Canadian Down Syndrome Society shows what ‘Love Means’

The non-profit's latest effort to better inform the public is a photography series that aims to dispel misconceptions about romantic relationships.


Social change has driven a shift in public perception about love, away from exclusively cisgender heterosexuality, incorporating different gender identities and expressions, sexuality and culture. But there is one group that is often still left out of the picture: those with Down syndrome.

The Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) is looking to change that with a new photography series shot in partnership with Canadian photographer Hilary Gauld, called “Love Means…”

The series showcases the many different shapes of love within the Down syndrome community – romantic, platonic, same-sex and between those with Down syndrome and others. The goal is to dispel any misconceptions about what love looks like for people with Down syndrome by improving visibility.

Krystal-Tammy 1“The majority of the population perhaps doesn’t see the ‘whole’ life that people with Down syndrome live, with love being a part of that complete life,” says Laura LaChance, executive director of the CDSS. “It’s not something that is widely shown or discussed.”

“There are assumptions too about infantilization, that people with Down syndrome will never grow into adulthood, which is another myth we’re trying to dispel,” she adds.

The series features nine “love stories” involving 15 people with Down syndrome who are in a relationship, ranging from single adults to straight and gay couples.

“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,” says Gauld. “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.”

Created internally, the campaign was executed as an awareness initiative by the CDSS for World Down Syndrome Day on Monday. It rolled out across the CDSS’ social feeds, with some paid social support and media relations, as well as Google grant ads.