Photographer Emma Leslie has created a stunning photo series that shows transgender and gender diverse children and teens the way they want to be seen.
The series, titled Transcend: Portraits of Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth, will be shown in an exhibition in Australia this month.
‘I wanted to create a photo series that would have an impact,’ Emma told metro.co.uk.
‘I had been blown away when I first heard of transgender children and I felt that this was a subject that needed awareness.
‘As a photographer I have the opportunity to shine a light on a topic and give a voice to those who may not yet have the avenue to do so.’
And so, she searched through support groups, forums, and Facebook to find young people who wanted to share their experiences, eventually finding a support group for transgender children and their parents based in Melbourne, called Transcend.
Emma then asked the young people to design their own photoshoots – from what they’d like to wear to where they’d like to be photographed – all to capture the way they wish the world would see them.
‘I left it up to the kids to choose where they wanted their photo taken and what they wanted to wear,’ explains Emma.
‘It was about them and how they wanted to be seen, to best reflect their personalities and to show their authentic self.
‘For Briella, 5 and the youngest of the 10 kids, it was the first photos taken of her since her transition to a girl and she wanted to be photographed in her new pink room.
‘Others felt comfortable at home too, in the backyard with the chickens or just hanging out in the living room.
‘Evie, 10 simply wanted to be in her new mermaid tail. Korra, 14 brought balloons in the transgender colours. Ollie, 17, the only subject from Sydney, wanted to be in the funky, graffiti streets of Newtown, where he feels he can be himself and accepted.
‘Other locations included the local soccer field and a 100 year old tree.’
Emma told us that she wants the series to create an awareness of the reality that is being transgender, and the ‘everyday children that live with it.’
‘It has also been a moment for the kids to feel happy in their own skin, as their true self and to inspire others to do the same,’ she said.
‘I hope that it has a positive impact on everyone who sees it.
‘That it starts a conversation and helps to open people’s minds. At the end of the day we’re talking about kids here, our future, they need to be nurtured and most of all, listened to.’
And to any other young people around the world struggling with issues of gender, Emma has this message:
‘For any young people or anyone of any age for that matter, struggling with their gender or sexual preference I’d say firstly that “You are loved and you are enough”.
‘Trust yourself, your instincts and your feelings.
‘It’s really important to find a good support network, whether that’s your family, friends or others going through the same as you. You are not alone.
‘Don’t be afraid to speak out, talk to someone. And find something you love doing and do it. I can’t recommend that last one enough.’
Transcend: Portraits of Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth will be shown at Tacit Contemporary Art gallery in Victoria, Australia, from the 27th of April to the 15th of May. It’s sponsored by Family Planning Victoria and The City of Yarra.