My artwork is colorful, personal, experimental, and expressive. For me, it’s a way to experience and understand my life more fully. I paint about the connection of all things, keeping in mind both the depth and whimsy of life.
For this project, I interviewed people who were gender nonconforming. Many reported that questioning themselves about gender led to a deeper understanding of who they are and a sense of what is and isn’t important in life. I experienced a deep connection with their thoughtfulness and insight.
Gender is primal, and it manifests uniquely within each of us. Early in my son’s transition, I learned that “How do you know you’re a guy?” is not a good question. It presumes a rational explanation for something that runs deeper than words, and it pressures people to oversimplify and justify who they are.
As I talked with my son Finnbar about his experience of gender, we learned more about ourselves and each other. We got closer and developed more tolerance for the range of human experience and expression.
I did a lot of soul searching, especially during the year after Finnbar came out. I used my art and writing to explore and express feelings that were confusing and messy. I painted about my messy feelings. This process helped me to understand I don’t need to change who he is and that I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I just need to respect, celebrate, and love who he is.
So that is what I am doing with this project. I listen as these wonderful people tell me about who they are and what they have gone through as gender nonconforming individuals. Then I go to the studio and paint and write about my experience of them. It is a wonderful way to celebrate who they are.
See some of Jacqui’s other work on her website, www.jacquibeck.com.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in conversation with myself and others about gender. I am lucky enough to have had many trans* and gender-variant people in my life over the years, and I became fascinated with the ways in which the limits and liberations of gender affect the human experience.
As I moved through my academic and professional journey, I focused on these people about whom I am passionate, and as a mental health professional my clinical practice is dedicated to healing, supporting, and advocating for LGBQ, trans* and gender-variant people.
I met Jacqui Beck at the 2013 Gender Odyssey conference, where she was presenting her art and poems for the Gender Personal project. I was immediately captivated by the power of her work, and the depth of emotion she was able to access and share with the conference attendees. The combination of the beauty of her art and the visceral response it inspires in those who experience it begins a vital conversation about gender.
I immediately offered to support Jacqui’s work on the Gender Personal project, because I believe it to be a way to explore some of the most profound questions about gender, and to inspire necessary conversations in this vein.
Heather is a psychotherapist who specializes in working with individual adult transgender, genderqueer/variant, gay, bisexual, lesbian, and queer people. Her website is http://www.lgbt-therapy.net.
I’m a photographer, digital media specialist, musician, and parent, living in Kirkland, Washington, with my wife, Tina. In addition to participating on our steering committee, I function as the Gender Personal webmaster and photographer.
I grew up during the 1960’s—a time of radical social questioning. A perennial topic among my friends was how “The System” rewards fitting in and penalizes individuality.
As an artistic, introverted youth, I had plenty of feelings of not fitting in. But as a straight, male-identified white man, my life was a breeze compared to so many people who suffered from divisions of gender, class, race, and other biases. Ironically, my ability to “pass” made it easier to sidestep the work of fully expressing my true self.
This is all to say that, for me, working on the Gender Personal project feels like diving deeper into unfinished personal business.
I’m inspired by Jacqui’s artistic journey because it is so much about the need to know ourselves and to communicate our experiences in ways that are explicit as well as subtle, uncomfortable as well as beautiful, complex as well as patently true.
As I’ve met, photographed, and spoken to people in this project, I’ve been struck by their bravery, which in turn has fortified my own commitment to help develop compassion wherever bias and isolation prevail.