Visible Bodies: Transgender Narratives Retold is a photography series that highlights transgender and genderqueer individuals. Through captions written by participants and close collaboration between the subject and photographer, the pieces in the exhibit allow transgender people to express what their gender means to them. Visible Bodies is part of a fledgling movement of transgender people telling their own stories, in contrast to the biased and overly simple stories often told about them in mainstream media.
The exhibit premiered at the San Diego LGBT Pride office on May 11, drawing more than 200 people. In addition to its 30-day gallery run, Visible Bodies hosted educational panels and partial showings at the Transgender Day of Empowerment, Women’s Fest, the University of California San Diego, and the San Diego Pride Festival.
“At every Visible Bodies event, I hear nuanced conversations about gender and trans issues,” producer Scott Duane said in a news release. “This is exactly what we wanted to accomplish with this project.”
“People with a wide variety of genders, abilities, cultural background, and ages are telling their stories,” added co-producer Liat Wexler. “That’s the real power of this project — the fact that there isn’t just one voice, but many.”
Photographer Wolfgang is an ally to the trans community. “I learned so much about this community and about myself during this project," he said. "I look forward to continuing to be involved with Visible Bodies and other work along these lines.”
Producers Duane and Wexler are currently working on a digitized version of the project, as well as exploring additional gallery venues throughout southern California. Plans are in the works for a Visible Bodies: Portland and Visible Bodies: Minneapolis within the next year.
For more information on Visible Bodies, visit the project’s Facebook page. See more from the exhibit on the following pages.
Like so many transgender people, I knew from a very early age that there was something very wrong with me. I began to realize that being born a girl would have suited me better. Growing up in the early '60s, well before the dawn of the Internet and the information age, there were few, if any, options for a young boy who believed he was not supposed to be born that way. So I made the best of it. I joined the Boy Scouts, played baseball, dated girls, got married, and had kids because that was what males were supposed to do. But I felt disenfranchised with myself and I continued to battle conflicts between orientation and identity. I sought psychological counseling and took anti-depressants for 35 years.
I looked in the mirror every day and wondered who that person staring back at me really was until a very dear friend asked me to do something special for her on her birthday. She saw in me what I was looking for — she purchased a dress, bra, panties, a pair of boots, and a wig. Much to my surprise, she asked me to put them on. She didn’t allow me to look at myself in the mirror until she finished putting on my make-up. I was extremely uncomfortable and felt awkward until she allowed me to turn around and face myself. For the first time in my life, I recognized the person in the reflection. I liked what I saw and suddenly realized that I could never be who I was before ever again. I was a woman, and from that day forward, I knew who I truly was. I began the slow and painful process of accepting the challenges and heartbreak that can accompany transition, but doing so has made me feel complete. I am happy.
Ali Renee, age 58
Assigned Sex: male
Gender Identity: transwoman