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The Pride I Carry With Me: Shaun Cunningham

A Beautiful Resistance celebrates Pride as told to Jeneé Osterheldt

The beautiful resistance of Shaun Cunningham, a Boston photographer.Bambi

“My name is Shaun Cunningham and my life is a beautiful resistance because I choose freedom of expression.

I interrogate and resist the prescriptive lifestyle flow of school to work to marriage to children. I resist strict gender roles and sexually conquering others as a metric of my worth. I resist exploiting others for my gain. I resist indoctrination. And I’ve experienced material consequences because the outer world’s order is incongruent with my inner world’s reason.

It’s like I was born with a bullseye on my forehead and people have been shooting arrows at me before I realized it was there. I realized society decided I was gay before I could fathom sexuality, and because my sexuality was introduced to me through shame and punishment, I was both hyperaware and in denial of my identity.

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Being groomed to assimilate to views I deemed irrational, bred self distrust and hopelessness in me, especially since most people could see through my masking. And at one point I lived in a gray, mundane reality with no real sense of self. Sometimes, it feels like my mindless experience is an active protest against heteronormativity, hypermasculinity, religion, racism, capitalism and countless other dogmas and institutions used to fragment society.

Today, I choose self acceptance over anything. I choose self acceptance over my relationship with my mom and I would do it over and over again. To her and anyone else who opposes me based off of my sexual orientation. Because I believe a healthy relationship with yourself is more important than any oppressive relationship. Even if it’s your first relationship. There’s tragedy in loss but there’s beauty in resistance, so future generations can reap the benefits of a challenged status quo.”

Shaun Cunningham is a Boston based photographer. Learn more at createshaun.com.

A Beautiful Resistance will hold space in recognition of Pride throughout the month of June.

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Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at jenee.osterheldt@globe.com and on Twitter @sincerelyjenee and on Instagram @abeautifulresistance.