“My closest supporters are my grandparents, married for sixty-three years, who have encouraged me in everything I’ve done. They love me so much. I don’t mind that they still call me their granddaughter Nina — they can’t get my name Ryley straight, but it doesn’t matter. They accept me as a mix of both genders.”
– Ryley Pogensky (Transgender Man) –
Take notice: Trans is hot and happening.
Those were my thoughts when I first saw the Spring 2014 campaign of the luxury specialty retailer, Barneys New York. The campaign is called Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters — a high-gloss, limited edition portfolio of individual prints and short films, featuring 17 transgender individuals and their personal stories.
Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters was shot by iconic photographer and filmmaker Bruce Weber, who said of the campaign: “I hope that my photographs and films of these 17 new friends, who are transgender men and women, convey the respect I have for them and how I stand in awe of their courage to face the world.”
Weber photographed all 17 transgender models in New York, in settings where they are surrounded by family, friends, and loved ones. By depicting these human connections, Weber was able to represent both the struggles and triumphs a transgender person may face in relation to their gender identity.
From the first transgender student to graduate from her Oklahoma high school in 2012 to the aspiring fashion journalist who at the age of eight became the subject of a nine-year documentary chronicling her gender identity journey, these students, musicians, designers and professionals include: Arin Andrews, Edie Charles, Valentijn de Hingh, Ashley de la Cruz, Sawyer Devuyst, Peche Di, Dezjorn Gauthier, Trevon Haynes, Katie Hill, Eve Lindley, Niki M’nray, Ryley Pogensky, Ines Rau, Sebastian Simon, Ahya Taylor, Maxie Neu, and Gisele Xtravaganza.
Also featured in the portfolio is Jack Doroshow, the inexorable artist and activist who was arrested 77 times fighting for Trans and Gay Rights throughout the 1950s and 60s.
Dennis Freedman, Creative Director of Barneys New York, said: “This campaign is all about telling the remarkable stories of these 17 transgender men and women. Our goal was to convey the strength, beauty and courage of these extraordinary individuals through the iconic photographs and films of Bruce Weber, as well as the insightful writing of Patricia Bosworth.”
Patricia Bosworth, a long-time contributing editor at Vanity Fair and author of acclaimed biographies on Diane Arbus, Jane Fonda, Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, interviewed each model to uncover a small part of their unique and personal life story. The first-person interviews address a range of issues from bullying, discrimination and abandonment to empowerment, self-confidence and unconditional love.
Mark Lee, CEO of Barneys New York, said: “Supporting individual rights is deeply important to Barneys, and we have the utmost appreciation, respect and admiration for the participants — all of whom have been so generous in sharing their time, talent and personal narratives for this unique campaign.”
Barneys New York partnered with two leading voices in the US Trans community, the National Centre for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the LGBT Community Centre (The Centre) on the campaign. Barneys New York hopes that by bringing the personal stories of these 17 individuals to a national stage, it will help break stereotypes and build social acceptance of transgender people — long-standing goals of both NCTE and The Centre.
To help further support NCTE and The Centre, Barneys New York has donated 10 per cent of all sales on February 11th, from its 11 flagship stores nationwide and Barneys.com, to be split between the two organizations. Commenting on this ground breaking collaboration, CEO Mark Lee said: “Barneys New York is proud that these beautifully captured images and stories will raise awareness and funds for the Trans community.”
Barneys New York will also implement, with the help of NCTE and The Centre, an educational programme for its employees to help to ensure the issues facing the transgender community are understood and integrated into the company’s existing zero tolerance discrimination policy.
Way to go Barneys! (Hint: Big brands and global retailers, follow suit…)
I look back to 2005, when I fell in love with the film Transamerica — the Oscar-nominated comedy-drama starring Felicity Huffman, who plays Bree, a transgender woman. For me, this film was the moment Trans Awareness stepped into the global spotlight. Since then, we’ve seen television and film productions like Glee, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Nip/Tuk, NCIS, Orange Is The New Black, The World’s Fastest Indian, En Soap, The Skin I Live In and The Danish Girl explore the beautiful and complex lives of transgender people.
Great progress has been made in regards to the lesbian, gay and bisexual community, but unfortunately, as we all know, the struggle for transgender equality continues. There’s always been a strong connection between the fashion industry and the LGBT community. Weber’s poignant and breath taking photography not only reinforces this connection, but it will allow (and prompt) a broader audience to better understand the struggles and strengths of the Trans community.
Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters shows the wholeness and inherent beauty of transgender people to the world. It makes transgender lives real and gives transgender people a voice. Above all, it reminds me of a personal mantra that I hold dear: Where there is hope, there will always be progress.
To follow this campaign and to view Bruce Weber’s photographs and short films as well as read the personal stories of the models featured in Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters, follow this link:
Images: Copyright Bruce Weber
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes