“FREE TO BE ME”, the journal of love, pride and finding your own rainbow

Dom&Ink is not just an illustrator, but also, an utterly fabulous merman, and the author of “FREE TO BE ME”, the new LGBTQ+ journal which aims to inspire self-esteem, confidence, colour and pride and is for anyone and everyone. The book proves to be a journal of love, pride and finding your own rainbow, no matter what your personal story is!

Every rainbow-coloured page is packed with LGBTQ+ activities, advice and attitude. With spreads to colour, scribble, design and glitter, you’ll meet dancing drag queens, rainbow donuts and the world’s sassiest LGBTQ+ dinosaur: Brett the Sassysaurus! Read quotes from real-life rainbow icons, find out how to throw your own Pride Party, and learn about the history of gay rights. Most importantly: celebrate being yourself and what makes YOU amazing!

DOM&INK (Dominic Evans) is a freelance illustrator and merman based in London, from not-so-sunny Bolton, via Narnia. Growing up with a love of Buffy, short shorts and Starlight Express, Dom, like many others, struggled to fi t in at school, in life, and mainly with himself. However, he soon found his voice through his passion for illustration and stories. This led him on a path to illustrate for large brands, stores, clients and agencies. He currently lives in East London and spends his time immersing himself in a graphic novel or an amazing book and then creating illustrations that he hopes will make your day and make you slay.

YASS Magazine met Dom and we discussed about everything; from his own coming out story being raised in a Roman Catholic family, to the importance of same-sex education in schools, promoting body positivity and his experience of mental health.  

What inspired you to write this journal?

I think my main inspiration was my own personal journey. My coming out wasn’t easy and I wanted to create a safe space where someone could share their story and feel seen and heard and accepted. I loved the idea of a book that hundreds of LGBTQ+ people could read and each would have their own journey and story to add. I always wanted the journal to be interactive where the reader can really imprint their identity into the book but also something that could empower a community!

What is the mission of your book? How would you describe your book?

I always describe it using the strapline – ‘An LGBTQ+ journal of love, pride and finding your inner rainbow’ – as I felt, when I came up with it, it kind of symbolised most of the book. My mission for this book, and always has been, is to make LGBTQ+ readers of any age know they are accepted and loved. It was always important that the term ‘safe space’ was used at the beginning of the book to set the tone that this book is here for you, this is your story, your journey and your identity. Also, I just really wanted to work a queer dinosaur into my work at some point, and this book has three!

How do you manage to inspire and help LGBTQ+ love themselves more through your book?

I wanted to make the book as diverse and representative as possible to really show how beautiful and huge the LGBTQ+ community is. I always think if someone can relate to themselves in a book that can be quite empowering. I remember one of the anonymous readers whom we had sensitivity check the book fed back that she was really touched there was a queer woman in a wheelchair in the book as she was one also. She said she felt ‘seen’ and for me, that was huge. I like to think the mix of empowering quotes and illustrations help people feel good, I wanted the book to have shades of positivity, activism and non-stop self-love and I like to think that comes across and really helps readers.

Do you feel that the new generation of LGBTQ+ people are lacking nowadays self-esteem and confidence?

I think with them being the social media generation, lack of self-esteem and confidence go hand in hand in that, and it probably affects a lot of them in a negative way. When I was a teen I didn’t even have FB so I have no idea how kids deal with it these days. Then again on the flipside, I’ve found so many amazing influencers on Instagram who are like mini activists and constantly posting about LGBTQ+ rights and I’m like ‘omg yas next gen come thru!’

What is the biggest challenge the LGBTQ+ people face?

Still prejudice. Whether it’s from homophobic, biphobic or transphobic people. The fact we had a hate crime at the beginning of Pride month on a bus is horrific. And also the ten trans women who have been killed in the US so far. This should NOT be happening. At all.

As a queer young illustrator do you feel you can relate personally with the readers of your book?

I’m 33 in August so thank you for calling me ‘young’ LOL. I like to think I can relate to any age. Like I will chat the socks off anyone at an event or party or even in the queue at Tesco. Maybe it’s the northerner in me!  I just hope my drawings and words do that but even more.

How does your work celebrate inclusivity, diversity and empowerment?

I like to think it does all that through the characters in the book that pop up throughout, for me, they are key to this book and the journey as I feel anyone could relate to them and give them their own story for how they see them. I’m constantly pushing to do more inclusive work with brands and actively promoting it more in my social content for Instagram. I want to represent as many people as I can.

Who are your inspirations?

I’m inspired a lot by comic art, fashion illustration and Instagram. I absolutely adore Billy Porter and Adam Eli and iWeigh, they are three accounts I follow and just love everything that’s posted and Adam’s words speak to my soul!

Have you faced any discrimination as an LGBTQ+ illustrator and author?

I mean I’ve had a fair few trolls, I won’t lie! I try not to look at my messages in the morning now, as it just gets overwhelming at 6am when I’m half asleep and gagging for a brew and someone is telling me I’m worthless. I ain’t got time for that! But mostly trolls here and there. Also first trying to get the book published 4 years ago, many editors I approached weren’t interested as they didn’t view LGBTQ+ as a topic or anything to do a book about. Thank God for Penguin a few years later being AMAZING.

How important is promoting body-positivity and raising awareness about mental health and same-sex education in schools and in our societies?

Very important. Like massive. I don’t have a body that fits the athletic masculine ideal so I myself fight with body image issues. I think everyone does. But imagine a world where at school you have lessons on same sex, regularly speak to a therapist or counsellor about mental health issues and then all have a lesson of self-acceptance and how to take it and give it out. I want that world!

Where does your name “DOM&INK” come from?

Well my name is Dom, and ‘Ink’ was when I used ink a lot. I mean, I still do in my work even though it’s digital ink, ha! But yeah, I always wanted a play on words for an illustrator name, mainly because it’s memorable and I wanted clients to remember me instantly.

How has the RuPaul era influenced your illustrations?

I think the Ru era has influenced SO many things, from the language we use, to drag aesthetics to books. I actually would put the Ru era down to inspiring me to promote self-love and acceptance more through typography and empowering queer quotes!

Do you feel like an influencer?

Nope not at all. I have been classed as one before and I’m careful about whom I work with. But for me, I feel I have a platform with a moderate following, which means I feel I have a responsibility to a lot of followers. Saying that, if an awesome brand offered me a free holiday I’d take it, as this hun needs some sun and sangria!

How would you identify yourself?

A mermi-corn which is a mermaid AND a unicorn. Yup. That’s me!

What is the best comment you have received?

A mother of a trans male teen messaged me to tell me she had bought the book for her son. He was 14 and anxious and a little down and she said the book really helped them open a conversation about him feeling accepted and it was a really beautiful moment she said. That got me in all the feels. I really want more comments like this, just to show everyone that a book like this can really help someone. I want this book everywhere!

What are your current and future plans?

Well I’ve been designing Pride window schemes for Pride retailers and a ton of ‘Free To Be Me’ events! Warehouse launched an entire FTBM window scheme in their Argyll Street store with 100% of every copy of the book going to Stonewall. I also did an event at Skinnydip’s HATE SUCKS Pride event on 4th July with a Free To Be Me workshop AND the Penguin Pride Book Club event with Callum McSwiggan on 18th July. More to be announced soon!

More info here:

https://www.domandink.co.uk

https://www.instagram.com/domandink/

*all images are courtesy of Dom&Ink

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