Gender Neutrality: Photo Gallery
Photographs by Mariette Pathy Allen, Miguel Candela, Nima Taradji
Transgender people have played critical though disenfranchised roles in culture and society since antiquity. Although revered in religious ceremonies, hijra — India’s transgender community — are often condemned to lives of poverty and prostitution, documented here in photographs by Miguel Candela. The hijra have made political gains — the Indian government now officially recognizes this “third gender” — but achieving equality within the eyes of the law is only among the first steps in effacing decades of insulting stereotypes and intolerance. Over the course of four trips, photographer Mariette Pathy Allen documented the lives of Cuban transgender women who, despite their country’s progressive legislative stand on transgender rights, remain in many ways marginalized. In these images, we see that no matter how developed the country or liberal the culture, the transition process is unimaginably difficult. Nima Taradji’s work heightens our understanding of this journey as we get to know David Murray K., who at the age of 54 began transitioning to life as Delia Marie, and, in doing so, chose to live life authentically and honestly no matter the repercussions.
In a scene re-enacted over 350,000 times each day, parents cradle chubby-cheeked newborns swaddled in powdery pink or robin’s egg blue blankets. Such color-identification is standard in most hospitals — crocheted beanies or ruffled socks distinguishing the arrival of a baby boy or girl. But fast forward a couple of years and the hospital’s characterization will be wrong two to five percent of the time due to the estimated number of individuals who identify as transgender today.
The World Health Organization defines transgender as an “umbrella term for people whose gender identity and expression does not conform to the norms and expectations traditionally associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.” The definition employs two terms, “sex” and “gender,” often and incorrectly used interchangeably.
Traditionally the biological and anatomical characteristics someone exhibits at birth determine sex. Only in the last fifty years have researchers begun to define and study gender — behaviors, roles, expectations, and activities associated with masculinity and femininity. While a person’s sex does not change across the world, what it means to be a woman or a man varies from culture to culture.
While most people conform their gender with their sex (a state referred to as cisgender), transgender — or trans — people deviate from the traditional gender binary in varying ways. Some undergo gender reassignment surgery and hormone replacement therapy, but the desire, or lack thereof, to receive such treatments does not necessarily determine whether someone is transgender. Others cross-dress and go by a different name. No matter the degree to which a person strays from society’s expected norms, they do so in a highly personal effort to live genuine, authentic, and comfortable lives.
It’s important to note that transgender issues are independent of matters of sexual orientation, although there is overlap between and a historical alliance with the lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) community.
“These communities sort of clung together throughout their history,” says Alison Gill, senior legislative council at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). “People viewed them as outsiders. They were criticized together and because of the overlap in community and issues, it’s mutually beneficial for them to be aligned.”
However, because of their overlapping history, people often conflate their definitions as well. Asked what the biggest misconception about transgender people is, several advocates, including those cited in this article, replied that most people think that someone who is transgender is just “really, really gay.”
“People still do not understand that being transgender is about your gender identity not matching the body you’re born with. Your gender identity is your internal sense of yourself as a man or a woman — or perhaps something other than those two choices,” says Nick Adams, director of programs for transgender media at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “Your sexual orientation is who you are attracted to. This can be simplified as sexual orientation is who I want to go to bed with, while gender identity is who I want to go to bed as.”
Differences exist not only in the two groups’ definitions, but in their status in the world today. While the LGB community has made vast gains in acceptance both politically and in the public eyes, the transgender population continues to be misunderstood and marginalized at disproportionately high rates. Although data about transgender people isn’t entirely comprehensive — challenges include a small population size in addition to stigma and discrimination — the available statistics are striking. A nationwide survey found that violence against trans people accounted for 20 percent of all murders and 40 percent of police-initiated violence in the United States between 1985 and 1998. This alarming trend is true to this day. In another survey, conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 55 percent of trans responders lost a job due to bias, another 51 percent suffered harassment or bullying at school, and over half were victims of physical or sexual assault.
“Hate-motivated violence against LGBT people is widespread and brutal, but transgender people shoulder much of the burden” says Gill. “It all comes from a place of misunderstanding and fear which results in structural and systematic inequalities.”
In countries across the globe, personal choices as seemingly inconsequential as the clothes they wear condemn transgender people to lives of discrimination. Some countries criminalize cross-dressing, a practice encroaching on freedom of expression, while others refuse amendments matching gender expression to identity documents — a threat to voting rights.
Deprivation from such basic human rights — not to mention the respect and understanding everyone deserves — sentences transgender people to a multitude of vulnerabilities. Often, trans women and men must enter sex work, with low pay and no legal protection, as their only attainable source of income, increasing their exposure to violence and disease. Transgender people report among the highest rates of substance use, sexual abuse, assault, depression, and suicide.
Such continued attacks fuel advocacy groups’ continued efforts to secure equality for all, regardless of gender expression. Their progress is undeniable. Nepal, in 2007, ended the barring of teshro linki (third gender) individuals from access to basic citizenship rights and de-criminalized cross-dressing. Several countries have followed suit also establishing official “third gender” status. In the last four years, another 14 countries have instilled or bolstered hate crime laws.
