Portrait of a trans community

  • Eduardo Valle, 25, came to the United States from Honduras five years ago. He is a spontaneous and positive person who loves being a social butterfly.
  • Bladimir Briones, 25, is a Nicaraguan New Yorker. Bladimir believes that the entire immigrant LGBTQ community deserves a chance to show that they are able to work, love their neighbor, and that they are people who come to this country to overcome. He hopes to achieve his goals and wishes that someday everyone is free from homophobia and employment discrimination.
  • Hassan Williams, 24, a queer black artist and activist originally from Kansas City, Mo. 
  • Bahar Akyurtlu, 28, is a first-generation Turkish trans woman living in New York. A former academic, Akyurtlu currently works for the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project as a community organizer helping former detainees and asylum seekers.
  • Anthony Sababria, 27, came to the United States from Guatemala six years ago. He likes music, to dance with friends, and is committed to fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community.
  • Jerome André Jones, 24, is a gay gender nonconforming West Indian who has been fighting for the rights of all members of the LGBTQ community since the age of 15. 
  • Julián Padilla, 28, is a genderqueer organizer from the South who has been involved in radical trans and queer movements for over a decade. 
  • Sebastián De Gré Cardenas, 21, is a gender non-conforming Boy Doña from Mexico City currently living in New York. She uses her background in art and design to organize within LGBTQ social justice spaces in her community and performs in drag on stages across the country.

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Transgender rights made significant gains in 2014, with President Obama signing Executive Order 13672 in July prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the civilian federal workforce and in hiring by federal contractors; as well as a ruling in May by the review board of the U.S. Department of Health and Services that trans patients cannot be denied Medicare funds for medical care deemed necessary by doctors and mental health professionals. 

Not only politically, but also across popular culture platforms, trans issues have gained prominence. Laverne Cox, the acclaimed actress from the Netflix series, “Orange is the New Black,” graced the cover of TIME this year with the headline “The Transgender Tipping Point;” R&B singer R. Kelly’s son came out as a young trans man; and Facebook added over 50 gender options from which users can choose.

But as trans people gain visibility and understanding as people who identify as male or female despite being assigned a different gender at birth, a greater gap in understanding exists for gender non-conforming (GNC) and non-binary trans individuals.

“Not content with identifying or expressing themselves as only either men or women, we feel and show genders that mix, vary, and/or go beyond these categories and may identify as genderqueer, agender, two spirit, neutrois, gender fluid, and third gender, among many others,” explains Julián Padilla, LGBTQ Justice Organizer for GLOBE, the Brooklyn LGBTQ Committee of Make the Road NY (MRNY). A predominantly immigrant, grassroots organization with offices in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, MRNY’s mission is to “build the power of Latino and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, transformative educations, and survival services”.  

Expanding on an earlier project that focused on transgender women from Central America, Benedict Evans photographed a cross section of trans and GNC individuals who meet at GLOBE each week. “While I wanted to make these portraits to help in some small way to raise awareness of gender issues,” Evans said, “I also thoroughly enjoyed making them … I saw in them an amazing combination of openness and defiance which I hope I was able to convey in the pictures.”

An exhibition of these portraits will be on display at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park from Jan. 11-Jan. 25, with an opening reception with the photographer and subjects on Jan. 10 from 5:30-8pm.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography

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