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Do you ever feel lost? Maybe you can’t find your squad amidst a raging festival crowd. Or maybe, you can’t find a squad at all. Maybe you’re still in search of a group or community that accepts and loves you as you are.

Frequent festival-goers know that bright, flashy totems are great landmarks for reuniting with friends after getting lost in the crowd. Once you reach that totem, you know you’re back in a safe, accepting space surrounded by friends. Inspired by this notion of a safe space, and in light of the recent Orlando hate crimes, I set out to make a totem of my own—a totem I hope you’ll begin to recognize.

With the help of my boyfriend (the king of LEDs and a Maker in his own right), I crafted this 8-foot-tall, LED-illuminated sign. On one side, you’ll see the Desert Canvas logo. On the other side, you’ll see bright, bold, rainbowy letters that read, “TELL US YOUR STORY.”

My intention with this tag line is very straightforward—I want to hear your stories. I want to hear what you’ve been through—your struggles, your joys, your truth.

For the time being, I want to hear your #QUEERPRIDE stories! Are you a member of the LGBTQ community? Do you have a friend, family member or loved one who identifies as queer? Have you been discriminated against? Have you experienced prejudice and hate? Have you experienced acceptance and love? Whatever your experience has been, please don’t be afraid to share. You are not alone.

I am and always have been a huge proponent of equality for ALL people. Gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, and other “dividing” factors should not divide us at all. I believe it is a fundamental HUMAN (not just American) right to be who you are, to express how you feel, and to love who you love, openly and freely, without fear of judgment or condemnation.

From a young age, I empathized with members of the queer community. Raised on the east coast, I always attended the annual LGBTQ Pride Parade in New York City. I was overwhelmed with joy at the sight and feeling of love and acceptance that abounded. The extravagant parades and the celebrations that followed allowed lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming individuals to feel safe, to express their love openly, and to live authentically. I wondered, why can’t they live authentically ALL of the time?

In light of the recent Orlando shootings—heinous, disgusting acts committed against innocent LGBTQ people—I think it’s time to show some love to the queer community. We at Desert Canvas are proud to support individuals all along the spectrums of gender and sexuality. We love you and we’re here for you.

If you see the Desert Canvas “TELL US YOUR STORY” totem at a festival or other music event, please come and talk to us! With your permission, pieces of your stories will be shared on our blog. You may choose to share your identity or remain anonymous.

The idea here is to raise awareness about important, relevant issues faced by underrepresented, misunderstood groups and members of the community. In the future, we’ll bring attention to lots of vital social and humanitarian issues ranging from homelessness to cancer, from sustainability to addiction. At present the DC totem is draped in rainbows to symbolize queer pride. With each change in topic, the totem’s décor will change accordingly. Let’s facilitate an uptick in compassion. By getting a dialogue going, I hope that people will realize they are not alone. I hope people will realize that Desert Canvas is a safe, welcoming community of incredible people.

Through Desert Canvas, I’ve connected with a beautifully diverse group of individuals. I’ve made friends I know I’ll have for life. At our core, we all share the longing for genuine human connection. We all resonate strongly with the mission of Desert Canvas as a whole—to meet new friends, discover more passions, and accomplish greater goals.

If this mission resonates with YOU, don’t be a stranger! Look for our totem at the next event you attend. Come say hi. Come give me a hug. Tell me your story!

The totem made its first appearance at the Tempe Town Lake 4th of July festival. I attended with my friend Tajinder, a self-proclaimed gender-fluid badass who actively champions for LGBTQ equality. The response from the crowd was overwhelmingly positive. People shared some great stories about their experiences in the queer community, both heart-wrenching and uplifting. Stay tuned for our article!

Have a story you’d like to share about your experience in the LGBTQ community? Have any ideas for future totem themes? Comment below and co-create with us!

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