Young, Gay, and Black in a Southern Town
In 2012, Preston Gannaway was living in Norfolk, Va., looking for a coming-out story to cover for the Virginian-Pilot, where she was a staff photographer. Gannaway met Tavaris “Teddy Ebony” Edwards, a 21-year-old gay man living in public housing in Chesapeake, Va., who came out when he was 16. Because Edwards represented several demographics rarely covered in the paper—gay, black, poor—Gannaway decided instead to focus on Edwards and his experience living in Virginia.
Gannaway ended up spending a year photographing Edwards while he was studying at Norfolk State University and Tidewater Community College. She documented him while he participated as a Spartan Guard in the Spartan Legion Marching Band at Norfolk State, as well as his involvement in the ballroom scene.
Throughout the project, she was pleasantly surprised not to see too much prejudice surrounding Edwards’ sexuality. “If someone is just keeping his head above water, struggling to keep the lights on and food in the fridge, he’s not going to be worrying about who some other guy is sleeping with,” Gannaway noted about living in a financially struggling community. “Family and community [are] very important. That seems to trump just about everything.”