Before the word transgender was part of our vocabulary, brave people were deciding to transition and live their most authentic lives.
Today, these transgender elders and non-gender conforming older adults have amazing stories to tell. They are the focus of a groundbreaking new exhibition, “To Survive on This Shore.”
It’s currently on display at the Frost Art Museum FIU, part of Florida International University. This is the first time the exhibition is at a museum. The show continues through April 28.
Creators Jess Dugan and Vanessa Fabbre spent five years conducting extensive research throughout the U.S., taking photographs and interviewing trans elders who are underrepresented in our culture. Young trans people are increasingly better represented in mainstream media. But what about the trans trailblazers who are 60, 70, or 80 years old?
Dugan’s portraits of them are evocative, poignant, and moving. For the accompanying texts, Fabbre, a social worker and researcher with a background in LGBT issues and aging, conducted interviews to enhance the viewer’s connection to each subject’s story. Unlike most exhibits where the image is the focus, many museum goers spend as much time or more reading the interviews as they do gazing as the portraits.
"In many cases, we were talking to people who transitioned prior to the widespread use of the internet, prior to the conceptualization of the term 'transgender,' and certainly prior to the existence of the transgender community as it exists today. Some people had never even heard the word 'transgender' when they were figuring out their identity. Their life stories are from a significant period of transgender activism and experience in the United States. We wanted to make sure that this history was preserved," said Dugan, in a pre-released statement.
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To Survive on This Shore kicks off the museum's yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which will culminate in the fall with Art After Stonewall (1969-1989), the first major museum exhibition about how the LGBT civil rights movement impacted the art world.
The Frost is located on the Modesto Maidique campus at 10975 SW 17th Street, Miami, FL 33199.
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(Frost Museum: Via Wikimedia)