Karine Jean-Pierre
Subscribe To
The Advocate
Scroll To Top

PHOTOS: Transgender Elders Show Us the Meaning of Survival

In the many years that Jess T. Dugan, a Boston-based trans photographer, has spent capturing images of gender-variant people, she says she's consistently noticed a striking absence in both art and social sciences: imagery of older trans folks.

"And," Dugan explains further on her website, "those [representations] that do exist are often one-dimensional." So Dugan set out to fill this gap, teaming up with social work researcher Vanessa Fabbre since fall 2013 to develop the evocative photo project, "To Survive on This Shore." In the recently released collection, diverse trans elders ages 50 to 86 are pictured at home or in meaningful spaces, gazing unapologetically into the camera, as if asking the viewer to look deeper into their unique context and life story.

Thankfully, Dugan and Fabbre have done just that, adding fascinating interviews that provide historical context and give insight into how age, class, race, gender, occupation, location, and other aspects of identity interweave within an individual's lived experiences, as well as show that gender transition has no age limits.

As Grace, a 56-year-old trans woman from Boston, recounts, "I still see myself as on a journey. When I received an award a few years ago at a conference I said, 'In the '60s they called me a sissy. In the '70s they called me a faggot. In the '80s I was a queen, or they called me a queen. In the '90s I was transgender. In the 2000s I was a woman, and now I'm just Grace.'"

Check out a selection of images from the project below, and for more from Dugan look for her upcoming photography book Every Breath We Drew.

Photo Credit: Jess T. Dugan

Trans Elders01 0
Alexis, 64, Chicago

Trans Elders02 0
Ben, 64, Northampton, Mass.

Trans Elders03 0
Bobbi, 83, Detroit

Trans Elders04 0
Charley, 53, Richmond, Va.

Trans Elders05 0
Chris, 52, Boston

Trans Elders06 0
Connor, 61, San Diego

Trans Elders07 0
David, 63, Hull, Mass.

Trans Elders08 0
Ellen, 60, and Meredith, 63, San Diego

Trans Elders09 0
Grace, 56, Boston

Trans Elders10 0
Helena, 63, Chicago

Trans Elders11 0
Louis, 54, Springfield, Mass.

Trans Elders12 0
Michelle-Marie, 62, Williamsburg, Va.

Trans Elders13 0
Mickey, 60, Chicago

Trans Elders14 0
Rachel, 86, St. Louis

Trans Elders15 0
Raine, 50, Bellingham, Wash.

Trans Elders16 0
Reid, 59, Portland, Ore.

Trans Elders17 0
Renee, 68, Chicago


Trans Elders19 0
Tasha, 65, Birmingham, Ala.

Trans Elders20 0
Tony, 67, San Diego

From our Sponsors

    Watch Now: Advocate Channel
    Trending Stories & News

    For more news and videos on advocatechannel.com, click here.