Word “queer” has evolved from a once derogatory term to a term that has been salvaged, reused and continually reexamined.
A new book sheds new light on this development. “The letter officially known as Q: Voices of the Queer Immigrant Community of Minnesota “ offers a detailed picture of five Minnesotans through in-depth conversation and vivid portraits.
The five people come from different places – Cameroon, India, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Kenya – and they define homosexuality on an individual basis. At the same time, their stories overlap significantly in the themes of home, belonging and safety, and something even broader.
âI really wanted people to question the borders,â said the author of the book, Nancy musinguzi, a documentary photographer, visual artist and storyteller whose father is from Uganda and the mother is Liberian born in London. âThe central theme is borders. Not borders – we need them – but borders.
“We don’t need it, do we? And all the boundaries that exist in all the formats that restrict our ways of thinking, knowing, being.”
The book, edited by Minneapolis Wise Ink Independent Press, gives the impression of listening to conversations between close friends or members of the community – much more personal and in-depth than a standard question-and-answer session.
âWhen I said I wanted to document stories of the black diaspora, black queer immigrants, someone asked me, ‘Isn’t that limited? Do you know any queer Africans besides yourself? “” Said Musinguzi, who is non-binary / trans.
Born in New York, the photographer moved to Minneapolis in 2014 to be artist in residence at Youthprise, a program that aims to increase equity for Indigenous, low-income and racially diverse youth. Musinguzi knew that members of their community were everywhere.
âBeing young and ambitious, I was like, ‘I’m going to do it, because I know I can do it.’ “
In the introduction to the book, Musinguzi posits “queer” as “evolving beyond its original meaning, [just] as blacks imagined with the term “Negro” or “African American”, and in these ever-changing times, the shift to a diaspora culture rather than a Western culture. “
The book’s five topics talk about what brought them to the United States while also giving their take on borders and their definitions of homosexuality – which can change as they grow up and change – as well. than answers to questions such as “What brings you joy?” “
“I don’t know if I identify as gay,” said Andrea Valdes Valdes, who moved from Mexico to Detroit with her family at the age of 16 and graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design the year last with a BFA in graphic design. âI know I’m not straight,â said Valdes, who identifies as bisexual. “So I guess queer would be like a fitting word since I don’t really have a hard definition for myself.”
Nekessa Opoti immigrated to Minnesota in 2000 from the Kenyan town of Kisumu to attend college. “If you ask me thoroughly, what does it mean to be Kenyan? I don’t know what that answer is,” she said. “Like someone asking me what it means to be American?” I don’t know what that answer is either.
“But I know who I am and I know how I move around the world.”
And that includes getting around Minnesota.
âThe biggest challenge that I know of – black gays and other homosexuals in Minnesota have this problem – is anti-blackness and racism,â Opoti said. âWe have all these organizations working on queer justice, LGBT rights and homelessness and all that – what’s their focus on anti-darkness? How do they destroy their own internal racism? “
Musinguzi’s lens captures Qui Alexander in the snowy Minnesota winter, clad in a large red jacket.
âI can’t buy Puerto Rican food here,â said Alexander, who grew up in Buffalo, NY, with a Puerto Rican immigrant family and a Ugandan father. âThe closest place I need to go is in Chicago. â¦ There are Puerto Ricans in Minnesota, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a very small community. And I haven’t met very [many] homosexuals who are Puerto Rican. “
Musinguzi wants people to “feel uncensored, and I want people to start thinking about life beyond the boundaries that have been presented to you.”
The letter formally known as Q
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing.
Available: nmusinguzi.com, $ 30. Can also be purchased from Birchbark Books, Electric Fetus, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art Store, or borrowed from the Hennepin County Library.