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The Butterflies: Portraits

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the need for belonging and love comes right after our most basic ones for physical survival and safety. Most of us search for our place in the world – in family, in community – to see where we fit in.

Transgender people seek the same sense of belonging. Transgender and gender queer people are those who cannot or choose not to conform to societal gender norms based upon their physical or birth sex. Some undertake medical or surgical procedures to embody their gender identity. For others, their gender expression primarily involves a social change (e.g. name, visual presentation).

Because they challenge mainstream society’s rigid ideas of what it means to be masculine or feminine, their search for belonging can be an arduous journey. After they transform their gender identities, some are rejected by their families, some continue to be embraced by them, and others create their own. The Butterflies: Portraits reveal the different places Seattle transgender and gender queer individuals find themselves.

Most of these portraits are part of three digital storytelling projects. La Historia de Abigail and Soy Rafaela, Soy Rafael were for Entre Hermanos, a nonprofit that serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning Latino community in Seattle. These profiles highlight two very different experiences of transgender and gender queer Latin@s. Simon’s Story, with the University of Washington’s School of Medicine Center for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, focuses specifically on health care access for transgender individuals and is being shown to medical, nursing and public health students to increase their competence in serving LGBTQ patients. (To see the full digital stories, please click on the highlighted titles.)

I continue to seek funding and sponsorship to produce more stories related to transgender health in order to highlight a broader range of health issues that diverse transgender people face. If you’d like to support this effort, please contact me. Also, if you’d like to use any of these stories for educational purposes, please let me know.

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