My Gay Love is Holy: stories from LGBT people of faith
For years, I was convinced that my Jewish and LGBT identities couldn’t exist without conflict. That I would have to give up one to satisfy the other.
eight book series, each 4.5”x7.5”, contained in a box set
each book is an interview with a different LGBT person of faith
5 month timeline (initial iteration); project ongoing
winner of the Victor Ng Design Impact Award (May 2018)
InDesign, typography, color, narrative, interviewing, research, curation, writing
The goal of this project was twofold. The first was to use design and writing as mediums to highlight the stories of a group often overlooked by both the religious and LGBT communities. Before this project, I hadn’t seen this intersection of experiences made the primary focus of any substantial work. Typically, LGBT people of faith are an add-on or side story to a larger discussion in one of the two communities. To me, this is a unique set of experiences that deserved their own discussion.
My second goal was to explore intersection and contradiction within our histories, futures, and personal identities. As an LGBT person of faith myself, this contradictory space was one I've inhabited my entire life, and one I now know is more universally applicable than I previously thought.
The visual language of this series is based on the original gay pride flag, designed by Gilbert Baker. Each color on the pride flag has its own adjective, which I expanded into a theme. Each book is color-coded to match its theme.
(L-R: Introduction spread, title spread, additional content spreads; click to enlarge)
My dad was basically like, “well all those rules are kind of dumb and outdated.” He didn’t say that, but like, what is important is Jesus himself saying all these things about loving people, and his actions speak louder than the Bible’s shitty words sometimes. That’s kind of the message I got, that he accepted everyone. He ate with the poor, he washed people’s feet, he hung around with sex workers. Everyone that was an outcast he took in, and so that’s the most important thing to take away from it, as opposed to all of the laws that say you’re a bad person if you do this and that.
Stage one of this project was finding participants and interviewing them. I reached out to some friends of mine to start, and they soon reached out to others that they knew. In the end, I interviewed ten people, with several more interested for future iterations. Participants were a variety of backgrounds, genders, sexualities, and faiths.
Each interview was audio recorded and eventually transcribed. Then I edited the interviews down for clarity. Things like placeholder words, repetitions, and identifying information were removed, and the flow of the conversation was streamlined enough for a third party to follow it. Overall, it took about two months to have a series of interviews ready to go.
I began designing these books parallel to the interviewing and transcription process, doing font and color studies to figure out the tone I was going for. Originally, the colors were more muted and the form was one longer anthology. Early on, I realized that each interview needed its own moment. Cutting them up and combining them undercut their power. However, an anthology was not the way to go. A bigger work, both in length and dimension, dragged too much, and the muted colors weren’t helping. This led me to switch to smaller books, so each interview really was a self contained moment and story. A whole person.
Finding the balance between respecting the stories of my participants and understanding my role as a designer took some time. Through this process, I realized that I could both honor those interviews while still having an active part. By categorizing these interviews with labels of family, love, spirit, etc., I showed the different ways in which identity can manifest.
I knew I couldn’t ignore the personal weight of this project for me, and quickly decided it was best not to. I made my role as a designer and an interviewer, a facilitator of this experience, evident in the text. Each book has a dedication in the front to an important person or entity in my life, and each interview starts the moment before the interview begins. Before readers live in the moment of my participant, they’re sitting with me.