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UNDER MY SKIN – TRANSGENDER PROJECT

The Transgender Project is a multimedia experience that specifically aims to share the stories of transgender and gender-diverse youth through still and moving pictures.

Gender identity, often mistaken for a person’s assigned sex, is one of the most emerging developmental struggles in today’s youth. The concept of choosing ones own gender identity has been historically rejected within society, as the United States has adopted a predominantly heteronormative culture, which emphasizes the importance of body genitalia and traditional gender norms. Children who feel like they don’t belong in their own bodies are confused, frustrated, and constantly misunderstood by the world that surrounds them.

“Transgender” is a gender identity umbrella term for any individual who does not identify with their assigned sex at birth. While transgender does refer to people who transition from male to female or female to male, it also includes individuals who do not identify as solely male or female. The term “transgender” was coined in 1965 during the sexual revolution, when the United States started to become more observant and subsequently more tolerant of untraditional relationships and identities. However trans people existed long before the sexual revolution. Since the beginning of time, individuals have struggled with who they are, who they want to be, and how they want the world to see them; trans children are no different.

Of the children who have already been photographed and interviewed, each one conveyed a similar version of the same idea: they are all people. This project aims to center that idea by looking at the real, lived experiences of trans children. While many creative pieces today tend to focus on the trauma of such experiences, this project breaks that narrative by presenting the participants as they want to be seen. The focus of this piece is the children, their stories, and what they want to share with the world; it is not catered to any specific audience nor tailored to fit a common perception. The project is raw, pure, and full of emotions ranging from joy to anger and confusion to clarity. It captures the full journey, both good and bad, of real children exploring their bodies, their identities, and their place in the world.

With the support of Aude Henin, children’s cognitive behavioral psychiatrist and mother to a 13-year-old trans girl, I am giving space to a community of children who deserve to share their experiences with the world. Each child’s journey is unique, and that is the point that I will emphasize throughout this project. While this project is an expression of the transgender community and the common threads that individuals experience throughout their journeys, it is not meant to be nor can it be a generalization of the entire community. It is not possible to make a statement about the community without including every trans child in the United States, some of whom are still exploring their own identities. This project is meant to allow a group of children to show that they are not solely defined by their gender identities; it is meant to express a range of experiences, many of which include but are not limited to being trans.

There is an inherent duality in photographing and filming trans children that I must acknowledge. My main goal is to provide a safe space for children to tell their stories without exploiting these stories and catering them to my own artistic vision. With the help of the New York Historical Society and various LGBTQ+ groups around New York City, I aim to share these stories on a larger level. My hope is that this project not only gives space to a typically marginalized community but also encourages other transgender children to speak out about their unique, equally important experiences.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY KAREN HABERBERG PHOTOGRAPHY

PRODUCED BY EMMY AWARD WINNING TEAM, MOVING PICTURES.

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Karen Haberberg