strong backlog of interviews and portraits.

Right now, the project is somewhat constrained by geography (as Oviedo wants to take photographs of each of her interviewees), but people from Australia, Mexico, the UK, and even Peru have contacted Oviedo, interested in sitting for their own interviews. She has said that if they can get to Colorado, or if she can get to them, she’d love to speak to as many people as possible, and to share their story.

“I know that it’s a big deal for anyone who sits in the chair across from me and allows me to record and shares their story with me in that space,” she says. “I feel honored for the opportunity, and I really don’t think the project would be anything without the community.”

Her plan is to share new interviews on comingoutsessions.com every three days. The first interview, posted today, is the story of Laila Ireland, the transgender military activist who spoke at Inside Out Youth Services’ recent Ally Up! Breakfast.

Those interested in sharing their own coming out stories with Oviedo can contact her through the Coming Out Sessions website, or at comingoutsessions@gmail.com.

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