Lived Experience: Reflections on LGBTQ Life

In a new book, Delphine Diallo presents portraits of LGBTQ people over the age of 50 in America, alongside their stories of resilience, progress, and love

Lived Experience: Reflections on LGBTQ Life, presents a generation of people who have witnessed both tragedy and triumph. Photographed by Delphine Diallo, many of these people, all over the age of 50, have lived through trauma — of being rejected by their families, facing violence in public, and losing loved ones to the AIDS epidemic. But they have also witnessed an extraordinary period of progress in LGBTQ rights, highlighting the importance of continuing the fight for equality laid out by generations before us.

Revealing the stories of over 60 people in America, the book, which was designed by Emerson, Wajdowicz Studios (EWS), is the latest in a series of photobooks about global LGBTQ communities. “The journeys of the people in this book showed the beauty of life, from overcoming loneliness, pain, sadness, and loss to accepting who they really are and acknowledging their strength and determination when it comes to the way they have chosen to live,” says Delphine Diallo, in a statement provided by the publisher. “I feel so honoured to have had the opportunity to hear these voices. Their words are a reminder of how acceptance and forgiveness, without judgment, can raise the consciousness of society.”

Below are some of Diallo’s portraits, and excerpts from the stories featured in the book, available to pre-order for August 2020.

Kim Watson

Co-founder of Community Kinship Life, a Non-Profit service for the Trans community in New York

“My greatest joy is my daughter… My advice to her and her generation is to always be open-minded. Make your own choices. Don’t let anybody choose for you. And pass no judgment on others… Continue pouring love, doesn’t matter how much, because blessings will come, and however they come, they will come to you.”

Frederick A. Davie

Executive Vice President of the Union Theological Seminary, and Presbyterian minister in the Presbytery of New York City

“I had a girlfriend, then I had a boyfriend, then I had a girlfriend. It was a struggle. I did a sermon once on what it meant to come out, and I talked about the ways in which I had to deconstruct each of the internalised oppressive notions of identity and then rebuild a life based on who I am authentically. And then just go out, and just live.”

Alexis De Veaux and Sokari Ekine

Alexis (left) is a writer, speaker, and activist, and Sokari (right) is a visual scholar, writer, activist, and educator

“To people coming up behind me, I would say that it’s important for them to live their best life. Do anything you want to do, and do it with a knowledge of history, of whose shoulders you’re standing on. There were generations of people who were in the closet, or living double lives, triple lives, and unable to be who they were, so we can be who we are.”

— Alexis De Veaux

“I married a man, which was a complete disaster. I had three children, three sons, and in late 1983, 1984, I moved to London with the children. It was this wonderful revolutionary place. Being in London at that period of time was my coming out in multiple ways, as a queer person and as a person away from the oppressive environment that I had been in. I also think it was liberating for my kids.”

— Sokari Ekine

Howard L. White

Collage Artist

“I served in the military from 1963 to 1966. That was my right of passage. There was a sergeant that did not particularly like me. Redneck, from Kentucky, but boy, he was a dead ringer for Burt Lancaster. I said, you know what, that’s some action I’m going to tackle before I get out of this army, and my last day in the army, we got together. Shit happens. I got out of the military and went to art school. Art has been my saviour.”

Evelyn Whitaker and Sonja Jackson


“Love is the most wonderful feeling, there’s nothing like it, because it just takes over my whole body when I feel it. I’m not talking about sex. I still experience the warmth and completeness of being loved with my current partner, Sonja. With her I feel so loved. I am truly blessed.”

— Evelyn Whitaker (left)

“I met a wonderful woman in Evelyn, and I couldn’t be happier. I was working for The City University of New York. I was an academic dean… I started a centre for teaching and learning. Met Evelyn there. I worked for her actually, at one point. We did a joint project together, the student development centre. Then we started doing presentations all over and travelling together.”

— Sonja Jackson (right)

Ken Kidd


“People need to come out, and not just about their sexuality. If they feel a certain way about immigration, if they feel a certain way about women’s health, about human rights, about healthcare, about gun violence, come out!”

Lola Flash

Photographer and Activist

“I got to New York around 1987, 1988, and before I knew it I was in ACT UP. My projects were shooting the demonstrations and stuff like that. It was a really tough time in all of our lives. So far as our community is concerned, love — and of course death — was what galvanised us as a unified voice… Love seemed like the simple solution to it all, but I can’t see the LGBTQIA+ community advancing further without people loving each other a little bit more.”

Lived Experience: Reflections on LGBTQ Life by Delphine Diallo is published by The New Press, available to pre-order for August 2020.

Marigold Warner

Deputy Editor

Marigold Warner worked as an editor at BJP between 2018 and 2023. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Elephant, Gal-dem, The Face, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.