Why the Canadian Down Syndrome Society created ‘love stories’

Who: Canadian Down Syndrome Society, with photographer Hilary Gauld, and PR support by Glossy.

What: “Love Means,” a portrait series depicting love in the Down syndrome community, part of CDSS’s ongoing efforts to dispel misconceptions about Down syndrome.

When & Where: Each of the nine different love stories are being shared through social (Facebook and Instagram) leading up to World Down Syndrome Day on March 21.

Why: For several years now, CDSS has been working hard to change perceptions and improve society’s understanding of Down syndrome through a series of groundbreaking campaigns by FCB. Though CDSS created this one internally (FCB has something in the works for fall), “Love Means” is part of that larger awareness effort.

While there has been greater understanding and more media portrayals of love across genders, sexuality, cultures, and the neurodivergent, the CDSS says the Down syndrome community has been left out of that positive shift.

“Our campaigns are always aimed at spreading awareness about Down syndrome,” said CDSS executive director Laura LaChance in a release. “Right now, there is an overwhelming lack of awareness and understanding about the complete lives that people with Down syndrome live, and about the range of emotions they experience. This work will change the public narrative.”

How: There are 15 different people for nine different photo essays depicting love—both romantic and platonic—for those either living with Down syndrome or who are in a relationship with someone who is.

There are also single adults looking for romantic love, as well as straight and gay couples. The photos are accompanied by slides introducing the individuals and sharing some of their thoughts and ideas about what love means to them.

The love story of Kirk and Beth (right), who’ve been dating for 12 years, was shared today. “I feel love like singing in shower,” says Beth.

“The goal of the project is that these stories and visuals inspire, educate and create space for greater visibility of the experiences adults with Down syndrome navigate, including love,” said Gauld.

Quote from a mom: “It surprises me that there is a need to demonstrate that people with Down syndrome have and want to experience the same shared relationships and love others take for granted.. Love is a human need, and it does not discriminate.” — Margot Langis, whose daughter Ren is one of the people photographed for the campaign

David Brown