The world places limitations on all of us. From an early age, we are told what we can and can’t do, who we should be, and how we should behave.
These obstacles are especially pronounced for queer youth. The overwhelming majority of LGBTQ+ kids are being raised by heterosexual couples. Even the most enlightened breeders can’t fully understand the inner tumult of growing up gay.
We experience life in wondrously unique ways. Our first crush, first kiss and first date each trigger floodwaters of mercurial memories. No matter what your orientation or gender expression, adolescence is awkward. But clashing with your parents over the basic tenets of your identity magnifies this sense of conflict a million times over.
However, if your caretakers endured alienation, bullying or soul-searching episodes in their respective pasts, it prepares them to guide you through the treacherous terrain of teenage angst.
Imagine how liberating it would be to have gay guardians. Imagine how many impediments would be removed from your proverbial path. Imagine if endless questioning yielded transcendent answering. Imagine how much healthier we would all be if we erased the shroud of shame and doubt that encumbers so many of our formative years.
Well, you no longer need to imagine such a scenario. Bart Heynen has captured it on camera.
In his latest portfolio, Dads, Heynen depicts the simplicity of unconditional love. His subjects revel in a utopia of understanding and inclusion.
The Belgian born photographer lives in New York City with his husband Rob Heyvaert. Bart and Rob are inspired daily by their two sons, Noah and Ethan.
The fierce foursome has a major impact on the joy of Dads. The happy family exists on a higher plane of openness and honesty.
Bart’s fatherly dynamic gave him an epiphany: perhaps there are other gay dads out there who are also triumphing at the art of parenthood. He focused his lens on their stories in order to construct a narrative that elevates the viewer from developmental struggle to domestic bliss.
The result is a tableau of triumph. Heynen’s subjects glow with a pastiche of confidence not often witnessed in today’s glum reality.
Bart Heynen challenges us to gaze at his work and then look inward at ourselves. What was lacking from our upbringing? How could we be stronger, smarter and safer as individuals and as a community?
Perhaps the answer is as simple as embarcing our authentic selves. It seems to be working for these Dads.
Photo: Instagram @bartheynen
Last modified: September 30, 2021