Queer Representation: Transgender Portraiture
Written by Eridian Falcone
“He looks weird.” My 8 year old nephew tells me as he looks at an image on my laptop of a transgender man from Lorenzo Triburgo’s “Transportraits” series. At this point my response is instinctual, “What makes you say that?”. With a sigh of relief, my nephew tells me that he was only speaking about the model’s tattoos and the vibrant painted backdrop, not objecting to the very existence of transgender man. But most of the time, these reasons aren’t so benign. I remember all of the times I’ve stepped out in public to live my life only to be stared at like some exhibit because I am a transgender woman.
To many, even within my own family, my existence is seen as an anomaly, even though our existence is anything but recent. Throughout history and across several cultures, the acceptance of more than two genders was normal and not a part of some culture war. The actual recent phenomenon is not the acknowledgement of transgender lives, but instead the lashing out against those who are transgender. As a result, the last century has been marked by a pervasive sense of vulnerability and suppression against those who are transgender, and it is by no means over despite what gains have been made.
Even when the response to my identity is not one of anger, there is still the stigma of being seen only as “weird”, as if my identity makes me less than fully human. I believe that the best way to fight against this is through engaging with people in everyday life and making transgender identities and existence present in everyday consciousness, and art is a perfect vehicle for it.
The photos in this article all come from artists who have chosen transgender individuals for their subjects, putting them forth in a way that does not label them as “weird” but instead as human beings. Through their work, these artists help to legitimize and support transgender folx before a public that can now better understand them.