Activists agree exposure is key to securing equal rights. While nine out of ten Americans personally know someone lesbian, gay, or bisexual, in 2015 only 22 percent personally knew someone who identifies as transgender and those who do are much more likely to support equality legislation.
“The vast majority of Americans, everything they know about transgender people, they are learning from the media,” says Adams. As transgender celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox publicize their stories, they build awareness around transgender issues, educating and encouraging acceptance within the public.
“As trans people use media to tell their own stories, in their own words, even people who think they don’t personally know someone who’s transgender will hopefully begin to see that we need to make the world a safer place for trans people to be their authentic selves,” Adams continued.
“We’re parents, we have friends and jobs,” says Gill. “People need to see that we’re just human.”
ZEKE is published by Social Documentary Network (SDN), an organization promoting visual storytelling about global themes. Started as a website in 2008, today SDN works with nearly a thousand photographers around the world to tell important stories through the visual medium of photography and multimedia. Since 2008, SDN has featured more than 2,000 exhibits on its website and has had gallery exhibitions in major cities around the world. All the work featured in ZEKE first appeared on the SDN website, www.socialdocumentary.net.
Fall 2015 Vol. 1/No. 2
Executive Editor: Glenn Ruga
Writer: Paula Sokolska
Copy Editor: Barbara Ayotte
Social Documentary Network Advisory Committee
Barbara Ayotte, Medford, MA
Director of Strategic Communications
Management Sciences for Health
Kristen Bernard, Salem, MA
Marketing Web Director
EBSCO Information Services
Lori Grinker, New York, NY
Independent Photographer and Educator
Steve Horn, Lopez Island, WA
Ed Kashi, Montclair, NJ
Member of VII photo agency
Photographer, Filmmaker, Educator
Reza, Paris, France
Photographer and Humanist
Jeffrey D. Smith, New York NY
Contact Press Images
Steve Walker, New York, NY
Consultant and educator
Frank Ward, Williamsburg, MA
Photographer and Educator
Jamie Wellford, Brooklyn, NY
Photo Editor, Curator
ZEKE is published twice a year by Social Documentary Network
Copyright © 2015
Social Documentary Network
Print ISSN 2381-1390
Digital ISSN: Forthcoming
ZEKE does not accept unsolicited submissions. To be considered for publication in ZEKE, submit your work to the SDN website either as a standard exhibit or a submission to a Call for Entries. Contributing photographers can choose to pay a fee for their work to be exhibted on SDN for a year or they can choose a free trial. Free trials have the same opportunity to be published in ZEKE as paid exhibits.
Cover photo: Yusuke Suzuki from Faces of the Free Syrian Army on SDN.
Photographers and writers featured in this issue of ZEKE Magazine. Whenever possible we have linked to their SDN profile page which has contact information and links to their other exhibits on SDN.
Maryam Ashrafi is an Iranian-born photojournalist, living in Paris. She received her BA in social documentary photography from the University of Wales Newport. Since graduating, she has focused on photographing global, social, and political issues, particularly concerning women.
Miguel Candela specializing in the human drama of life, is restless in his intentions to satisfy his personal requirements in capturing still images, the color and reactions of people, places & events. Hi shows the public in images, the diversity of humanity from their way of life, practices, homes, beliefs, traditions, relations, costumes, and reactions to issues or general situations of the time.
To be a photographer helped him to perceive the world not as how it is but the way it is lived, without boundaries, to enable him to comprehend his surroundings, to respect other cultures and their ways of thinking. Photography opened him into new horizons and value the present as a historical event. He sees his works as an affirmation that “every person has his or her individual unique history, every individual has an intriguing story to tell.”
Candela has travelled extensively and spent extended periods in various countries in order to photo-document the people, their community, and their way of life in Mali, Nepal, Kenya, the Philippines, Bangladesh and across China, and in his current base of operations in Hong Kong.
Caterina Clerici is an Italian freelance multimedia journalist, currently based in NY. A Columbia Journalism School alumna, she has regularly contributed to many international publications, including The Guardian US, Repubblica and La Stampa. She currently also works as a freelance photo editor at TIME.
Albertina d’Urso has dedicated years to social and humanitarian reportages. Her works were rewarded in several award such as Canon Young Photographers Award, Lens Culture International Exposure Award, Julia Margaret Cameron Award, and Lucie Awards. She has exhibited internationally including in Insa Art Center in Seoul, 291 Gallery in San Francisco, Speos Gallery in Paris, VII Gallery in New York, MIA- Milan Image Art Fair, Festival Fotografico Italiano, New York Photo Festival, Angkor Photo Festival, Forma Centro Internazionale di Fotografia in Milano. She published the book TI MOUN YO, Children of Haiti, Contrasto, that was voted Documentary Book of the Year at the International photography Awards. Her work is regularly featured in magazines such as Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, Panorama, L’Espresso, Foto8, IL, Vision, Burn...
