CORPUS CHRIST, Texas — A Corpus Christi local is using their talent and creativity to ignite change in the Coastal Bend for the LGBTQ+ community.
If a picture's worth a thousand words, art created by Joey Gonzales IV can fill an entire book and tell several stories. Some of those stories explore their dreams.
"I like to paint or do landscapes that I want to visit or landscapes that aren't yet imagined," said Gonzales.
However, when Gonzales thinks about the world and reality, sometimes the artist uses a canvas to illustrate despair.
"I'm expressing these feelings of being watched, or you know, nightmarish feelings," they explained.
Like the colors of the Pride flag, Gonzales' latest piece displays the colors of the rainbow. However, unlike a rainbow, the emotions meant to be portrayed in their painting aren't bright. The piece resembles a Texas court case, Lawrence v. Texas.The case involved Houston Police responding to a reported weapons disturbance in John Lawrence's home. When police entered, they saw him and another man, Tyron Garner, engaging in what is described as private consensual sexual acts. Lawrence and Garner were arrested and convicted of deviate sexual intercourse in violation of a Texas Statute.
At the time, the law criminalized sexual acts between those of the same sex. In 2003, the court ended up overturning the Texas anti-sodomy law as a violation of the right to privacy and equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
However, Gonzales, who identifies as non-binary and queer, said the fear of persecution is still alive.
"That happened in the early 2000s, you know, but this is still a nightmare and something I think about in 2023," they said. "We’re queer, we’re gay, we’re trans every day. And, like, black trans women, they’re under constant threat. The Texas leg also passed the most wild laws that prohibit being trans in Texas."
Early in the month of June, as Pride Month was recognized, The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans.The United State's largest LGBTQ political lobbying organization noted the hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bill introduced in state houses this year. More than 70 were signed into law so far in 2023, which is double the amount of 2022 numbers. HRC fears the rise in those measures could create hostile and dangerous environments for people who identify.
Gonzales echoes those thoughts and said more needs to be done to protect the LGBTQ community.
“People often promote awareness, but they don’t promote acceptance," Gonzales said. I'm thinking right back to 17-year-old Joey, who was looking for support where support wasn’t given.”
However, after eight years since publicly declaring their identity, the 25-year-old said despite the current issues in today's society, he's seen progress and has hope for future generations. For the summer, Gonzales is working as an art counselor for kids at The Art Museum of South Texas. They said the museum isn't just a safe place, it's also a place they enjoy because Gonzales can help kids expand their minds with art.
“It’s magical. You know, the kid's imagination is so vast and expansive. They can create anything,” the artist added.
Gonzales is also hoping to use their skills in art to educate people, spark dialogue, and also inspire people to take action and push for progress.
"I want people to say, like, "Whoa, Joey, you really nailed the head on that for making a piece that describes certain social issues or pieces that evoke certain feelings and emotions that aren't really talked about every day," said Gonzales.
For the last three years, Gonzales has been rallying other members of the LGBTQ community with the Pride Show. Gonzales created the art exhibition to showcase the work of LGBTQ creatives. They also wanted to give the community an outlet to express themselves.
“I wanted to show people what queer people can do and what our imagination allows us to do. It not only encompasses radical joy but also hopeful change,” the artist explained. "I guess that's another reason I created the Pride Show. I wanted to do the most that I can. I want to make the most noise as I can."
The Pride Show will have a closing reception at Produce Bar at 419 Peoples Street. It is on Wednesday, June 28, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
As the end of Pride Month nears, Gonzales would like to encourage people to continue celebrating and advocating for the LGBTQ community.