I love being a photographer; it’s a large part of my identity. Another large part of my identity is being a lesbian. There are a lot of things in the news right now about businesses discriminating against customers who are part of the LGBTQ community, but what about when a business owner doesn’t get hired because a potential customer finds out she’s gay? Recently, I found myself presented with this very situation.
I had been communicating with a new client about a shoot for her daughter’s upcoming 5th birthday. Everything had been going really well: we had talked about possible dates and times, specific shots she wanted, and what kind of print packages I could offer. Then, after not hearing anything from her for almost two days, I got a message from her asking if I was gay. She said she’d seen my personal Facebook profile. She also wanted to know if I photographed gay people. My first thought was that maybe she was a part of the LGBTQ community and wanted some reassurance. My second thought, though, was that things were about to get very unpleasant.
I told her “yes, I am gay,” and that it was no secret—the rainbow filter on my profile picture sends a pretty clear message. I also shared that I had worked with a number of LGBTQ individuals and couples in the area, and I was proud to be able to say so. The messages I received from her after that were filled with vitriol and hatred. She let me know that there was no way she would hire me. She told me I had no business working with babies and children; she didn’t want my “lifestyle” to give her daughter the idea that being gay was acceptable.
The day I received these messages from this woman, I posted on my Facebook business page, letting everyone know that I photograph people from all walks of life and that I do not discriminate. I lost a number of people from my page that day, but it felt important to say.
She continued her hateful campaign for a number of days after that. She posted negative reviews on a couple of online platforms, “warning” everyone about my sexual orientation—like it had some bearing on my abilities as a photographer. I had the fake reviews removed, but it was still hard not to take them personally.
My work is intrinsically tied to who I am, so it affected me. I do not hide the fact that I’m gay, but suddenly I was worried that it might prevent me from being successful as a photographer in Texas. I live every day trying to model pride for my children, because I want them to always know that they should love themselves and others, as they are. But reading her words, I didn’t feel proud; I felt a little broken.
That’s why I am so grateful for the people who continued to stand by me and endorse my photography. Their support for my business overwhelmed me with hope for the future of the LGBTQ community.
Alicia Verdier is the owner of Alicia Verdier Photography located in Houston, Texas. If you’d like to see Alicia’s work, you can check her out at http://www.facebook.com/aliciaverdierphotography/ and aliciaverdierphotography.com.