Our wedding dresses were on fire, but that wasn't the most dangerous part

Updated Feb 24 2021
Guest post by April Jennifer Choi  
Photos by: Cukini Studios

We featured this wedding last week on the blog, but their account of the aftermath of it going viral was not surprising but definitely disheartening. Read on for the full account…

LGBT violence: Our wedding dresses were on fire, but that wasn't the most dangerous part
Photo by Cukini Studios at Studio Reserved

I just had my wedding two weeks ago on Oct 13th, 2018. It was a pretty standard, boring wedding thing, except for one dangerous thing. Both my wife and I are fire performers and I used to be a model and photographer. Because of that, I know a lot of photographers and many of them are still close friends of mine. We ended up with several wedding photographers, one of which we have shot with dozens of times. Together we worked on and got an amazing photo that could have resulted in major injury or death and still could if done again.

As stated before, we are both professional fire performers. We have performed all around the world for our crafts, have been highlighted as the feature fire instructor at the largest fire festivals in the country, and admin the largest fire eating group on social media. Because of this, we have done multiple fire-related photo shoots. As a photographer, I’ve wanted to do a "trash the dress"-type shoot, and as a model, I’ve wanted to be in the dress. We’ve made this happen a number of times. My wife has done it multiple times, I’ve done it multiple times, and we’ve facilitated a fire-themed trash the dress many other times. We have or had over a dozen wedding dresses for these shoots, many of them donated to us. This type of shot is not new for us. So, for our wedding day, since we have so many fire performers as friends, we could easily do a dual trash the dress shoot for our wedding.

The result is featured here.

Obviously, do not try this yourself without professional assistance. Note: we are world renowned professionals. I’ve done fire promos for companies in many different countries and have world records in fire arts. Our wedding party had eight other performers fire performers and a certified pyrotechnician. More than 50 of our guests are fire performers. We had multiple fire extinguishers, specialized dresses, specialized protective clothing, six fire safeties, insurance, permits, medics, and more than 300 people ready to jump in to help. For us, this is not that far away from the norm. I used to eat and breath fire as a full-time profession.

Come to find out, it was a dangerous photo, but not because of the fire.

LGBT viral wedding: Our wedding dresses were on fire, but that wasn't the most dangerous part

If you read the text above before seeing the photo, more often than not you read “my wife” and assumed I was the husband. From the photo, you can see that I am, in fact, another woman. This is what trips people up the most. Our wedding photo has spread around the world and of course, there have been many comments on it. I agreed to many sites and news sources to publish our photo and story because I was proud of the photo.

In the U.S. it is, by far, more dangerous to be LGBT than it is to be a professional fire performer.

I expected a lot of haters, but what I didn’t expect is what they commented against. I would assume that more people would be angry about the fire and at least one person concerned about our safety. I was wrong. Over 90% of the comments were attacking our intelligence and sanity with most of the remaining attacking us as a same-sex marriage. If I saw this photo third-person, I would first ask, “Are both the brides okay?” Not one of the thousands of comments I saw was concerned with our safety and many of the commentators attacked our orientation rather than discussed the fire itself.

The point of this:

  1. I’m proud of this wedding photo. It’s a compilation of years of effort in fire performing, modeling, photography, and thousands of hours of effort in creating a wonderful relationship with the most amazing woman ever.
  2. I want people to know that despite the effort of the SAGA/LGBT Community and its allies, it seems more people are concerned about same-sex marriages than are concerned with someone on fire.
  3. For people to realize that civil rights for LGBT is still being fought for. Same-sex marriage was not officially sanctioned by the U.S. until 2015 (Obergefell v. Hodges by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution), which was just three years ago.

Most importantly:
Off the top of your head, how many deaths can you think of regarding LGBT people? Chances are, you’ll remember the 49 dead from the Orlando shooting just two years ago or the Matthew Shepard story. Now, how many deaths can you think of resulting from someone intentionally lighting themselves on fire for entertainment purposes? I could only think of one worldwide (Linda Farkas in Hungary), none in the U.S., and I know thousands of people who do this.

I tried and could not find a single death of a fire performer or a fire stunt-person in the U.S. There have been deaths from accidental fires in film, TV, and performances, but only one incident from an intentional, professional, fire stunt. To the best of my knowledge, I found only one professional fire performance related incident (four Musical Performers dead from pyrotechnics indoors) in the U.S.

In 2016, 49 people were killed in a single anti-LGBT hate crime. Yet, in 2017, LGBT deaths in the U.S. almost doubled. On average there are more than 1,500 hate crimes against LGBT and over 50 murders of LGBT per year in the U.S.

Personally, I have seen directed at us and received multiple threats of violence and death from people, people wishing me to die, people thanking god we already started burning before going to hell…

In the U.S. it is, by far, more dangerous to be LGBT than it is to be a professional fire performer. Given the 500+ LGBT deaths vs. 0 (zero) fire performers deaths or 4+ professional fire-related deaths of performers in the last decade, there are over 100 times more LGBT deaths in that time frame than performer deaths associated with professional fire stunts.

Personally, I have seen directed at us and received multiple threats of violence and death from people, people wishing me to die, people thanking god we already started burning before going to hell, men telling me I needed to be raped before my wedding so I would have picked a husband instead, many other hateful comments and messages regarding this photo, and can only assume there are many more I haven’t seen or will still receive.

So, there was indeed danger from creating this photo, but not from what you would think. I’m a marketed performer signed with an international talent agency. My name, image, and contact information is already out there. When this story went viral worldwide, I was also publicly exposed as being a lesbian (despite actually being bisexual). Given the comments and threats toward me and my wife, I discovered something through this experience:
I am far more likely to be killed because of marrying another woman than I was from being set on fire.

Let that sink in.

  1. This was beautiful and terrifying and all I want to do is envelop you in a big hug. I'm disgusted and shocked, but not really surprised. And that's terrifying. I am so, so sorry you have experienced this.

    How can I help? As an ally and fierce lover of love, I'm here.

  2. We need to teach our boys about boundaries and consent, that they're not owed a woman, and that sex is a privilege, not a right. I'm sure a lot of the hate came from other women, but it's all rooted in toxic masculinity. That's just my take, though.

    And well done, your wedding was beautiful 🙂

  3. What a sobering but necessary point. I don't think I'll ever forget this. (And it reminds me to be cautious with my info when I maje a love post.)

    I wish you and your wife many happy years of fire art and love.

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