Portraits of Transgender People Tell a Different Story

Reblogged from LGBT Weekly (click the link to see some of the photos)

By Andrew Printer

San Diego will help rewrite the way stories about transgender people are told thanks to Visible Bodies an exciting exhibit of more than 30 portraits of people in the local transgender community.

Visible Bodies, a photography series highlighting transgender and genderqueer individuals will be exhibited the entire month of May at Art of Pride in North Park. Through captions written by participants and a close collaboration between subject and photographer, the photographs on display in this exhibition empower transgender people, giving them the space to express what their gender means to them. The exhibit is part of a fledgling movement of transgender people telling their own stories, in contrast to the biased and overly simple narratives told about them in the media.

Started as a legacy project by Ph.D. candidate Scott Duane to document and empower transgender students at the University of California San Diego, Visible Bodies quickly grew to encompass the larger transgender community. “San Diego trans people are excited to see accurate, positive representations of themselves in this project,” says Duane. “The response has been so overwhelming; we’ve actually had to turn down several potential participants. On the other side of the coin, non-trans people find Visible Bodies educational and enlightening.”

Historically, and still today, the narratives of transgender people have been written by people who are not themselves trans. In mainstream media, trans people are almost always characterized as one-dimensional. The focus of these stories is narrow, typically only discussing the trans person’s tragic childhood and the events leading up to their transition.

Sensationalizing gender-confirming surgery and hormone therapy, using incorrect gender pronouns, emphasizing before-and-after pictures, birth names and genitalia are all common media practices. A less reductive and more nuanced narrative showing trans people as people with careers, partners, children, hobbies and interests outside of their own gender identities and transitions are rare.

Additionally, there is almost no mainstream media coverage of gender-variant and genderqueer people. According to Liat Wexler, founder of Genderqueer San Diego, “Virtually no mainstream media discusses people whose genders are fluid, are genderqueer and do not fall in one of the two recognized binary genders (man or woman), or those who have no gender (neutrois or agender.)” One of the unique aspects of Visible Bodies is its broad representation of gender expressions and identities.

All are welcome to the artist reception Saturday, May 11 6:30-8:30 p.m. Art of Pride is a curated gallery in the San Diego LGBT Pride building located at 3620 30th Street.

This project sounds really cool, but my primary reason for reposting this is the commentary on the mainstream media’s portrayal of trans* people and how important it is for us to tell our own stories. Awesome, concise and spot on!


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