Awarding-winning photographer Steven Laxton and New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center recently launched “Free to Be Me,” a photo and essay series featuring the stories of 20 LGBTQ refugees living in the Unites States.
Those profiled in the series have fled their homes out of fear of being persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or to escape politically or economically unstable regions.
All but one of those featured in the series are clients of Immigration Equality, an advocacy group that provides free legal services to LGBTQ immigrants.
Laxton, whose day job is as an advertising photographer, said he wanted to use his “skills for good” and “break through some of the stereotypes” about the LGBTQ and immigrant communities.
“There are over 70 countries in the world where it’s illegal to be gay,” Laxton told NBC News. “People can be convicted, thrown in prison, have received death threats simply for showing a sign of affection for someone they care about or just being themselves.”
Laxton noted there is meaning behind the photography technique he chose to use for the "Free to Be Me" series.
“The idea is [for] the subject to [come] out of the shadows and into the light, as a metaphor for their hidden lives in their home country, and then you found freedom here in the states,” he explained via email.
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