My work mostly deals with what it means to be female. Exploring the feminine aspect of our psyche in particular. With the series “Feminine boys” I became curious about how the feminine manifests in boys and men. How much of a feminine expression in boys/men is acceptable in society, and how does this reflect on the feminine as an archetype. When a woman is pregnant, there is so much emphasis on the babies’ expected gender. It is evident when you notice all the gender reveal videos and photos on social media. People still hold onto a stereotypical way of thinking about gender, especially in my country (South Africa). I wish to highlight the pain and frustration that boys/men feel who are more in touch with their feminine side, (or even identifies as trans woman) regardless of their sexuality. More often than not they are being shamed for it. Being a mother of a boy, I think it is so important that we teach our boys to embrace their sensitivity, nurturing and feminine sides and to be proud of it.
Timmy used to own a few laundromats and I had the idea of photographing him surrounded by fabric. He is very close to his mom and she introduces him as her “pink son”. Fabric is associated with femininity. Timmy told me he’s very proud of his emotional more feminine side. He sees it as a strength rather than a weakness. Timmy also used to be a wedding planner and he particularly enjoyed working with flowers. He jokingly told me that a lot of “boere” men (conservative afrikaans men) are uncomfortable and wary around him, fearing he might “hit” on them or that his feminine energy might rub off on them. He does not feel intimidated by this, and he often wins them over in the end.
I had the idea to photograph Keagan with pink gender reveal smoke, to “reveal” her true gender identity. Keagan expressed to me that she prefers the pronoun ‘she’ as she feels like a woman, and enjoys wearing feminine clothes etc. however she is still physically confronted with being in a male body. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma in her neighbourhood and she is often referred to as the “Moffie”. (Moffie is a derogatory term in South Africa to describe “an effeminate or gay man”). Keagan lost her mother when she was only 16. She was the one person that accepted Keagan exactly for who she is.
Zivan loved wearing and playing with the wig. He really wants to grow his hair but his school won’t allow boys to have long hair. He wishes the rules would be the same for girls and boys as girls are allowed to have long hair. When I did the second shoot with Zivan, he told me since our first shoot he’s come to accept himself more and he feels much less ashamed of being androgynous and feminine. When people now ask him if he’s a boy or a girl he just smiles and sees it as a compliment. Zivan also suffers from mental health issues. He wanted to depict the feeling of being ostracized and stigmatized both for being more feminine and from having mental health issues through some of the images. He shared with me that the shoots have been cathartic and healing and he thanked me for truly seeing him.
Hercules sees himself as a gentle soul. He loves animals, florals and beautiful clothes. He does not see himself as the typical alpha male. Often his mucho friends confide in him and trust him most with their emotions. He wants to teach them that you can be a man and still show vulnerability.
Zivan II. 2020
Gender reveal, 2019 Keegan