Want to Know What Love Is?

Photo series shows what “Love Means…” for adults with Down syndrome

March 25, 2022


While anyone who differs from the conventional or dominant culture’s understanding of what love is can face discrimination, oppression or worse, in general, there has been an increased appreciation, understanding and media portrayals of love across lines such as neurodiversity, gender identity and expression, sexuality, and culture, yet the Down syndrome community has largely been excluded from the conversation.

The Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) in their continuing efforts to dispel misconceptions and lack of understanding about the lives of people with Down syndrome has launched an awareness initiative that shows depictions of love be it, platonic, romantic, same-sex, and between people with Down syndrome and others, by the Canadian photographer Hilary Gauld of One For The Wall to create the photo series “Love Means…”

Featuring nine different “love stories,” the series has a tenderness and respectfulness that is indicative of Gauld having spent eight years photographing children and adults with Down syndrome. “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,” Gauld says. “These are just some stories and visuals of how love, both platonic and romantic, can exist, but are not the same for everyone—because no community is a monolith.”

Each photo is accompanied by interpretations of what love means to them, in their own words, here are some examples:

“Everybody needs someone to love and have a warm hug. It’s the best feeling in the world.”— Paige, 25;

“I feel love like singing in shower.” — Beth, 41

“Love means to me respect and cherish.” — Tatem, 30

Love means someone that understands you and loves for who you are. And be there for you.” — Matt, 30

“Love means to me that love comes in different forms and love is love.” — Krystal, 32

“Our campaigns are always aimed at spreading awareness about Down syndrome,” said Laura LaChance, Executive Director with CDSS. “They also help support solutions for issues that individuals with Down syndrome face. 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.”

“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,” adds Margot Langis, whose daughter Ren is one of the people photographed for the campaign. “Love is a human need, and it does not discriminate.”


About the Canadian Down Syndrome Society:

Founded in 1987, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) is the national source of expertise promoting the abilities and contributions of people with Down syndrome. CDSS provides reliable information and connections to people with Down syndrome and those who support them, while positively shaping the social and policy contexts in which they live. Visit http://www.cdss.ca/ for more information about CDSS.


Project: Love Means...
Client: Canadian Down Syndrome Society
Executive Director: Laura LaChance
Marketing & Communications Manager: Kristen Halpen
Photographer: Hilary Gauld, One For The Wall
Photo Retoucher: Mandy Blake
Video producer and director: Scott Drucker
PR: Shannon Stephaniuk, Glossy

“Love Means…” features:

Paige & Tyler

Ages: Paige 25, Tyler 23

Relationship Status: Dating

Length of Relationship: 8 Years

After first meeting at soccer, Paige & Tyler also ended up going to the same high school together. As a couple, some of their favourite things to do are playing hockey together, golfing and kissing in her room. They dream of getting married and moving into a house or apartment together.


Jessica & Matt

Ages: Jessica 23, Matt 30

Relationship Status: Best Friends

Jessica and Matt met while performing in a drama company. After they had acted in a few scenes together, the coach introduced Matt to Jessica. They became fast friends, and they love going to the movies and dinners together.  They are each other’s best friend and think of each other like siblings.


Krystal & Tammy

Ages: Tammy 29, Krystal 32

Relationship Status: Dating

Length of Relationship: 9 months

In June 2019, they met at the Showtime Comedy and Entertainment while helping a mutual friend at a book release concert. Krystal performed an acting/comedy skit with her social worker, while Tammy was singing. They noticed each other, but didn’t have much of a chance to get to know each other. They reconnected 3 months later, first becoming friends until Krystal expressed her feelings to Tammy and they began dating.



Age: 27

Relationship Status: Single

Identifies as queer

Ren is a recently single queer woman who felt fireworks with her previous partner, but they had different goals for their lives and decided to part ways. When she finds a new partner, she hopes to get married and have 5 kids, and to live together in an apartment.  She also looks forward to having her own car and a job.


Tatem & Michael

Ages: Tatem 30, Michael 32

Relationship Status: Engaged

Length of Relationship: 9 years

After being on the same team for a Motionball fundraising event in 2013, sparks flew. This engaged couple looks forward to buying a big house, getting married, and having kids together someday. They missed seeing each other on a regular basis during covid, but daily messages and video chats helped them stay close while staying safe.  As restrictions lift, Tatem is excited to watch Michael play hockey again soon.


Kirk & Beth

Ages: Beth 41, Kirk 44

Relationship Status: Dating

Length of Relationship: 12 years

Kirk and Beth met at WALES (Working Adults Learning Empowering Skills), enjoying Thursday lunches together at William’s Café as friends, until 12 years ago on Valentine’s Day, Beth asked Kirk out.  Now they have dates at home (which were made difficult by covid) and enjoy doing puzzles, word searches, playing Skip Bo and going out for lunch together. One of their favourite memories is slow dancing together at a big dance.


Greg & Brie

Ages: Greg 28, Brie 30

Relationship Status: Engaged

Length of Relationship: 5.5 years

After meeting at the school where they work together, Greg & Brie have grown their relationship.  The couple, who got engaged this past September, are excited to get married and live together.  They really enjoy watching movies, especially comedies, and cuddling on the couch. They look forward to the pandemic being over so they can once again hang out wikth their friends on Fridays.



Age: 23

Relationship Status: Single

As a single woman, Naomi loves spending her time with friends, watching movies, and doing sports like rhythmic gymnastics, swimming and downhill skiing. She dreams of being in fashion or a model and a celebrity. Naomi would love to meet someone with Down syndrome who has no freckles, is taller than her brother (6'3"), dresses more modern than her dad, and is a little silly. When she does meet a partner, she looks forward to getting married and going to Paris with him.



Age: 21

Relationship Status: Single

Ryan’s hobbies include dancing, DJ-ing, and learning new things. He loves socializing with peers, and always looks forward to weekend outings with his social group. Ryan has a crush on a school friend and has made a lot of wonderful memories with her, including going to the Special Olympics and a dance together.  In the future, Ryan would love to be married.