Limit(less) Project: Wiilo

Limit(less) is a documentary photography project by Mikael Owunna exploring the visual aesthetics of LGBTQ African immigrants. For more on the project, follow us on TumblrInstagramFacebook and Flickr

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Wiilo: Queer Somali Canadian American

Q. What’s your name, country of origin, ethnicity, preferred gender pronoun, and how do you identify in terms of your LGBTQ identity?

Wiilo Geedi. Wiilo in Somali means girls who dresses like boy. It’s a nickname that I was given  by my elders when I was younger. It’s something that has always comforted me when I was going through my process of discovering my queerness and helped me to overcome the shame and the feeling of being pushed away from my culture.

Like everything about myself my country of origin is complicated. I was born in Washington, DC while my parents were on vacation. We returned to Somalia but my family emigrated from Somalia because of civil war and I grew up in suburbs outside Toronto, Canada.

They/Them

Queer

Q. How would you describe your style?

I’ve just  started to dress in a way that reflects me and I would say that it is ever evolving.

Growing up I knew I couldn’t wear the things that I wanted because it would advertise my queerness. I think my mom knew I was queer because she controlled and critiqued what I wore more than my siblings.  I live on my own now and I am just starting to explore what my style is and how I want to explore my creativity through my clothes. I like to over accessorize, patterns and textures. I like to shop in thrifts stores and other people’s closets.

Q. How do you think your style incorporates/blends elements of your African and LGBTQ identity?

My style has been described as old Somali uncle. I am drawn to clothes that I feel both my Dad and Mom would have worn living in Somalia in the 70’s and 80’s.

Q. Was there ever a time where you felt pushed away from your African or LGBTQ identities? If so, how did you overcome that personally?

When I was first reflecting on my queerness it was hard for me to reconcile it with my Somalinimo.  Growing up any deviation from the norm was stamped down. This has to do with living in a refugee community surrounded by whiteness and you think to hold onto your culture means defining it in very limiting ways. Many try and hold Somalinimo constant by ascribing certain behaviours and ways of dressing as authentic and other behaviours as inauthentic. The binary limitations are to survive oppression and trauma that we faced but another effect is it excludes anyone who is different or questions their narrow definitions.

How I coped with it was by reflecting on how my Somalinmo cannot be separated from my queerness. Varying gender and sexuality are not abnormalities that come from whiteness but are in our culture, language and stories.

Q. How is your relationship with your family, and what does being “accepted” by your family look like for you?

I am out to some of my siblings and for me acceptance looks like not being demonized and ridiculed by people who say they love you.

Q. What would you have to say to people who say that being LGBTQ is “un-African”?

Saying something is “un-African” is saying a kaleidoscope can only be one colour.

Q. How was participating in the Limit(less) shoot?

I enjoyed reflecting on the things that made me who I am and exploring my creativity with you.

Q. What are you most excited about for Limit(less)?

I am excited to see all the amazing people that are going to be featured and the amazing stories that they we are  telling and community that is being created.

Q. Where are you comfortable with people reaching you on social media?

@pocstudios on instagram and twitter


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