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13 gorgeous photos reveal what it's like to be LGBTQ and African.

'Saying something is "un-African" is saying a kaleidoscope can only be one color.'

13 gorgeous photos reveal what it's like to be LGBTQ and African.

Growing up, Mikael Owunna felt like the African and queer sides of his identity were at odds with each other.

Owunna, a 26-year-old Nigerian-American photographer who identifies as queer, had a difficult time finding a way to reconcile those two parts of himself.

Mikael Owunna. Image used with permission.


"I experienced considerable homophobia in African spaces, and was told that being gay was 'un-African' - a disease from the West and white people," he wrote.

But after personal reflection and seeing the work of Zanele Muholi, a black lesbian South African photographer he admires, he realized these two sides of his identity didn't have to be at odds.

So Owunna created a photo project, "Limit(less)," which explores African and queer identities through style.

The portraits and stories he captures reflect the joy, rich history, and resilience of queer African people living outside the continent. The people he shoots are empowered, joyful, and confident — and, as Owunna quickly realized, so are their clothes.

All photos by Mikael Owunna, used with permission.

For Owunna, the project is a love letter to those who are navigating two worlds and a reminder of how far he's come.

"Coming from my personal experience where I experienced a lot of trauma around these two identities and didn't feel like I could be both, it's a way for me, with each click of my camera, to heal myself," Owunna says.

Here are 13 memorable moments from the project thus far.

1. "I don't look like a stud, I don't look like a dapper queer. I look like something else..."

Terna is Nigerian-Liberian American. She is bisexual but identifies as queer most of the time.

"...and that something else is a nod to where I come from. It’s me standing in my power, but it’s also distinctly you, like I have my little fedoras and those types of things, which I think do tip over into some of the queer aesthetics particularly, I would say, the queer aesthetics of people of color."  

2. "[My style is] more of a postmodern Angela Davis."

Gesiye is Nigerian-Trinidadian, born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. She identifies as bisexual/queer.

"I don’t limit my African or LGBTQ identity to one form of expression, everything I wear is and can be a blend of these identities because that’s who I am and how I’m choosing to define it."

3. "I’ve always been around white LGBTQ people and they didn’t really see me as queer."

Juliet was born in Uganda and raised in Sweden. She identifies as queer.

"I’ve overcome all of this by finding other black queer people and forming Black Queers Sweden, the feminist and anti-racist movement and independent organization for black LGBTQ+ people, where we can be ourselves; both black and queer."

4. "The most beautiful part about being African/of the African Diaspora is our resilience."

Odera's country of origin is Nigeria. They identify as queer.

"To live and thrive as an African is an act of revolution and power. And for me, living my truth as an LGBTQ person is simply an extension of that power."

5. "The first time I met another queer African person was indescribable, and reaffirmed my identities in ways that nothing else could have."

Eniola is Nigerian and was raised in the U.S. She identifies as queer, but also "fuck labels."

"I hope that 'Limit(less)' reaches people who benefit from this affirmation. Too many of us think we’re the only one."

6. "My style has been described as old Somali uncle."

Wiilo was born in Washington, D.C., while their parents were on vacation. Their family returned to Somalia but emigrated to Canada because of the civil war. They identify as queer.

"Wiilo in Somali means, 'girls who dresses like boy.' It’s a nickname that I was given by my elders when I was younger. I am drawn to clothes that I feel both my dad and mom would have worn living in Somalia in the 70’s and 80’s."

7. "We are dynamic, bold, and beautiful, and queer."

Em is Nigerian-Efik from America. They identify as agender/genderqueer.

"Our Africanness is only stronger with this identity because everyday we breathe, especially for African trans folk, we are resisting and revolutionary. That’s pretty damn African to me." 

8. "Starting in university I started to embrace all facets of who I am because that’s what I need to survive."

Taib was born and raised in Canada to an Ethiopian mother and Kenyan father. He identifies as queer.

