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How This Trans Director Created 'Spaces' for LGBTQ+ and Disabled Folks

James Ian, Dominick Evans
Dominick Evans virtually directs James Ian in 'Spaces'

Dominick Evans chats with The Advocate about directing the music video "Spaces," which centers folks from the disabled community in places they're often left out of. 

A filmmaker, public speaker, and activist for disabled people and the LGBTQ+ community, Dominick Evans is changing visibility for many, especially at the intersections of queer identity and the disability rights movement. For the transgender director, that work translates into the new music video he helmed for the song "Spaces" by James Ian.

Part of Evans's mission is to amplify the diversity within the trans and disability communities with which he identifies.

"The media needs to allow us to tell our own stories because there is a wide variety of experiences and identities that we don't see often. The disabled community and the trans community are not monoliths, but so often we're portrayed in one single way in the media," Evans says. "Authentic representation behind the camera is important so that we can achieve acceptance."

One way Evans hopes to move the needle is through "Spaces," a powerful anthem that depicts several people from the disabled community occupying everyday spaces that they often feel left out of.

"The inspiration behind 'Spaces' was that the spinal muscular atrophy community wanted to put themselves out there to show what we were capable of creating art. We have the desire to be seen and belong in the world. The world hardly sees us as human beings, and we belong in these spaces that we share with everyone else," Evans says.

The video is sponsored by Genentech as part of the SMA My Way program, which supports and raises awareness for the SMA community, according to the program's website.

Evans and his creative team picked the title "Spaces" intentionally to fully represent the issues that disabled and queer people face.

"'Spaces' was chosen as the name for the video because it represents the gatekeeping that the world employs when we talk about places that we don't feel like we belong in. And we connected with the title immediately," Evans says.

Throughout his life, straddling a few marginalized groups, Evans has experienced discrimination in various forms.

"I always say that I grew up in the queer community compared to the disabled community because sometimes the disabled community is transphobic or homophobic. And I felt more accepted in the queer community because we deal with a lot of disabilities, may it be depression or anxiety or any other type of nonvisible disability," Evans says.

"But at times I felt discriminated against in both communities because of this intersection of identity. Dating in the queer community was a challenge, and acceptance in the disabled community was a challenge too. A lot of that discrimination is because the disabled community has viewed the queer community as taking away resources from the disabled community. A lot of that stems from the AIDS epidemic in the 20th century. AIDS patients were viewed as disabled, and there was this fear that other disabilities would be forgotten."

But Evans has thoughts about how to bridge differences and move toward more widespread acceptance for all.

"If we're looking at overcoming this roadblock of acceptance and inclusivity, the queer community needs to view disabled [people] as functioning and contributing members of society. Also, the disabled community needs to remove the stigma of sexuality and/or gender identity. And we need spaces like Pride to be more accessible for people with disabilities," Evans says.

If there is one final takeaway Evans wants people to gather from "Spaces," he hopes that viewers take the project seriously and understand just how much beautiful art disabled and trans creators can make.

"I really hope that people view this as a professional project and take it seriously as a piece of art," he says. "We're all professional artists, and this is not just a piece of advocacy. And I hope that both of my communities begin to accept trans and disabled individuals more. When creating 'Spaces,' I wanted to be seen as a trans, disabled director. I was proud to be able to create this music video and show just what someone with SMA can do with this intersection of trans identity."

Watch the video for "Spaces" below.

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