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June 18, 2012

LGBT Pride: Three stories

The month of June sees LGBT Pride celebrations in cities in many parts of the world. Most are timed around the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a New York City gay bar, fought back against a police raid and ushered in the modern gay rights movement. But there are parts of the world in which it is still difficult or even dangerous to be openly anything but straight. The three people in this post have come out in societies where attitudes are becoming more tolerant, but where acceptance is minimal. Three photographers share the stories: Aly Song tells the story of Xiao Cao, a performer in Shanghai, Adnan Abidi tells the story of Seema, a prostitute in New Delhi, and Tobin Jones tells the story of Morine, a hairdresser in Nairobi. Next week, I'll look at LGBT Pride celebrations worldwide. -- Lane Turner (33 photos total)

Xiao Cao, a 57-year-old gay man, salutes as he performs as a Cultural Revolution Red Guard at a park in Shanghai on March 13, 2012. China's gay community has long been on the edges of society but it is gradually becoming more accepted. Unemployed Cao is one whose life lifts the curtain on a less romanticized view of Chinese homosexuals. Living in an eight-square-meter apartment behind a public toilet and with a monthly income of 500 yuan ($79) from social insurance, he passes his days dancing in public and spending time with friends at gay clubs. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Xiao Cao gets dressed in his eight-square-meter apartment in downtown Shanghai on April 8, 2012. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

Xiao Cao talks on the phone at home on April 6, 2012 in Shanghai. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

Old photographs of Xiao Cao decorate his small home in Shanghai on April 22, 2012. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

Xiao Cao gets dressed in an empty meeting room in Shanghai on March 13, 2012. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

Xiao Cao puts on his makeup before a performance in a public park in Shanghai on April 8, 2012. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

Xiao Cao prepares for a dance performance in a park in Shanghai on February 19, 2012. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

Xiao Cao changes his costume between performances at Manxi Park in Shanghai on April 8, 2012. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

Xiao Cao performs as an ancient Chinese fairy at Fuxing Park in Shanghai on March 13, 2012. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

Xiao Cao performs at Manxi Park in Shanghai on April 8, 2012. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

Xiao Cao sings at a gay dance club in Shanghai on April 6, 2012. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

Xiao Cao dances with a partner at a gay dance club in Shanghai on April 6, 2012. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

Xiao Cao watches television in his small home in Shanghai on April 22, 2012. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

Seema, 33, poses inside a local non-governmental organization office which supports sexual minorities, in New Delhi on May 14, 2012. Seema is transgender, one of hundreds of thousands in conservative India who are ostracized, often abused, and forced into prostitution due to no legal recognition, even as the world marked International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #

Seema dances inside the NGO on May 14, 2012. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #

Seema sits at home with his wife and children in New Delhi on May 14, 2012. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #

Seema plucks the beard stubble from his chin as his wife prepares lunch in their home in New Delhi on May 14, 2012. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #

Seema feeds his daughter while his wife eats lunch at home on May 14, 2012. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #

Seema holds a photograph of himself dressed as a woman at home on May 16, 2012. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #

Inside an NGO office with a box of condoms, Seema gets ready for work on the streets of New Delhi on May 15, 2012. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #

Seema pauses outside an NGO office on May 14, 2012. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #

Cars blur past as Seema waits for customers on a New Delhi street on May 15, 2012. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #

Seema waits on the street for customers in New Delhi on May 15, 2012. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #

While Western society may have become much more tolerant of people's sexuality in recent years, most of Africa is still largely not accepting of anyone who does not conform to the more traditional roles of sexuality. Homosexuality is still illegal in most African countries. Tolerant governments, however, have allowed some gay communities to flourish in some cities. Transgender Morine lives in Nairobi, Kenya. (Tobin Jones) #

Rare are those who identify themselves as transgender. Morine is still identified by the Kenyan government as a male, though from a very early age has always identified herself as a female. [NOTE: This image has been digitally altered by the photographer to protect the subject's privacy. Photographs in The Big Picture are not digitally altered without notification.] (Tobin Jones) #

Although unable to have children herself, Morine still feels the maternal instinct very strongly. Here her nephew watches as she applies makeup, while Morine takes care of him for the day. (Tobin Jones) #

Unlike some countries such as India, Kenya has no history of transgenders. As a result everything from how society sees them, to how they identify as a community, is all new territory. Here Morine applies hair removal cream to her face in order to remove facial hair without having to shave. (Tobin Jones) #

As the owner of a small hair salon, Morine is able to simply be one of the girls when at work. (Tobin Jones) #

Having already developed quite the reputation as a hairdresser in Nairobi, women come from all over to get their hair cut at Morine's hair salon. (Tobin Jones) #

The price of beauty can sometimes be painfull - a lesson that Morine knows all too well. (Tobin Jones) #

Morine still keeps up a close relationship with her community's residents - many who remember her as a child. (Tobin Jones) #

Despite being largely accepted by her community, there are of course still people who look down on Morine's lifestyle. (Tobin Jones) #

Although her hair salon business has allowed Morine to move out of the poverty in which she was born, she still lives very close to the community in which she was born. (Tobin Jones) #


 
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