NEW YORK, NY.-
Chilean photojournalist Pilar Vergara captures the uniqueness and diversity of transgender women and their vital contributions to our world from a human rights perspective. Four years in the making, her photographs and accompanying interviews reveal women of all ages, races, backgrounds and interests in settings where they can feel comfortable -- in their homes with loved ones and outside in parks and other public spaces within their communities.
While trans people are often sensationalized in the media, Vergara sets out to quietly show their individuality through intimate portraits taken in natural light and with a black-and-white approach that allows the viewer only to see what matters most: glimpses of who these women truly are. We meet computer engineers, a musician and composer, a hairdresser, an interior designer, an eye surgeon, students and activists, among other vibrant and productive members of today's society.
The transgender women portrayed in Female hail from Washington, D.C., New York City, California, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. As Vergara is not trans gender herself, she is deeply grateful that these women allowed her into their lives.
features portraits of fifteen transgender women. Nine of them were also interviewed by Vergara and their candid responses to her questions are published in a booklet bound into the monograph for easy access. The questions Vergara asks her subjects are wide ranging: "Can you tell me about your earliest memory of your gender?" "What happened when you told your family?" "What has been your biggest challenge in life?" "Is there anything you miss about living as a man?" "What gives you the most joy now in life?" "Have you felt discrimination?"
Highlights from Female:
VERGARA: "You are old enough to have seen a change in how society deals with people who are transgender. Has it changed much?"
LAURA (who transitioned at age 55): "In my younger days, people treated trans people as bizarre curiosities. So the way people would transition was to cut off contact with family and friends. Move to a place no one would know them and start a new life. Passing was of paramount importance. I was never able to walk away from my family."
VERGARA: "What do you want people to know about what it means to be a transgender woman?"
MARA: "I feel my metamorphosis from the moth to the butterfly has been a rare gift, not just a second chance at life. It's this knowledge that I have a limited time to live and experience what should have been experienced in a lifetime that makes me the explorer, the learner, the risk taker, and the romantic."
VERGARA: "Did you have any fears about transitioning?"
VANESSA: "My biggest fear was not being loved and nourished for who I was. Walking the streets in fear of being attacked."
Female includes an introduction by Giselle Michaels, a transgender woman, entitled "Uniquely Different." In response to transgender people becoming a trending topic in mainstream society, she writes: "It is a strange feeling to be part of such a minute segment of humanity while simultaneously being the subject of such spirited discussion by just about everyone. Every day we hear cisgender people asking other cisgender people what they think about trans people. Magazine and news reporters know they can attract attention by getting cisgender celebrities to talk about us whether or not they have any actual knowledge of the topic. So we find that everybody is talking about us, but very few people are listening."
Pilar Vergara is an award-winning documentary photographer who has freelanced extensively for The Washington Blade, The Washington City Paper, The Washington Post, and other publications. She is now based in New York City, where she has focused on this book almost exclusively. Vergara's interest in human rights photography dates back to her early career as a photographer in the anti-Pinochet movement in Chile. Throughout her career, she has focused on those who are marginalized, misunderstood, and in need of support, love, and respect in our society.
Giselle Michaels-Chacón is a transgender musician/composer from San Diego, California. Since her retirement from entertainment to pursue treatment for gender dysphoria in 2015, she has worked as a freelance writer, composing blogs for a musical instrument manufacturer and an NGO charity organization that serves impoverished people in India. She is currently producing an independent album of her music, as well as organizing material for a memoir of her life growing up transgender in the Colorado Rockies in the 1970's, and her experience with conversion therapy as a child and young adult.