Nish Nalbandian’s focus is editorial photography with an eye for the humanity in the subject. Hi work is suitable for a range of editorial, NGO, and documentary outlets.
He has photographed in more than 35 countries worldwide, in a wide variety of environments and situations from wars to sporting events, from back alleys to luxury resorts, and from cities to remote deserts. He is skilled at gaining access to people and areas to photograph the story. Hi is well-versed in providing imagery in a timely and dependable fashion from even the most remote locations. He is fully trained, insured, and equipped to work around the world in a wide range of conditions.
His editorial work has appeared in such diverse outlets as the Human Rights Watch World Report, The Los Angeles Times, The Denver Post, National Geographic Traveler, Le Journal de Quebec, Le Journal de Montreal, The Oslo Times, The Stratford Beacon Herald, The Calgary Sun, The Toronto Sun, WorldMag, Kickstand Magazine, Review of Religions, New Scientist, and Vocativ.com. His archive is currently syndicated by Redux Pictures, and he contributes work to Redux, Polaris, and Agence QMI.
My commercial clients have included Western Digital, Otterbox, Arai Helmets, Come Sit Stay Pet Resort, Good Biker, Fresh Agenda, and Luxlow Cycles. My fine art work is represented by Out of the Blue, and Borealis Press, and syndicated throughout the world via such outlets as World Art Group.
Mariette Pathy Allen
Mariette Pathy Allen has been photographing the transgender community for over 35 years. Through her artistic practice, she has been a pioneering force in gender consciousness, contributing to numerous cultural and academic publications about gender variance and lecturing throughout the globe. Her first book Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them was groundbreaking in its investigation of a misunderstood community. Her second book The Gender Frontier is a collection of photographs, interviews, and essays covering political activism, youth, and the range of people that identify as transgender in mainland USA. It won the 2004 Lambda Literary Award in the Transgender/Genderqueer category. She received the Pioneer Award at Fantasia Fair in 2014.
Daylight books published Mariette’s new book, TransCuba, in April, 2014. This book is bilingual, containing several essays, interviews, and 70 color photographs. Photographs from the book are in a solo exhibition in Havana, and will travel around Cuba.
Mariette’s life’s work is being archived by Duke University’s Rare Book and Manuscripts Library, and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s Studies. In addition to her work with gender, Mariette’s background as a painter frequently leads her to photographic investigations of color, space, and cultural juxtapositions such as east/west, old/new, handmade/manufactured.
Paula Sokolska is a freelance journalist in the Boston area and the managing editor of MedTech Boston, an online startup publication covering the nexus of health and innovation. She has a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University where she specialized in science and narrative writing.
She has written for BU Today, BU News Service, Zeke: The Magazine of Global Awareness, and Spotted by Locals.
USK, also known as Yusuke Suzuki is a New York- based freelance photographer, originally born and raised in Chiba, Japan.
He studied the guitar when he was in Japan, but once he went to the Philippines on his summer break with his friends and witnessed the tragic situation of the lifestyle there, he started to reassess his own life.
In 2006, he set off to Afghanistan to see what was going on in that side of the world. During his first stay, he met photographers and journalists that ended up changing his life. As he witnessed their photographs, he was so staggered that he bought his first camera as soon as he returned from his trip. Later on, he would return to Afghanistan twice more to take photographs.
He realized that photography has the power to make change, so he decided to study Journalism more seriously, and to move to the United States. He made the change of switching what he holds in his hands from a guitar to a camera.
He studied photography at New England School of Photography and has expertise in documentary, visual journalism, sports photography, live concerts, and any kind of events.
His works have been published on CNN, The Washington Post, Reuters, Al Jazeera, NHK(Japan), Internazionale(Italy), Haaretz(Israel), Toronto Sun(Canada), Estadao(Brazil), Rianovosti(Russia), Hindustan Times(India), Metro Boston, Tu Boston, Salem Radio Network News, The province.com and El Planeta.
Tom Szustek was born and raised in Poland and graduated from Jagiellonian University, Krakow. He moved to Ireland in 2003 and resides currently in Dublin.
Szustek regularly freelances for Polish community weekly newspapers in Ireland “Kurier Polski” and associated websites and he is committed to the documentary projects in Ireland and North Africa.
His photographs, which cover wide range of subjects — news, documentary, daily life, social issues — appeared in magazines and newspapers across Europe. He is co-founder of photojournalism agency Uspecto Images.
Nima Taradji is an editorial portrait and documentary photographer based in Chicago, Illinois.
He was born in Iran, grew up in France, and then moved to the United States where he attended college in Texas and then moved to Los Angeles and now reside in Chicago.
He is a co-founder & member of Core Images — a socially conscious photographic agency with a strong desire to inform and raise awareness of events that shape our global community and affect our lives.
He is currently working on several long term documentary projects in Chicago concerning subjects he finds to be important.