When Neil de la Flor, 42, founded Reading Queer, he wanted to promote understanding and diversity within and outside the LGBT community by bringing in South Florida artists and writers to show their work.
De la Flor wanted to provide a platform for the queer community, an umbrella term used for people who do not conform to traditional gender identities, to understand its meaning and misconceptions in society. He set out to start a dialogue between gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people with the larger community to create and strengthen bonds.
“Reading Queer was founded in response to a need to give marginalized voices a platform to share their stories,” said de la Flor. “The history of marginalization and violence against the queer community sometimes makes this tough.”
In January 2013, de la Flor along with Paula Kolek and Maureen Seaton, established Reading Queer. The organization hosts many events from an annual festival to book writing workshops.
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The next event, Word + Image, is a fast-paced workshop in which visual and verbal images will be made, found and combined through word play as well as other methods. This first Word + Image event will take place 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Hôtel Gaythering in Miami Beach.
“Literature and creativity save lives. Our events are meant to foster ideas that propel the lives of queer writers, while teaching the meaning of queerness,” de la Flor said. “There is power in that word because it encompasses more than sexual identification like homosexual and bisexual. People are more than that.”
Carol Todaro, an art professor at New World School of the Arts and the University of Miami, will host the event, open to everyone regardless of sexual identification, gender, race, book making and writing experience. The event is free, but attendees can make a donation. RSVP guarantees a spot.
The afternoon will include basic book making, collage and transfer printing, resulting in a small book.
“This event will bring the community together and have everyone make a book they can keep forever,” de la Flor said. “And this is not just a book — it is a memory, a story.”
James Sacco, 27, has been to many events hosted by Reading Queer since early 2014. Sacco, who studied biology in college, said the arts are an important part of who he is.
“What keeps me coming back is the freedom to express myself in ways that I would not anywhere else,” Sacco said. “I have written things that I could not share with anyone else and to experience that with other people and have them share their artwork with me is special.”
Y’señia Almaguer, 39, a local artist who has been to two events, said she is excited to attend more and volunteer in the future.
At one workshop, facilitator Jan Becker, a local poet, told Almaguer to choose from a list of prompts. One of the prompts was “I’m Not My Father’s Son.”
Almaguer, who is transgender, noted the irony.
“[Becker] told me to not worry about my errors, just to write,” Almaguer said. “When I finished, I read it aloud and it was celebrated. I got feedback that it helped others and I’m happy that in some ways it resonated with them.”
De la Flor hopes this event raises the tolerance of more individuals and that every year more people get involved and share their story with the community.
“Queer is a way of reaching people and connecting with people,” de la Flor said. “It is a powerful tool and creativity comes from it.”
If you go
▪ What: Word + Image
▪ Where: Hôtel Gaythering, 1409 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach
▪ When: 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 13
▪ Cost: Free admission, but RSVP is advised at the Eventbrite page at www.eventbrite.com/e/reading-queer-presents-word-and-image-with-carol-todaro-tickets-17045604863
▪ Contact: 305-345-9568
▪ More information: www.readingqueer.org