These Touching Photos of Trans Folk Over 50 Are Definitely Worth 1000 Words

It’s time to “complicate the ways in which transgender older adults are portrayed and perceived.” Let this touching photo project, “To Survive on This Shore” by Jess T. Dugan and Vanessa Fabbre, open you up to a world rarely shown.

With Love,
The Editors at Everyday Feminism

1. Louis, 54, Springfield, MA

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2. Rachel, 86, St. Louis, MO

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3. Helena, 63, Chicago, IL

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“I feel very isolated. I don’t feel whole. There’s still that hole in my middle, the stomach is not filled, I’m not fed completely. And I wonder whether or not I will ever have that feeling of being embraced. When I pretended to be a gay male I could pretend to be a part of the gay community. And it looked good on paper and the surface. Sometimes it worked. But as trans it doesn’t work. You have to find a collection of trans friends that you can depend on. The other day I was working in the office I share with my roommate. And we were talking about hot flashes and she says, “Well, if you were a real woman you would understand.” And I thought, “Wow. That’s deep. And I live with this chick. Seven years, and she still don’t get it.” I didn’t even address it because I thought, eh. We’ll come back to that some other time. You have to have a sense of humor. And choose your battles very carefully, because they do have emotional ramifications that produce stress. And I try to cut down on stress. It’s not productive. One of the reasons I switched over to the Afro-centric clothing and the hair and all of that is I don’t like where the mainstream puts women, visually. And it’s all visual. It’s like we don’t have any insides. Everything is visual. So I thought, well, okay. I’m already isolated. The advantage to being isolated, it gives you permission to really be who you are, because you think nobody really cares. And I’m tired of trying to prove something. So I’m just gonna be.”

4. Debbie, 61, and Danny, 66, St. Joseph, MO

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5. Ruben, 51, Cambridge, MA

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6. Alexis, 64, Chicago, IL

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7. Kendrah, 72, Boston, MA

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8. Ellen, 60, and Meredith, 63, San Diego, CA

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Jess T. Dugan is an artist whose work explores issues of gender, sexuality, identity, and community. For the past decade, Jess has photographed people within queer and transgender communities, focusing on the complexities of identity, gender, and sexuality. Jess earned a BFA in Photography from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, a Master of Liberal Arts in Museum Studies from Harvard University, and an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago. Jess regularly exhibits internationally and has work in several museum collections. Check out Jess’s website here

Vanessa Fabbre, PhD, LCSW, is an Assistant Professor at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.  She received her PhD from the University of Chicago where her dissertation, Gender Transitions in Later Life, explored issues of gender, identity, and aging. Vanessa’s research explores the intersection of LGBTQ issues and gerontology, focusing specifically on transgender and queer perspectives on aging and the life course. At the Brown School she teaches courses in social justice and direct social work practice with older adults. Check out Vanessa’s website here