Initially, I intended to communicate the positives regarding being openly trans, however, upon interviewing my first subject, I discovered a tapestry of pain, and discrimination. This redefined how I moved forward.
To learn about each other is to share our stories.
Story telling is a powerful influencer in shaping our ideas about the world around us. The lack of positive trans messaging in media, has negatively impacted the trans community, by creating a one-dimensional stereotype.
In a study* of film and TV shows, transgender characters were cast as the victim 40% of the time, and as a killer, or villain, 21% of the time. The most common profession were as sex workers, which was 20% of the time. Additionally, anti-trans dialogue was present 61% of the time.
Each image was taken in a meaningful place to them.
You can read their stories, in their own words, below.
SHE / HER
"In 2017 I came to the big realisation that I'm stuck in the life, role, and body of someone who doesn't quite match who I am.
Being open to the possibility that the LGBTQ+ community is populated by decent people was new to me, because of the evangelical propaganda that I'd been fed for the last 20 years prior to transitioning.
The pastor of my church saw a picture I posted after attending a pride parade. His bottom line was that if I support this, then I’m not a Christian. That became, over time, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
My favourite analogy of transitioning is the difference between watching a TV program on mute, versus actually being the person in the scene."
SHE / HER
"As a real young kid I just imagined that eventually someone would cast a spell or something and then I'd be a girl. I lived my life sad and angry that I had to be a boy. Ironically I was constantly told by everyone around me that I was a girl; They'd be like “you fucking girl”, "little bitch", "faggot" (because under heteronormativity, being queer is to be a "failure" at your assigned gender), they'd push me around and tease me.
The first few years after I came out were incredibly difficult. You lose a lot of people. I think arguments were had behind my back and then people just silently unfriended me. Then, entering the queer community, everyone's got their own baggage- no patience, time or support. I was alone for so many moments you'd never want anyone to be alone for.
Transitioning can be crushing in its own way, but being miserable as a woman is acceptable to me in a way that being miserable pretending to be a man just isn’t. I've even been happy, for the first time in my life. Things are better now. I know who my friends are. I'm much closer to the family that still love and support me. I'm able to imagine and work towards a better future for myself."
SHE / HER / THEY / THEM
"If someone asks me, how can you be a tomboy or a butch trans woman? Isn't that a contradiction?
Beyond obvious biological differences, anything that a cis woman is allowed to do a trans women is allowed to do. Whatever makes you feel most comfortable is what's most important.
As I'm figuring out my own identity in regard to gender, I've watched the world grapple with the same thing where trans people have gone from hated by the majority of people to now, I would say a slight majority for acceptance rather than hatred.
Just like with every other civil rights movement in history, once it pushes past that barrier, it can't be stopped."
SHE / HER
"I queried my gender experience at age four, It didn't really take me anywhere. I sort of put it out of my mind and didn't recall it again for another 50 years.
During primary school, looking back, I'm pretty sure I was starting to become aware but I didn't have the vocabulary to be able to express it or even understand it myself.
At 14, I tried talking about it to my best friend and his reaction was so negative, I sort of figured, this isn't gonna work. There were no positive role models available to me.
Years later I lost weight. I stopped smoking. And I was exercising regularly. I looked at myself in the mirror. And I said, you know you've added about 10 years to your life expectancy. And the thought of living that extra 10 years as a man was so devastating that it just threw me into this downward spiral. I reached a point where I knew that I had to transition."
SHE / HER
"At 23 I came out as a gay man to my pastor, that was met with the laying on of hands and deliverance from demons.
I moved to Waimate and had three different pastors having a go at setting me free from demons. At this point, I was as a man, a gay man, I also had asperges and dissociative identity disorder, which to them were all demons, literal demons living inside my body. So that scared the hell out of me.
A speaker called Sy Rogers came to New Zealand, he claimed he’d been set free from being transgender. It was the first time I had even heard of being transgender. I knew about drag queens, I knew about cross dresses. Yeah, I didn't honestly know that being transgender existed.
Once I realised this was who I was, It was amazing like being on a high. I would go to dressmart and buy clothes and hide them in the cupboard and dress up when there was nobody in the house. It was fun experimenting, but it was also a secret at the same time.
These days I’m helping people who have had similar experiences by being able to relate to them. That's why I work as a counsellor for outline. I kind of think, if only I had had someone like me now to talk to when I was younger, and figuring it out."
* GLAAD PUBLICATIONS victims or villains. 2012
DISCLOSURE eye-opening look at transgender depictions in film and television. 2020
Womens Work Exhibition opening night 2021 at the Ellen Melville Centre, Auckland