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Surviving as a Southern Queer Artist – KK Forest McCarley

Excruciating. I can’t lie. Finding my place in this world has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I spent so many early years of my life trying to fit in. Making friends was hard. Talking was hard. As a non-binary person, existing was hard. And it still is. Living in a place that constantly denies my existence as a trans person- yeah, it’s hard. This is nothing new. Life was never supposed to be easy for me, I know that. I have struggled with gender, sexuality, and major depression for most of my time on this earth. It is a huge part of my life, but it is not (by far) the only part. For as long as I have struggled with these things, I have known my soul’s true calling. Art. First and foremost (after my partner) is art. Art has been and always will be with me. This does not mean it came easily. Knowing my calling was one thing, accepting it was another.
Not only did I struggle with my gender, sexuality, and depression, I struggled for years to accept my calling to be an artist. Art called my name from day one and I have heard it call my name every day since. Accepting that was learning to accept many other things that come with it. I think many of us southern queer artists must begin in a place that is unknown- we are unknown. I’ve learned to accept my low visibility and low income as an artist. Of course, there are always those few who make it big, but we cannot solely rely on the hope that this will happen to us. Still, I constantly pursue my passion of art photography every day. I have faith in something bigger than myself and that is the power of art on the human heart, mind, and soul. 
Art saved my life. Art continues to save my lifetime and time again. I have no other way of expression that compares to expression through art. Specifically, I have found no other medium apart from photography and writing to accurately express myself. 
I am KK Forest McCarley and I am a southern born queer artist. I am now in my senior year of art school at Louisiana State University and I am proud of how far I’ve come. Art has saved my life and I could not be truer to myself than I have grown to be now.
Art saved my life.
You can see KK Forest McCarley’s work on their website located at

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