"I have big plans for my future and in order for me to reach my full potential I need all of me at the finish line not just the pieces that white society can stomach."

9. "Walking this world as a Black queer femme womxn, it is sometimes a struggle simply to survive."

Kaamila is Somali-American, biracial, and black. She identifies as a bisexual queer dyke, a fluid femme, and a womxn.

"Some days, makeup is my war paint and accessories are my armor. Some days, I decorate and adorn myself in a ritual of affirmation of all that I am. Not simply surviving, but thriving! I could be described as gaudy, often dripping in gold, and maybe a little bit gangsta. My style can be big and bold, taking up space in a world that tells me to be small. I make myself art in a world telling me that who I am is not beautiful. But I am not above leaving the house in sweatpants and uggs. It’s wack that women’s worth is wrapped up in whether we are considered appealing to others. My style is personal, political, playful, practical. It is a mix-and-match and mashup of all of the above."

10. "I have for a long time thought that I could only fully embrace one of the two identities, that they were mutually exclusive."

Brian is Rwandan but grew up in Tanzania, Niger, Kenya, Benin, and the Central African Republic. He identifies as queer.

"When I decided to embrace my LGBTQ identity, I subconsciously pushed away my African identity. I found myself becoming what some call a 'Bounty' or 'Oreo', black on the outside and white on the inside. But prior to that I had already tried to push away my LGBTQ identity. It was complete denial... And then one day I thought to myself why not try embracing both identities, just for the sake of trying. I remember feeling butterflies in my stomach and feeling so light as if an enormous weight was lifted off of me. I never felt so complete and comfortable in my skin."

11. "I’m a hard femme with an hourglass silhouette, a Goodwill budget, and a firm grasp of anti-capitalist rhetoric."

Netsie is a queer Ethiopian Namibian.

"I wear whatever makes me feel comfortable and powerful and safe. I’m too clumsy to own a pair of un-ripped tights. I love wearing bold patterns that clash, things that could be pretty but aren’t, anything to remind people that when they look at me, I am looking right back at them."

12. "My beard feels like a connection to my Muslim heritage, and it feels transgressive to wear it with this body, living the life I do."

Yahya is a half-American, half-Moroccan boi. They identify as a second-generation radical queer (on their mom's side) and pansexual.

"To be honest, I think I reserve most of my Moroccan clothing for special occasions. I think the examples that have been given to me of powerful queerness have mostly been through a Euro-American lens (which is why this project is so important!)."

13. "As the cliche goes, my style is a way for me to express myself - and my multiple identities, those discovered and undiscovered, all play into that."

Tyler is a Kenyan-Somali-Canadian. He identifies as queer.

"I guess my queerness, in part, fuels my ability to transcend the expected. And that is what I try to do with my style, transcend the expected and, in many ways, come home to myself."

For photographer Owunna, the work isn't done. He hopes to expand on "Limit(less)" in Europe this fall.

He's photographed and interviewed 34 queer Africans for the project so far, primarily in North America. He's crowdfunding an effort to cover the trip to Europe, where there are four times as many African immigrants, an ongoing refugee crisis, and the rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric and the far right; essentially, there are countless stories that need to be told.

And Owunna, centered, happy, and at peace with himself, is just the person to do it.

Americans woke up this morning to the news that the FDA and the CDC have recommended a pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine out of "an abundance of caution" while they review 6 incidences of rare blood clotting issues out of the 6.8 million J & J vaccines administered in the U.S.

Let's be super clear about the numbers here. Six out of 6.8 million. That means, of the people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine since its February 27th emergency use authorization, 0.000088% of recipients have reported encountering this rare blood clotting issue. Literally less than one in a million.

On the flip side, some people are trying to compare these rare clots with the increased risk of blood clots in pregnancy and for those taking birth control pills, but this particular combination of clots and low platelets can't be treated the way clots normally are treated, which the CDC and FDA say is part of the reason for the pause—to alert doctors to treat any of these rare issues properly.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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