What does it look like to be gender queer?
A new book is documenting the gender spectrum in order to help answer this important question. Photographer Dave Naz's photo series is titled "Genderqueer: And Other Gender Identities," and it highlights the beautiful fluidity of self-identity and non-binary gender.
Naz was inspired to create the project after meeting with three gender-queer people and hearing their stories. "It started with Drew DeVeaux, Jiz Lee and Syd Blakovich," Naz told Mic. "All have great style and looks that defy gender. From there I began meeting people within the queer community and the idea for the book started to come together."
The book is designed to help further the discussion when it comes to gender identity, especially for those who don’t identify with the gender that they were assigned at birth. The gender-queer community is not as universally understood as the transgender community, which has made tremendous strides this year in terms of awareness thanks to to pioneering trans activists like Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono and Carmen Carrera. These advocates have dramatically increased the public image of trans Americans; however, the same can't be said for those who live in the spaces in between.
Some of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the gender queer are the result of a ignorance. It can be harder for uninformed people to "read" gender-queer individuals because they're used to thinking about gender in strictly heteronormative, binary terms. "If you’re just looking at somebody there is no way to know how they identify. It’s only after a conversation with them you would know if they prefer to identify as gender queer ... or what pronoun they prefer," Naz told Mic.
Ultimately, one of the most beautiful parts of the identity is its flexibility. "You can have a feminine, masculine or androgynous presentation and still identify as gender queer or gender fluid, etc. You could be assigned female at birth, transition to male and not identify as 'trans,'" Naz notes. "These are decisions you make, and you have every right to change your mind about how you choose to identify. It’s your life. Live it how you choose.”
Indeed, gender-queer individuals actively encourage community and interaction, as forming personal relationships is one of the most effective way to decipher someone’s chosen identity. While becoming more and more of a rarity in our social media-driven society, this trend allows for freedom of expression.
Hopefully, people who look at these photos and read through Naz's book will come away with a better understanding of this vibrant group of people.
"You can be who you want to be, and be tolerant and understanding of others and how they present themselves," Naz told Mic. "The essays by Morty Diamond, Jiz Lee, Jenny Factor, Ignacio Rivera and Sarah Burghauser in the book help to explain gender identity through personal experiences. I learned a lot while making the book. I hope others do, too."
Naz is showing "Genderqueer: And Other Gender Identities" in Los Angeles. The gallery runs through Dec. 20.
All images courtesy of Dave Naz