Photographer Annie Tritt started Transcending Self, her ongoing project about transgender youth, with one goal in mind: to create something real and honest. In an interview with Refinery29, she explains why: "When people are authentically themselves, they tend to be happy and we tend to be inspired by them." She wanted to capture a group of people who weren't afraid to be themselves in front of the camera, and children naturally came to mind. "Try to get a five-year-old to do anything they don’t want to do," Tritt says with a laugh. "It’s impossible."
Tritt met her first subjects through the Northern California branch of Gender Spectrum, an organization that provides support for young trans people. Since then, parents have connected her with other families from around the country and overseas, while teens and young adults have started reaching out to her on their own.
In addition to photographing her subjects, Tritt also works with them to craft personal stories to go along with their photos. She'll call or email them first, then go speak with them in person, but nothing is recorded or written down until after that. Tritt gives them (or, for subjects who are still very young, their parents) a list of questions, which they answer when they're alone.
"After we’ve already discussed the project and they write it out, it’s very meaningful, what they’re saying, because they’re really thinking through what they’re saying, how they’re saying it, and what they want people to know," she says. "[The project] as a whole really tells an important story. Some people are choosing to say really positive things. Some people are sharing what’s really hard."
Tritt hopes that presenting her viewers with a wide variety of stories will counteract any preconceived notions they may have about transgender people. She explains that changing people's minds about the transgender experience is a matter of exposure.
"People are often so scared and judgmental [about] what they don’t know. Once they're exposed and open to it, it can change so many things," she says. "Visibility is what [changes] that."