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CJ Louray

I AM HERE.

Artist Statement

Growing up in Fernie, having been born here in 1977, the first nineteen years of my life were rather dark; as a Non-Binary Trans Person, who is queer, neurodiverse, and disabled, there was little language to frame my identity, let alone to instruct me on how to express ‘Me’. The language I learned from society was self-hate, violations of my Being and Person, and violence. The closet, as a result of it all, became a very dark place, where I hid behind a mask for nearly thirty-six years. 

I hid there with little hope, in plain sight of so many who truly loved me but were denied an opportunity to fully know Me, buried under the weight of a marginalised existence; with no representation to reflect my Truth back to me. No voices in the long dark night singing songs of liberation and joy in harmony. No light reminding me of Home. Certainly no colour to beautify my world with. As Warsan Shire says in their poem Home, “Nobody runs from Home unless Home is the mouth of a shark,” and just before I turned nineteen, that’s exactly what I did. Successfully, on my third attempt. 

When I came back to Fernie years later, I never expected that one day there would be a Pride event, let alone a Society; although a community of safety built by radically out and in love with themselves folks, was always a deep longing. I am grateful beyond words for being given an opportunity to now help those struggling as I was in Fernie – by having the opportunity to work with such incredible and beautifully fashioned souls on this project as I was blessed to work with, so that as a Queer Community we can shine some beacons of Rainbow Love into Fernie and surrounding areas for the othered youth. For those still hiding in the shame and pain and trauma of being brighter than this world was ready for in their younger days. For those who were made to feel less than cherished and as a result were left heartbroken by a world who doesn’t care to notice their value and inherent, infinite worth. For those running low on hope, and desperate to see themselves in someone else’s story. For those needing the validation of being seen after being erased and made to feel invisible for so long. 

As an Abolitionist, as a Feminist, and as a Human Being, who like all of us, evolved after everything that Life has endured just so we can  breathe today, could be here doing so after 13.7 billion years, I believe in dismantling the lies that keep us in that darkness and I fully believe in the full restoration of the Human Spirit through total liberation from oppressive systems and beliefs. 

I believe that starts with showing those hiding for safety that there is freedom in the truth of our stories and there is power indescribable in knowing thyself so compassionately and fully that hate can never dismantle the confidence to be exactly who each of us were born to be. 

Myself? I was always an Actor, a Poet, a Musician, a Songwriter, a Cook, a Woodworker, a Photographer, a Writer, an Artist. 

My pain, and my deep desire to fit in and not be wounded further after the brutalization I suffered here, led me a long way from all of me, as I slowly surrendered pieces of myself to gain acceptance; sometimes protection from the bullies, provided by a less brutal crowd who called me friend, cost me more than I knew at the time. It was only in facing the shark upon moving back, and dismantling the CPTSD it gave me, that I was able to recognise just how much of my joy I actually threw aside for what I thought at the time to be the less painful option. 

I am here. is about empowering those people who feel like they have, or have had, to surrender their beauty for this world’s acceptance and that safety outside of the dark closet is an impossibility. It’s about helping them see that they are far from alone, and that love and acceptance don’t have to come at the cost of their deepest and purest selves. It’s about rainbows and bad-assery and bravery in portraits, revealed after so many storms endured personally in each models’ life led to lighter spirits, and deeper love for our wonderfully crafted persons. It’s about full spectrum and loaded with vibrant hues, lighthouses casting beacons of celebration and happiness and healing, and Home for those ages estranged from the feeling of such a place. 

I am here. may have come through my imagination but it doesn’t belong to me. 

This is for us. For the youth of our community. For the survivors. For the fighters and photon warriors who aren’t afraid to fight for their space in society and for those marginalised around them. For those still in fear of their own voice. For those afraid of their own Truth. For those in the shadows, on the fringes of society, because you dared be born so magical. To be born so full of love’s diversity and divine light. For those still awaiting rainbows after the seemingly ceaseless storm. 

I see You. We see you. We are you and you are with Family. May you feel welcomed, from wherever you have wandered, back to you. Back to community. Back to Love. You deserve it, in its fullness. 

May you see yourself coming out of the shadows, where the open arms of belonging are waiting to embrace the fullness of you, here in the stories of Us. I love you all.