Students and faculty gathered at the Fullerton Arboretum on Thursday evening to welcome photographer and former athlete Jeff Sheng to Cal State Fullerton’s inaugural LGBTQ history month president’s reception, hosted by President García.
In his latest book, “Fearless: Portraits of LGBTQ Student Athletes,” Sheng recognizes over 200 openly LGBTQ student athletes from all over the United States and Canada. His work has been showcased at dozens of colleges, as well as at ESPN, Nike and the NCAA headquarters.
Masters of ceremony for the evening, Kristin Beals, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, and Melissa Barrios, student assistant for the ASI LGBT/Queer Resource Center, kicked off the ceremony by welcoming guest speaker Jeff Sheng to the stage.
Sheng referred back to previous photography projects in order to highlight the progress in LGBTQ history that has been seen over the past decade.
“When I started “Fearless,” there was no state in the country that had same-sex marriage,” Sheng, who started the project back in 2003, said. “Publishing (the book) just a few weeks right after the supreme court made same-sex marriage legal in the entire country really showed the kinds of change we’ve seen.”
Sheng attended high school in Thousand Oaks, California, where he played tennis up until his senior year. Growing up surrounded by a largely religious and conservative student body, Sheng said he was unable to come out as a gay athlete, ultimately setting down his racket for good.
“When I went to college, I had no idea that as an adult I would actually be a full-time photographer and artist,” said Sheng, who didn’t take his first photography course until after he graduated high school.
Sheng said that the Fearless Project was initially inspired by student athletes who had come out of the closet, something he was never able to do.
Other projects by Sheng include, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which features closeted service members, as well as the current project he is working on, which deals with LGBT teen suicide.
Students interested can find Sheng’s work displayed on the first floor of the TSU throughout the month of October.
Following the ceremony, Rebecca Dolhinow, Ph.D., program coordinator for the Women and Gender Studies Program, presented CSUF’s first ever Queer Studies Student Leadership and Activism Award to Barrios. It is an award that was created to honor students who embody leadership and social change around queer studies issues on campus, Dolhinow said.