• Images from Emma Leslie's 'Transcend: Portraits of Transgender & Gender Diverse Youth' series. (Emma Leslie Photography.)Source: Emma Leslie Photography.
"Gender is a spectrum. It’s not black and white, there’s no right or wrong. It’s subjective. It belongs to that person and that person only."
By
Chloe Sargeant

31 Mar 2017 - 11:09 AM  UPDATED 31 Mar 2017 - 11:09 AM

It's been announced that a celebrated Australian photography series about gender diverse children will be shown at the Head On Photo Festival in Sydney this year.

'Transcend: Portraits of Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth' by Australian-born photographer Emma Leslie captures singular portraits of a group of transgender and gender diverse children, aged between five and 17 years old. 

Leslie tells SBS, "There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding gender diversity. Gender is a spectrum. It’s not black and white, there’s no right or wrong. It’s subjective. It belongs to that person and that person only."

Each of the children were photographed in a location of their choice where they feel the most relaxed, in an self-chosen outfit that they believe best reflects their personality and identity.

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"I left it up to the kids to choose where they wanted their photo taken and what they wanted to wear. It was about them and how they wanted to be seen, to best reflect their personalities and to show their authentic self," said Leslie.

A photographer originally from Sydney's Northern Beaches, Leslie shot the editorial series in Melbourne (aside from one image, which was shot in Sydney) in 2015.

She searched for support groups for trans and gender diverse children to find participants, and ended up finding Transcend, and 10 children willing to be photographed. 

Alongside each portrait, there is a quote from the subject about their relationship with their gender identity. 

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One participant, 11-year-old Evie, chose to be photographed as a mermaid at the beach - her quote is "I’m loving, funny, with a hint of crazy”.

Another subject, 17-year-old artist Oliver, chose to be photographed with his camera - his quote is, "Coming into my soon-to-be early years of adulthood, I've been able to reflect more and more as time goes by; who I am, who I want to be, and who is the truest me I can possibly be? And all the answers are simply...Queer!"

Korra, who is 14 years old, said for the quote underneath her image, "I am a more happier, confident, version of myself when I finally started living my authentic, true self."

Along with the portrait series, Emma also took photos of the kids with their parents or siblings, too - this includes Georgie Stone, the Victorian transgender teen who won the GLTBI Person of the Year after her campaign to change Australia's laws that force trans kids to apply to Family Court in order to access hormone therapy drugs. Leslie photographed Georgie with her mum, Rebekah. 

Leslie tells SBS that she simply wanted to "create a series that would have an impact".

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"This series is a chance to create awareness of the reality that is 'transgender' and the everyday children that live with it. It has also been a moment for the kids to feel happy in their own skin as their true self, and to inspire others to do the same. I hope that it has a positive impact on everyone who sees it. That it starts a conversation and helps to open people’s minds. At the end of the day we’re talking about kids here, our future, they need to be nurtured and most of all, listened to.

"I hope that people can walk away with a better understanding and a little compassion. To be able to see these images and just see children. They look like all the other kids in the playground. They do the same things. They’re strong, intelligent, powerful little beings. We can learn so much from them if we just open our minds and our hearts."

'Transcend: Portraits of Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth' will show at Sydney's Head On Photo Festival, from 5-28 May 2017.