The TRANSformation Project: the power within the process
BY DREW ROWSOME-
When starting his hormone therapy, photographer Maxx Giffen discovered that many others were using YouTube videos and photographs to "mark their transition."
Giffen started his own documentation and "I thought others would like the same process. Selfies are powerful but . . ." The TRANSformation Project was created. Giffen is photographing the participants over the course of a year and recording the metamorphosis as it happens. He wants the participants to, "Feel better about their bodies and showing their bodies."
Participants were gathered through social media and he is actively seeking more as some respondants were "not at the right stage and some are younger than 18." The age limit is important because, "There are some nude photos. There are other kinds of bodies beside just penis and vagina." The nudes won't go on the website but will be saved for the gallery show.
"They all expressed nervousness initially," says Giffen. "As trans you're not necessarily proud of your body in the early stages. But once we talked and discussed, they became very excited about it. I've established a connection with my subjects. We talked for hours, I learned so much. And they feel better about their bodies - and showing their bodies."
The process of creating The TRANSformation Project is empowering for all the participants, the long term goal is to engage the mainstream. For Giffen it is all about creating, "discussion. Ignorance breeds hate so that's where we need to focus. I really want a diverse group of participants. Diverse in age, race, identity - there is such a different array of identifications - it all just depends on the participants."
Giffen considers himself lucky with supportive parents and a mainly positive reaction to his transition despite "growing up in a small farming village. I never even met anyone in the LGBT community until my late teens. I'm only 23 so I'm a younger generation and society is becoming more accepting, more educated. There is still definitely room for improvement . . ."
While Giffen, who is upbeat about his process of transitioning, talks it becomes clear just how relative the concept of 'lucky' is. "I spent five years in North Bay getting a BA in English and a diploma in theatre arts. I've been asked while waiting for a bus, 'Are you a boy or a girl?' I was called 'he/she.' And denied service at a barber shop." Giffen explained he was trans but it made no difference. He was told he had to go to the shop's salon for women. "I was more embarrassed than anything but a friend was outraged, saying it is illegal. I could have sued but I was too embarrassed. I came out in North Bay, the arts community is really great, so it will always have a special place in my heart. I don't want to categorize but I don't want that to happen to anyone else."
Giffen plans for the first exhibit of The TRANSformation Project to be in a North Bay gallery. As he diplomatically notes, "They could use some discussion around the trans issues."
Giffen is still looking for more participants and submissions to The TRANSformation Project. There is also a Kickstarter campaign underway. Information and links can be found at maxwellgiffenphotography.com.