Empower State of Mind: Inside the NYC Queer Scene

Written by | The Lens

In the darkest days of the past year, community has felt like nothing but a brilliant memory. Gathering and cavorting until all hours of the intoxicating night was a hallmark of the New York social landscape, but it all vanished in a shroud of pandemic tragedy.

As we near the vaccinated light at the end of an unimaginably dark tunnel, our joy must not dissipate.

Just as we honor and cherish loved ones lost, we need to commemorate our collective lust for life. That is the purpose of Our Light Through Darkness, a compendium of photography, art, and erotica that preserves the ecstasy of the Empire State’s most vibrant city.


“This book is a love letter to NYC’s queer community,” gushes LaQuann Dawson in an interview with Pride.com. “The primary goal in collecting these works was to get artists and community members who we love and admire to build something together that we can be proud of. Something we can look back at later and share with the world. I built a mood board full of earthy tones, brown skin, and bare asses. I knew what I wanted this book to look like before we started to curate. I wanted to make sure this collection was not of high fashion; I wanted it to be raw and full of skin. I wanted our eyes open so it felt like we were caught being unbothered, queer and in love with ourselves.”

Dawson collaborated with Impulse Group NYC to create Our Light Through Darkness, the proceeds of which benefit non-profit initiatives in the Big Apple. According to a statement from the director of advocacy at Impulse, the help could not have come at a better time.

“We’ve witnessed thousands of lives lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, countless Black lives — including those within our LGBTQIA+ community — being taken due to police brutality and systemic racism, and the fall of our economy, with millions struggling to keep afloat after business closures and job losses. In the spirit of our year’s theme of transparency, we challenged the community to exude authenticity through owning one’s truths, unique qualities, and identities. Our Light Through Darkness personifies these truths as being a form of resistance through even the darkest hour. This is a visual manifesto for queer liberation, acceptance, and infinite visibility.”

We see you. We love you. We will emerge into a better tomorrow, united. And so it is written.

Last modified: March 28, 2021