Chef Cheryl, 2014 | Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
You May Sit Beside Me: Black Women and Queer Identities
Photography by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
You May Sit Beside Me: Black Women and Queer Identities is a series of photo-based
portraits and text narratives of Black women who identify as members of the LGBT (lesbian,
gay, bisexual, transgender) community. I created this work with the intention of bringing viewers
in conversation with multiple and diverse voices that articulate ‘queer’ identity among Black
women. I also wanted to address the variations of queer aesthetics in an urban setting.
My main concern was with the lives of Black lesbian women. I was curious about how they
strategized movement and negotiated spaces to ensure a sense of safety, comfort and
humanity. I wanted to highlight the challenges of navigating a society where heteronormative
values greatly inform the culture thus creating an air of resistance to inclusion. I thought it was
important that the testimonies of these women and their continued struggle to gain access to a
dignified life, needed to be disseminated visually.