With a lens on intersectionality, activist Fatima Jaffer confronts racism and homophobia

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      In the lead-up to the Vancouver Pride parade (which takes place on August 5), we’ve compiled profiles of LGBT community members that, together, offer just a brief view of how multiple identities overlap, interplay, and interact to make up each individual’s totality. To see more of our Pride 2018 coverage, click here.

      Fatima Jaffer can often be found snapping pictures at parties, film festivals, and protests in Vancouver’s LGBT community, her images becoming a visual documentation of the smiling faces that showed up and showed out. And although such work may not be as overtly political as her queer and antiracist activism, make no mistake: the places where the former photojournalist chooses to shoot—and the people that transform into subjects before her lens—are far from accidental.

      “My photographs follow my politics,” Jaffer tells the Straight by phone. “They’re about who doesn’t usually make it in.”

      For Jaffer, these are women, nonbinary folks, and people of colour: individuals like her who are very much part of the LGBT realm but are rarely the ones splashed across film screens, television sets, and print. As a result, the writer and organizer makes a concerted effort to turn her camera on these crowds in the hope that—by boosting the visibility of queer, nonwhite bodies—LGBT circles and events can be more welcoming for all. “I see it as an extension of politics and community-building,” she notes, “and getting to know people, and broadening the space.”

      As a queer Kenyan-born South Asian woman who identifies as Muslim, Jaffer underlines the importance of intersectionality in her activism. Falling anywhere on the LGBT spectrum has long been portrayed as “a white thing” in popular media, she says, making it difficult—and intimidating—for queer folks of colour to come out in their own communities. It’s just one reason why the PhD candidate—who, not coincidentally, examines the relationship between media, queerness, and social movements in her research—founded and cofacilitates Trikone Vancouver, the local offshoot of a San Francisco–established support group for queer South Asian individuals.

      Launched in 2005, the collective provides a safe space for South Asians in Metro Vancouver who identify as LGBT while also tackling racism in the queer sphere. “I think it’s so important to keep those intersections at the forefront,” Jaffer says, “and not to let go of how race and homophobia are connected.”

      The understanding—and concerning reality—that many queer people of colour may feel equally ostracized among their own communities and within LGBT realms is what drives Trikone’s work, as well as its alliance with black and Indigenous organizations in the city. In 2016, for example, Trikone announced that it would not march in that year’s Vancouver Pride parade in solidarity with Black Lives Matter Vancouver when the latter group’s request for the Vancouver Police Department to withdraw from the fete was rejected by organizers.

      Trikone also takes care to involve queer Indigenous folks in its events, and show up at Indigenous-led demonstrations and functions, whenever possible. “It’s a cornerstone of our work,” Jaffer emphasizes. “We couldn’t be organizing in Vancouver—on Coast Salish territory—without doing that.”

      Wearing so many hats has helped the 56-year-old explore her own multifaceted identity, too. For her, successful activism changes society so that it can accommodate people and their whole selves rather than reducing them to a single signifier. “I came into this work because of my identity, because of identity clashes in the world,” Jaffer explains. “You’re constantly being told you’re one thing and not the other.…There’s no room for you to be the fully intersectional person you are. But I think what it [my work] has helped me understand is that you have to bring those things together: I think like a woman; I think like a queer; I think like a Muslim; I think like a person of colour.”

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.