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Reassigned: Transgender Transformations Captured Before and After

Curators’ corner

Reassigned: Transgender Transformations Captured Before and After

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Transgender rights and the LGBT community’s struggle for acceptance have long divided governments and the citizens they pledge to protect. Nowhere is this issue more contentious than in Cuba, where the transgender community has been persecuted and marginalized ever since Fidel Castro’s seizure of power in the 1960s.

While transgender Cubans have made great progress in recent years, many are still shunned by society and denied a voice. In the eye-opening portrait series Reassigned, Photographer Claudia Gonzalez explores the adversity faced by these individuals and their personal journeys of self-empowerment and identity.

With the assistance of Cuban LGBT advocate group CENESEX, Gonzalez was introduced to dozens of transgender people striving for employment in a prejudiced job environment. During these meetings, Gonzalez learned that many of her photographic subjects had resorted to prostitution and drug use for lack of job opportunities and income. She then realized the importance of capturing transgender individuals outside the context of sex work and poverty.

“This idea was accompanied by a sense of obligation and responsibility to these people,” she wrote in an interview with aplus. “Reassign is concerned with the respect and dignity for every human being.”

Gonzalez captured dual portraits, photographing the individuals in their “before” and “after” stages.   Because both images were taken on the same day, the diptychs are merely symbolic of their transformations, not literal representations. The emotions transmitted by the subjects are vast, ranging from pain and sadness to pride and perseverance. Most importantly, perhaps, the photos show the underlying complexity and physical ambiguity of gender reassignment. On her website, Gonzalez uses the term ‘gender confirmation’ to describe her work, alluding not so much to the physical changes transgender people experience, but rather the psychological embodiment and self-fulfillment after making the life-changing decision.

“That idea was relatively simple yet revolutionary: capture sensitive and empowering portraits of transgender individuals involved with CENESEX before and after their gender confirmation,” she writes.

To learn more about this project and other works by Claudia Gonzalez, visit her website.

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Photos: Claudia Gonzalez

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