There is a transgender community in San Diego, and they have more to say for themselves than what has been said about them.
“Visible Bodies,” an art project that features more than 30 portraits of members of the transgender community in San Diego and accompanied by captions written by the participants themselves, will be on display the entire month of May at Art of Pride in North Park.
The project is designed to empower the people who have taken part in it while creating a new way to discuss transgender people.
“What I love about this project is that it creates a more nuanced conversation about transgender people than we’re used to seeing,” said Scott Duane, creator of the project.
Although “Visible Bodies” does a good job of exploring members of the trans community’s lives, there is more than just what is displayed in the exhibit.
“Every person who participated in this project are just the tip of the iceberg. The diversity within the trans community goes far beyond what is depicted here,” said Claire Russell, a trans woman who participated in the project.
Duane express that he welcomed the diversity of all the participants and wished that he had the ability to include more.
“People use many different words for themselves and speak with many different voices. The issues addressed in the photos and writing of the participants are complex, and that’s okay. Too often, issues of gender identity are oversimplified,” Duane explained.
Duane expressed that he was pleased with the results of the project, expressing that although he couldn’t include as many people as he would have liked, the collection of portraits and narratives that are included represented a wide variety of people from the trans community in San Diego.
“One thing that makes ‘Visible Bodies’ different from other trans visibility efforts is its inclusivity. This is not a project for trans men or for trans women or for any other subset of trans people who use a particular word for themselves,” said Duane, who is himself a transsexual man. This means that Duane was born female and has transitioned to a male with hormones and surgery.
“It’s a project for everybody, and I think we’ve told a great variety of stories from an incredible group of folks with this work.”
Many of the participants from “Visible Bodies” share Duane’s enthusiasm.
“Participating in ‘Visible Bodies’ was a great honor for me … I feel this is a good cause. The project stands out because it attempts to normalize what a lot of people think (of) as ‘unnatural’. It shows us in artistic phases of our lives,” said Abigale LeCavalier, a participant in the project.
The idea that this project is unique, in the ways that it highlights different members of the transgender community, isn’t without foundation.
“This project stands out because, even with so much of it increasing in recent years, there is still never enough visibility in the trans community. So many of us are still uncomfortable showing themselves,” said Claire Russell, a trans woman who also took part in the “Visible Bodies” project.
“As a result, I think we have ended up being an abstract concept that many have accepted and supported, but don’t have any role models or faces in general to apply it to,” Russell explained.
Beyond providing a good message for the rest of the community, “Visible Bodies” has made an impact on its participants as well.
“I was a bit nervous a first, but (Scott) and the others made me feel welcome and accommodated my ideas for my photo shoot,” said Aftermath Ari, another member of the trans community who took part.
“I think the most important message is that the human spectrum is a lot broader and richer than we think or allow to happen. It’s essential for others to see that this exists, and appreciate how layered the human experiences really is. I believe it’s essential because we are all different in some way” Ari said.
“It’s a lesson of diversity that should be taken home with you after looking at it.”
For more information on Visible Bodies, go to www.facebook.com/VisibleBodies.