As we continue with our LGBTQ+ highlights at J Michael Photography Co., we had the amazing pleasure to interview another one of Shreveport's finest - Derick Jones.
Derick is the Digital Media Manager for SB Magazine and most importantly they are the owner of a brand! That's right! You heard right... their own brand - Vessel Vintage. The clothes are edgy, and Derick pours their heart and soul into the brand, which uniquely defines them as a beautiful human being. *
First, let's get to know each other - tell us about your childhood and where you grew up. How did it impact your identity?
I was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana. I knew I was gay very early on, but because of my parent's religious ties, suppressed that side of myself. I used art as a form of escapism and found solace in words. I found out I was adopted when I was ten years old, and then at 16 came out. Between discovering I was adopted by a family member and discovering my sexuality, I felt very overwhelmed. I lost my virginity at 13 and to be completely honest, looking at my life from the outside feels like an odd reality show. I am 31 now and still, I'm trying to find myself. I identify as queer and non-binary. My gender is a non-issue for me and I have become more and more comfortable expressing myself outwardly. I'm still nowhere near where I'd like to be, but I'm working on it. Because of living in the south, I have to pause on a lot of things including how I dress or how I speak. I constantly live in fear, though I try to put on a secure face.
Second, I’d like to talk about the hardships and injustices that members of the LGBTQ+ community members suffer.
Have you ever encountered any discrimination in your line of work? Or in your life? If so, what would you like people to know about you before they judge you?
I was bullied in middle and high school. I had my fingers slammed in lockers and was called every "gay" name in the book. Later I dealt with off-campus encounters with other students where I didn't know if I was going to make it home alive. I often didn't want to be alive. I thought about suicide a number of times. It's hard living in a world where you see so many people who don't think you should be a part of it. That's what it's like growing up in the south. As I've gotten older, my circles have become tighter. My friends are my support system. I'm still weary a lot of the time and I'm not sure if that will ever change living here. Discriminating against someone is a form of entitlement, and the south is known for its entitlement and privilege. I have been fortunate to not encounter it in the workplace.
When many people from the south look at me, they see a gay man. I don't identify with those two things. I am a queer person. I do not identify with either male or female, and that's one of the hardest things I've ever had to come to terms with. For many, many years I identified as gay (and to an outsider, I may still seem that way because I am married to a person who presents masculine). I didn't understand that my identity superseded my sexuality, and that who I decided to have sex with didn't equate to how I wanted to present myself. Because I don't identify with either gender, I identify with both of them. I do my own thing, wear what I love, express myself how I feel is necessary and I create. I create work that reflects good intentions and equality. My brand is my body of work. I have been working on it for five years, just like myself and my relationship with my partner whom I'm so grateful to have in my life. Everything changed when they came along. My life got brighter, and I finally started seeing myself in the mirror. It allowed me to open doors and focus on something that is bigger than myself — my brand.
I want people to see me as I now see myself, a driven 30-something who is madly in love with his partner and his career.
Lastly, what advice would you tell your younger self now? Is there something you wish you would’ve known then that you know now about coming out?
Fuck everyone. The naysayers' will always exist. Family is not blood. Stop trying to be someone else. Don't hate yourself because you're different.
I can't reiterate that last statement enough. I went through many years feeling disgusting, awful and the like because I was "different." I didn't like my body. I didn't like my hair, my face, my feet. All of it. I didn't like that I didn't enjoy the same music as my friends, or that I preferred art shows over football games. I wanted to fit in so desperately bad and turned to drugs and alcohol. I used them as a form of escapism and to fit in, and I really the whole time, I was meant to stand out. I've always been meant to stand out.
Stay tuned for the next highlight of #pridemonth. Thank y'all for reading.
J Michael Photography Co.
*they/them/their gender-neutral pronouns