Artist Sean McGuire Wears Queer Hearts on His Sleeve

Irving artist Sean McGuire wears his art, and cause, on his sleeve. He carries with him messages from LGBTQ people looking for hope.
Irving artist Sean McGuire wears his art, and cause, on his sleeve. He carries with him messages from LGBTQ people looking for hope. Sean McGuire
The handwritten notes hanging from Sean McGuire’s jacket are personal. They’re also funny, introspective and symbolic of a community that still yearns to be heard.

Some of the notes read “I want a less polarized world,” “I wanna be valued. I want to live a life of purpose," “I want people to know I love them.” One simply reads, “I just wanna hug my dad.”

The 29-year-old Irving-based artist’s project “But Just Saying It Could Even Make It Happen” is simple: LGBTQ people are invited to submit positive and private messages of their most inner thoughts. Since he announced his project last month, he has received dozens of messages online.

McGuire says the responses come from people who may feel isolated, alone and unable to be transparent. He hopes to change that.

The artist handwrites each message and hangs them on his jacket, increasing visibility and wearing the hearts of a community on his sleeve. The title of the project itself is inspired by the lyrics of Kate Bush’s 1985 single, “Cloudbusting.”
click to enlarge Other messages in the art piece include  “I wanna be valued. I want to live a life of purpose. “ - SEAN MCGUIRE
Other messages in the art piece include “I wanna be valued. I want to live a life of purpose. “
Sean McGuire

A simple task like handwriting notes can give visibility to the thousands of queer voices that are silenced, especially young queer voices that may feel limited in expressing their sexuality or gender identity.

According to an August 2020 study by the Trevor Project, a nonprofit LGBTQ organization, 41% of LGBTQ youths say that COVID-19 and quarantine regulations have impacted their capability to express their queer identity. Over half of the respondents identify as transgender or nonbinary.

Visibility and providing a platform for queer people to express themselves in the age of coronavirus is essential for those who may not have the support system they need, McGuire says.

“I have a family who supports me,” McGuire says. “But there a lot of families who are not supportive.”

Queer people, who often rely on their friends or “chosen family,” may be confined to their childhood homes because of the growing pandemic, feeling more alone than ever. This is why this project that amplifies voices is so important to McGuire.

Using a jacket as the centerpiece of his latest creation wasn’t a tough decision. McGuire frequently wears eccentric jackets and outward fashion, embracing his queer identity, knowing that his visibility alone could make another queer person feel seen.

One of his first exposures to queer representation was the groundbreaking comedy series Will and Grace. Like many growing up today, McGuire knows that queer visibility may be hard to obtain sometimes. With queer art made by queer artists, representation is elevated.

McGuire hopes to elevate more than his own art as a queer artist, but also the messages he now carries along with him on his faded blue jacket.

The project is set to be featured later this year in a virtual art exhibition from local art collective Third Space DFW. Once a Day Swallow a Small Sun looks to cover the ever-growing definition of what constitutes LGBTQ health. The exhibition will open virtually in December.

Third Space DFW co-founder Antonio Mercado says that the topics of health the exhibition hopes to cover include sex, gender identity and mental health — the latter of which McGuire is zoning in on.

The notes scattered across the faded blue jacket are messages of hope. McGuire himself hopes that maybe, if queer youths are able to express themselves unapologetically, something good will come of it.

Like the Kate Bush song says, “I just know that something good is going to happen and I don't know when. But just saying it could even make it happen.”

Just saying it could even make it happen.
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Jacob Reyes is an arts and culture intern for the Dallas Observer. At his alma mater, the University of Texas at Arlington, Reyes was the life and entertainment editor for the student publication The Shorthorn. His passion for writing and reporting includes covering underrepresented communities in the arts.