At Texas Observer, we just released my new photo essay, a collaboration with photographer Jesse Freidin, who documents the lives of young trans kids. He shared 7 powerful portraits of young transgender Texans, in addition to talking with me about the project. Originally published in the November/December issue of our magazine, it’s now available online:
In 2021, Jesse Freidin began traveling across the country to photograph transgender youth for a photo project called “Are You OK?” He’s been to more than half the states in the country, meeting with dozens of trans kids.
In August, Freidin made his second visit to Texas. In the intervening year, legal and policy-based attacks on LGBTQ+ people in the United States have reached feverish heights. Governor Greg Abbott even launched child abuse investigations into parents who seek gender-affirming healthcare for their kids. Though nonprofits like Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union have responded with multiple lawsuits against the policy, which has been partially blocked in court, it still left many families fearing for their safety. Kai Shappley, a trans girl known for her outspoken activism, fled the state with her family a month before Freidin planned to photograph her.
“I want to tell those stories before they disappear, before these families leave the country or state, before these families have to go underground,” Freidin said.
Y’all I look at these kids, my heart fills up, my eyes get teary and I know I’d do anything I can to protect them (and their families) from harm. We gotta fight, and fight harder than we have been, for trans kids. They deserve our protection. I’m honestly ashamed of the journalists that are choosing now, of all times, to “what if” these kids lives and their rights, instead of elevating their stories. Look these kids in the eyes and tell me they don’t know who they are. I know what I see on their faces. That’s part of what made Jesse’s work so special here.