Hi, Rookies! Sady here. I feel really lucky that while M. Sharkey was shooting these beautiful pictures of queer, transgender, and gender-nonconforming young people, I got to hang out with and interview them. Bits of my interviews are included with these pictures, which you should just go and look at right now.
Photos by M. Sharkey. Styling by Shea Daspin. Makeup by Jonathan Young for Dior Cosmetics. Hair by Allison Woodruff for Marie Robinson Salon.
Thanks to Angel, Hari, Christian, Faye, Lily, Liam, Mars, Mark, Eleet, and Mitchell for modeling.
Angel, 20 Sweater, Jeremy Scott.
Hari, 19 “In terms of sexuality, I know I’m definitely more often attracted to men than I am to women…in terms of gender, I’m kind of wading around in all those intersectional gray areas. When I was little, I was very fixated on girly things, but attracted to males. I liked the Disney princesses, and liked the Disney princes. I always wanted to wear my mom’s heels, or a dress. I was really fascinated by femininity.”
Hari (right) “I identify a lot with both sides of the gender binary, and I think it’s fun to put that into my physical appearance. It also just throws people off and scares them and upsets them, and I like that. It’s fun. But I also feel like it’s accurate.”
Christian, 23 (left) “I’ve been questioning gender for as long as I can remember. I always felt like there was social injustice towards women. I questioned why men have to behave one way and women have to behave another. It’s always been in me.”
“Identity is based off reaction, not necessarily the individual. I don’t identify. I just don’t. I don’t think anyone should be labeled under a group of ‘queer’ or ‘non-binary.’ I would hope that everyone could see how non-binary they are.”
Leggings: Jeremy Scott.
Faye, 21 “I identify as a woman. But I think there’s a lot of preconceived notions as to what feminine means, and as to what female is supposed to look like. Sometimes I identify as queer in the sense that gender is not super-relevant to me. It’s just not a priority.”
“I’m not happy with the way that the gender binaries are so apparent. It ostracizes people and makes them feel bad about themselves, or that they’re not normal. I just think this strict patriarchal society is slanderous, and it’s dangerous, and it hurts people.”
Lily, 18 “I’m not a gay girl who happens to be an artist who happens to be named Lily. I’m Lily, who is an artist, who happens to be gay.”
Sunglasses: Mercura NYC.
“When I was 13, I came out to my entire grade during this assembly where they had an open mike, where people were saying a lot of really inspirational things about their personal lives. And so I went up and told them that I was gay. At first, they cheered. I was surprised, and I was so happy. And then after a few days I started to get all the hate, and that was really hard. After I moved to New York, things got easier. I never get mistaken here for a boy, because it’s very open and people can tell. But in my hometown, it wasn’t as common for a girl to have short hair, for a girl to dress like a boy, for a girl to look like they have no chest. And so I remember being in McDonald’s, and they would say, ‘Can I help you, sir?’ At first I was a little offended, but then I realized, I’m presenting myself in a way where they actually can’t really tell. And I do look like maybe a 12-year-old boy. And I started to realize that it wasn’t such a bad thing.”
Liam, 19 “It started to become clear to me that I liked women in the fourth grade, when I had a crush on Jasmine from Aladdin. It felt very natural, and I didn’t feel weird about it, and then people would act weird about it. But I didn’t like the word lesbian to describe me. Now I identify as a queer transmasculine person. I’m on the masculine spectrum, but not male or female. I don’t identify as male in the way that society would identify me as such. So, like, when it comes to my junk, the way I do relationships with people, and the way I interact with my environment, I don’t really think I’m a man in that way. So I was like, well, I think I can be a man in my own way.”
“I tell everyone. I try really hard to be out to as many people as I can, because I want there to be more trans visibility. I want to go to law school, because I want to do advocacy law for specifically trans people. And I really want to dismantle the system of legal gender in America.”
Mars, 18 “I’m somewhere on the transmasculine spectrum between genderqueer and binary. I think I started realizing [I was different] in 10th grade. I went to an all-girls Catholic school; it’s a little hard not being a girl there. I think the problem now is that other guys don’t see me as a guy. I’m not particularly masculine, and I don’t really try to be.”
Eleet, 20 “I identify as a transgender female. My family could always tell: the way I talked, the way I walked, the way I moved, the way I socialized with my peers and my family members. They always said that I had ‘a little fruit in [my] tank.’ But hey, you either love it or you hate it. Honest to say, my upbringing was a little hard for me. But all those things that I’ve experienced in my life is what made me stronger, and it made me the person that I am today. And it made me want to reach out to my community, and let someone know that it gets better. Don’t give up. Go for what you want in life.”
Mitchell, 20 “I identify as a gay male, because I’m a boy and I like boys. I never actually had to come out. When I told my father, he was like, ‘Whatever.’ I’m not really guarded, and I discuss things that are going on in my life, whether or not people are going to find issues with them. It is kind of like, whatever, fuck you, I don’t give a shit. If you don’t want to let me in, I’ll go to the next place.”
Necklace and ring: nOir.
M. Sharkey is a portrait photographer based in New York. He began documenting LGBT teenagers and young adults as part of his Queer Kids project in 2006. Six years later, he doesn’t see an end. Please join the discussion and keep up to date about the Queer Kids project on Facebook. You can see more of M. Sharkey’s work here.