Offering a brief glimpse into the lives of people who identify as LGBTQ in Ottawa, a new video initiative is gaining momentum and it’s not too late to help out.
Created by Fangliang Xu, a freelance videographer and photographer based in Ottawa, Identity Blossoming is a project she began last summer after graduating from the Masters in Journalism program at Carleton University.
Xu explains that while only three videos have been created so far, she’s eager to welcome more volunteers and to see the project grow.
“I’m on my way to do more,” Xu says, noting that the videos contain mature subject matter and focus on people who offer their own accounts of self-discovery and adversity that they have confronted — and in some cases — continue to face.
When asked what motivates her to do this particular project, Xu cites her upbringing in China as one factor.
“I had a lot of lesbian friends,” she says. “They could never come out to their parents and many of them married men… I cried in one of the weddings,” she continues. “The marriages are not great and in many cases, it’s not a good situation.”
Xu adds that those experiences caused her to also question her own identity.
“I hope that people will find the videos comforting and encouraging,” she says.
In one of the videos, Christine Delaney, Xu’s neighbour, explains that she preferred wearing her father’s clothing as an 8-year-old while playing dress-up:
“My Mom always put me in pink shirts and wanted me to wear dresses,” she says in the video.
“To me, that just felt like someone was putting their hands around my neck and making me do something that I didn’t want to do.”
In another video, viewers are introduced to Twiggy, who discusses femininity, internalized misogyny, and personal accounts of being misidentified as either a gay man or as a straight woman in day-to-day interactions.
“When you change the way you present [yourself], the harassment you get changes with it.”
In the third video (and hopefully not the last), Stewart Walker and his partner Amy Bradley share anecdotes about their lives. Stewart explains that he’s basically heterosexual and owns about 30 dresses (in addition to 80 skirts).
“We have a mutual friend,” says Xu as she recalls meeting him for the first time. “He was wearing a summer dress one day when we were walking down the street and he was smiling and dancing a bit. And I noticed a woman across the street giving him a look,” Xu adds, noting that her observations that day served as an another motivating factor to document individual stories and share them as a celebration of diversity.
Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of Identity Blossoming is its potential to shed light on diversity within the LGBTQ community itself – where individuals may otherwise be lumped together as one-in-the-same under a pan-LGBTQ umbrella. There’s a lot of character hidden behind those letters.
More about Fangliang Xu:
“I fell in love with a guy [in Ottawa] — and I came back,” she laughs, adding that they are still together.
Fangliang Xu visited Ottawa for the first time in 2010 as an exchange student from her journalism school in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu, China.
“He’s the kindest guy I’ve ever met. He’s kinda cranky sometimes,” she says, laughing again. “But he’s so kind.”
According to one of her online bios from Canadian Geographic, where she interned with the photo team last winter, Xu’s first camera was a gift from her paternal grandfather who was too old to travel the world with her.
“Since he was too old to travel the world with me, I took my lens as his eyes. It helps me see the world in an interesting way,” the post reads.
In her recent interview with Apt613, Xu explains that her Grandfather passed away in 2014 at the age of 81 and that she still uses the camera. She has contributed as a freelance videographer and photographer to various media outlets and her work was presented as a video of the week in Apt613.
For more information on Identity Blossoming, to volunteer as a participant, or to offer constructive feedback that may improve the project, contact Fangliang Xu at:email@example.com