TRANSPARENT: A PORTRAIT SERIES

As seen in: Kenneth Cole, The Huffington Post, Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire Hungary

Having friends and colleagues who are transgender, transgender rights have always been important to me but especially today as they remain under continual attack. I shot this series as a way to highlight and celebrate the diversity within this community and help spread understanding by getting more trans voices and stories out into the world. I hope you’ll take the time to listen.

GARNET, 21, SALES MANAGER

I'm from San Antonio, Texas and I moved to Manhattan when I was 19 to chase my dreams. I struggled for a while, but now I’m doing quite well for myself—I’m an area sales manager for a salon brand.

Unfortunately, being a transgender individual still carries a stigma in society. I've encountered so many situations where people will not even associate with me, simply because I am transgender. I’ve been insulted on the street, almost escorted out of a nightclub by security and given more dirty looks than I can count—all for being who I am. 

I need people to know that the transgender community is not what you see in the media.

We are not prostitutes or drug addicts or punchlines. We're not fetishized jokes. We’re human beings, struggling to be recognized, to find happiness.

Like you, I'm a human being. I suffer from social anxiety, depression, loneliness and fear. But I strive to be the best person I can possibly be. And I treat everyone exactly as I wish they would treat me.

 

JES, COMEDIAN

FOX, 16, STUDENT

EMMETT, 33, WRITER AND FILMMAKER

I grew up in Wisconsin, spending my formative years in a small suburb of Milwaukee. When it came time for college, my heart was set on New York. 

The only school I applied to was NYU—and luckily, I was accepted. I studied Film and TV production, with a minor in Philosophy. If this doesn't sum up my personality in full, I don't know what does! Now, I'm a writer and a filmmaker and creator of the show "Brothers," the first narrative series anywhere to feature the stories of and to cast transgender male actors.

Being transgender has its challenges. I've taken on a lot of debt in order to have medically necessary surgeries that were not covered—or only partially covered—by insurance, some of which I'm still paying off. I've had to educate my doctors. Going in to see a dermatologist is not the time I'd like to explain how and who I date as a trans person.

Only recently, through talk therapy, have I realized the extent of the emotional trauma around my trans identity. I was diagnosed with PTSD some years ago, but never took on that label or dealt with how that manifested for me.

As much as I have times when I'd like my life to be "easy," I wouldn't trade being transgender for anything. I feel like I'm one of the lucky ones: I've gotten to see the world in a way that most people never dream of. I know what it's like to be perceived both as male and as female in our society— and that gives me incredible insight.

Being transgender seems like such a foreign concept to people who think they've never met a trans person. Shocker: you probably have! Trans people are some of the strongest and most beautiful people.

Take the time to let down your walls—you might be surprised what you find.

“As human beings, we all experience various transitions in our lives. But because ours are partly physical, and transcend what most people know to be true, it's harder for others to comprehend.” —EMMETT

MEI-LING, 30, MODEL

DOMINIQUE, 30, MODEL

Rachel, 37, FORMER PRO DART CHAMPION AND MOM

Even when I was extremely young, I knew. I remember wishing there was a magic machine that would just turn me from a boy into a girl.

Due to lack of information and education, I had mislabeled myself. I’d masked the gravity of my gender dysphoria as a fetish or a kink. I’d built a great life as a man: I had the job, the relationships, the family. Everything you would want to be happy, but I wasn’t. I was pretending to be someone else.

Then, three and a half years ago, I went to a trans night. I’d been to others before, frequented mainly by older men in drag; it was something they did for fun. But this was different. The women here were women 24/7, they didn’t go back home and change afterwards. And then it hit me: this was so much more than just about dressing in women’s clothing. It was something I always knew but had suppressed. Soon afterwards, I sought out therapy and support groups. 

The first month after that was depressing. I was married, already had one kid, and another on the way. I felt massive amounts of guilt—I was supposed to be their father. 

And I am. But I am also a woman. I am a woman, I am a trans woman, I am their biological father. I am who I am. 

If there’s one thing I want people to know about me, it’s that I’m just a normal girl. I like movies, I like shoes. My kids are the most important thing in my life. I have the same needs, the same fears and insecurities as you do. 

While being trans can escalate those fears, at the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We all want happiness, we all want love.

QUINTESSA, 20, HUMAN RIGHTS STUDENT

BRIT, 24, WRITER AND DIRECTOR

I grew up on the Southside of Chicago in a neighborhood called Roseland. I currently work in the production department at an advertising agency, but I'm also a writer and director.

I want people know that my story is my own and doesn't equate to an entire community's. We're an incredibly diverse community. There's no one "type" of trans person. Like everything else in this world, we exist on a spectrum. Being trans is not all of who I am—it's just a small, awesome part about me. 

Sadly, being trans still carries a stigma. As long as trans folks don't have equal access in this world, then being trans still carries a stigma. As long as we have trans women and femmes of color murdered every other week, as long as trans people can't find work, as long as trans people don't have access to affordable health care or even bathrooms, then being trans still carries a stigma. It's getting better, but we've been saying that for a while.

I’m excited to get to a place where being trans is just as normal as having dark hair. 

DAVEENA, ACTRESS

WILL, 34, ACTOR

I grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania in a small town called Mt. Cobb. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a neighborhood surrounded by trees, dirt roads and a lake within walking distance. Summers at the family dock remain some of my fondest memories. 

I now live in Scranton, which is a 15-minute drive from where I grew up. I’m a print production manager by day, but I’m also an actor.

Being transgender, I’ve faced challenges in my life: inappropriate questions being asked, uncomfortable situations with doctors. Public bathrooms can also be an issue. When a stall is not available or doesn’t have a working lock, it can lead to an anxiety-inducing situation.

All that said, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.

I primarily contribute that to how comfortable and confident I feel in my skin, as I continue to grow closer to the person I’ve been striving to be all these years.  

It's also the feeling of being part of a community that is vulnerable, strong, resilient and absolutely beautiful.

Now, at 34 years old, I am finally learning how to love myself.

We still need to do better as a society. When there are multiple murders of trans women of color this year, it means we really need to do better as a society.

Everybody deserves love, respect, acceptance and happiness.