Marquette Wire

Our Trans Family reaches out to Marquette

Photographers+Meredith+Watts+and+Jeff+Pearcy+presented+Our+Trans+Family%2C+a+partnered+project+with+Cream+City+Foundation%2C+to+students+and+faculty+in+the+Henke+Lounge+of+the+Alumni+Memorial+Union+on+National+Transgender+Day+of+Remembrance%2C+Nov.+20.%0A
Photographers Meredith Watts and Jeff Pearcy presented Our Trans Family, a partnered project with Cream City Foundation, to students and faculty in the Henke Lounge of the Alumni Memorial Union on National Transgender Day of Remembrance, Nov. 20.

Photographers Meredith Watts and Jeff Pearcy presented Our Trans Family, a partnered project with Cream City Foundation, to students and faculty in the Henke Lounge of the Alumni Memorial Union on National Transgender Day of Remembrance, Nov. 20.

Photo by Jeff Pearcy

Photo by Jeff Pearcy

Photographers Meredith Watts and Jeff Pearcy presented Our Trans Family, a partnered project with Cream City Foundation, to students and faculty in the Henke Lounge of the Alumni Memorial Union on National Transgender Day of Remembrance, Nov. 20.

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When Cream City Foundation, an organization in Milwaukee working to elevate acceptance and equality for LGBTQ+ communities, reached out to photographers Meredith Watts and Jeff Pearcy, they said they were both anxious to represent what they believed was a major issue.

“When we hear trans persons described, in certain social media, it’s as if one word is applied to everybody,” Watts said. “To me, this is an act of symbolic violence. If I tell you who I think you are supposed to be, I have done you a violence. I have symbolically denied your sense of self and that’s extremely common. I am not defined by my gender and neither are you.”

Watts and Pearcy presented Our Trans Family, a partnered project with Cream City Foundation, to students and faculty in the Henke Lounge of the Alumni Memorial Union on National Transgender Day of Remembrance, Nov. 20.

More than twenty transgender families were photographed and interviewed for the project to showcase the family and supportive network after the transperson transitioned. The photographs portray the transgender person in groups that gave them support and courage.

Cream City Foundation, which is based in Milwaukee, had projected the photographs to be done before election time of last year. Watts said the entire project took four months, from July to November 2015.

Watts and Pearcy allowed the participants to set up how they wanted photos to be taken. They had families create photo concepts for what they thought best represented their support systems.

“That transgender person is not just someone who made a courageous and major alteration in their manifestation of their gender identity,” Watts said. “They also probably have risked their family and they have lost their family.”

Watts and Pearcy previously worked on several projects together that have included marginalized and underrepresented groups. ’

Some of the other organizations involved were FORGE, a transgender-focused organization in Milwaukee, Madison Area Transgender Association and Milwaukee’s LGBTQ+ communities.

To work sensibly and humanely to trans persons was what Watts said was a struggle when seeking participants. “We had a strong sense that everyone was going to be exposing themselves to attention and that this was a test.”  

Darla Lannert, a transgender woman photographed in the project, said that it is a risk being a transgender person. “When you are an out trans person, you are a target.”  

“I finally got here. Nobody is going to tell me that I can’t be here,” said Ginger Baier, a transgender woman who participated in Our Trans Family.  

Angelique Harris, a faculty member in the Social and Cultural Sciences department, said she was happy that both Lannert and Baier were able to provide insight to the reality that transgender people face. “That’s something that I really want students to really understand about the whole notion of identity,” Harris said.

Watts said that presenting Our Trans Family at Marquette was a natural outgrowth to a broader group of people.  “Students are in the middle of observing, understanding and working with these transitions. Young people are at the lead of reconsidering binary gender assignments,” Watts said.  

Hale Behlke, a freshman in the College of Health Sciences, said the project was beautifully and respectfully represented.

“It’s important to listen to the stories of transgender people to cultivate an understanding and accepting community here at Marquette. Too often the stories that we hear about transgender people involve discrimination, hatred, ignorance and death.”  Behlke said. “It is essential that we remember the humanity of transgender people.”

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