The embodiment of freedom (2021)

Part of the group exhbition “Se Retrouver” at Huis van de Fotografie

During the summer of 2021, a photographer approached me to be part of his project about non-binary people. I had never met him before. He took portraits of me on my bed, but after what first seemed like a relatively normal photo session, eventually started gnawing at me. It started to dawn on me that the occasion had left me with a very uncomfortable feeling, for many reasons.

After receiving my portrait in the mail, which was just one small print, my first reaction was that it didn’t look like me. I was stripped from everything that reminded me of my own personality, and it seemed like I was only photographed because of my gender and my androgynous appearance. During the photo shoot, almost all the questions this photographer asked me were about my gender dysphoria, the pain I experience, and how much I hate my body. I was even questioned if my partner had any issues with my gender.

Being non-binary is different for everyone who identifies as such. I am non-binary because I don’t want to confirm to society’s expectations of being female. But the questions that were asked to me by this photographer prove that I am obligated to meet the expectations that most people have of non-binary people, which are focused on gender dysphoria, hopelessness and the “androgynous look”. And even though all these things can be and are part of some non-binary lives, I was once again put in a box with labels and norms. Which is exactly what non-binary people are breaking free from.

But as a non-binary photographer, I realised something over time: I may have never conformed to the expectations that come with being born female, but all this time, I have been forcing myself to conform to the expectations that come with being non-binary, while the essence of being non-binary is being liberated from these kinds of expectations. I decided that I no longer want to confirm to the heteronormative idea that non-binary people should look androgynous and strive to have a masculine appearance. I want to embrace all that I am: Masculine, feminine, neither and both.

I strive to be my own embodiment of freedom, for that is when I am my true self.