I began working on the Beyond Binary project in early 2017 when I was just starting to get comfortable in my own skin and with my own gender identity & felt the need to do something with my art in response to the emerging political situation. I wanted to find & photograph others like me, who identify somewhere outside the rigid gender binary we’re all forced into from before we’re even born. This project was born as both a celebration of our identity and as an act of resistance against forces that try to invalidate our existence.
Expressing your gender publicly when you’re gender nonconforming can be uncomfortable or dangerous. I personally have experienced a lot of frustration because of my inability to present in public the way I feel the most myself. I’ve used my self-portraiture to vent this frustration & express myself, and I wanted to help others that identify outside the binary have a similar experience. My subjects all identify and express their gender differently – the only requirement for this project is that they identify as something outside the gender binary.
Historically we’ve seen photographers who are not part of a specific group (especially marginalized groups) enter into communities and photograph them, then show these images to an audience that is also not primarily composed of members of these groups. This can be problematic for a number of reasons, but one of the things that has always stood out to me about projects like these was the inherent power that these photographers wielded over their subjects. The way that the photographers portray their subjects can show their personal biases & tell the story that the photographer wants to tell, not the story of their subjects.
I wanted to minimize this inherent power dynamic as much as possible. When planning the image, the process is a collaboration between myself & the subjects. The subjects are asked to think about how they would present themselves in an ideal world, and the resulting image is created with that goal in mind. Each image you see is ultimately selected by each subject, to best reflect how they wish to be seen by the world.
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