Over the past two and a half years, the Trump administration has worked to roll back legal protections against transgender Americans. They have banned trans people from serving in the military. They have rolled back Title IX protections prohibiting discrimination against transgender students. Most recently, they have announced a proposed rule that would allow healthcare providers to discriminate against trans patients and refused to let U.S. embassies fly the rainbow Pride flag. The president and his administration’s actions against the transgender community, as well as the wider LGBTQ+ community, have even led the National Center for Transgender Equality to nickname them “The Discrimination Administration.”
In response to this atmosphere of hate, photographer Georgie Wileman (@georgiewileman) began a new project: “To Thy Own Self Be True: Portraits Of Trans Lives In America.” In these powerful photos, she shows 10 transgender Americans, some of them posing with their loved ones, others standing alone in front of the camera. “Trump is redefining trans rights out of existence and rolling back protections for trans individuals,” Wileman says in her artist statement. “With the dehumanization and violence against trans people on the rise, showing these individuals in their own light is increasingly important. These are people that are hurt by the rising hatred against the LGBTQ community in this country.”
She adds, “Some cis people will never have a meaningful interaction with a trans person in their lifetime.” According to a 2017 Pew survey, only 37% of Americans know someone who is transgender, and those who know at least one trans individual are far more likely to support transgender rights.
We spoke with Wileman’s subjects about their lives, their journeys, and what the trans community means to them. “This story is designed to break these barriers that make some forget we are all in this together,” Wileman says. “It’s easy to fear what you don’t understand.”