story by Joy Doss | photos by Loreana Rojas
“I am trying to give off as much love and positivity as I can. I do as much as I can to let people know they are loved.”
If you haven’t noticed by now, this is the “JOY” issue. So I found it serendipitous that I, Joy, am meeting Lauren Blair, who is one of the most joy- lled people on a perfectly glorious and joyful sunny Fall day at Muddy’s where the Prozac cupcakes bring me so much JOY (pumpkin chai latte for Blair.)
All the while we’re chatting, I’m thinking what a wonderful, sweet spirit he is. And what a sense of awareness. My wish for him is that life never robs him of this goodness. Seriously, I felt instantly protective. (#mamabear!)
Blair is an art student and mixed media artist at Memphis College of Art whose works have become his form of activism. He came to Memphis four years ago and found community, balance and inner peace. The queer community was so vast, open and active here, he knew he wanted to be involved. The more he went to events and protests, the more he felt inspired. This energy folded its way into the work. There is an intentional honesty in the art, so people – trans or not – can see themselves and know that they are not alone in their feelings. However, his activism is two-pronged. And the other piece is really simple: spread love.
“I am trying to give off as much love and positivity as I can. Person-to-person relationships are how you change things. If you don’t have good relationships with other people, (the love is) never gonna spread. I do as much as I can to let people know they are loved. If you don’t feel like a place in your world, you do.”
Compassion and a genuine desire for others to live well and be well are at the core of how he moves through this life.
Blair is well aware that the journey for others is not as smooth or filled with love and understanding. Though it took him about two years and some change to come out to his family, they continued to love him as much as they needed when he identified as a woman.
“I just remember being really upset most of my life, not quite feeling like I fit in any certain place… My senior year of high school my ex-girlfriend started dating this trans-dude… which led to a light bulb moment. I thought, ‘oh God, that’s me.’ It was kind of scary and kind of really awesome. I had been trying to find this answer of why I had been feeling this way for so long.”
I said, “Man, you really nailed it though. You seem to be super balanced and at peace. So many people struggle with identity for so long. They experience so much fear, anxiety and turmoil.”
He says, “I have been out for 5 years. I spent some time questioning, asking ‘is this happening?’ But two years ago, I got to the point where I said, ‘get over yourself, accept yourself, love yourself and just be.’”
Like I said, nailed it. I told him, “This would be a really short movie!”
“I didn’t want to waste any more time,” Blair said. Truth. No matter what it is, people always lament the things they wish they had done 10 years or even 20 years ago, whether it’s writing a book (ahem…moi… sigh) or buying a house or an FTM transition like Blair.
But life ain’t no crystal stair I know. (Kiddies, Google Langston Hughes). This is not always the easy path. There is the reality of willful ignorance and, even in 2017, some uncertainty and discomfort depending on the space you’re in professionally, geographically, culturally.
As spaces go, Blair stresses the difference in digging your own space made in his life, creating a domestic space that is a sanctuary or a comfort zone.
“I do a lot of work with domestic spaces. My living spaces have really defined me. When I moved here, it began the change. I became more comfortable with my identity. When I got my own space, I didn’t have to pretend. I could project my identity without being fake about it. It took time alone for me to learn how to be comfortable in public spaces.”
Currently, Blair is doing a series of self-portraits that juxtapose him in his childhood home with those of him in his present domestic space. He acknowledges that his home wasn’t exactly the worst place to be as his family was very loving. However, he “went through years of not feeling like a full person while in Ohio. Pieces and parts were not quite put together.”
But look at you now, Lauren! I saw nothing but wholeness and, yes, joy. It was so real you could touch it. Continue to be proud and fight with love, light and art!
Follow Blair’s work: Instagram: lauren.e.blair. Web: laurenblair.studio