Freedom of Gender

Carla Kogelman

2021 - Ongoing

When I was 20, the human world was easily divided into male, female, gay, straight, bi, drag queen and transvestite. A girl was a she and a boy was a he. Those were the main boxes.

Now, forty years later, the world has become more diverse. More young people identify and present themselves as transgender or non-binary. The theme seems to be 'in', and what else can I contribute to this? how do I visualize this? Noelle posted a call on her socials and that set a ball rolling for a generation where there is a lot of online contact. Sometimes even more than in real life. In addition to the photos, I have asked everyone to provide a text about their attitude to life.

Some people feel strongly that the gender they are assigned at birth does not match how they feel and how they want to express themselves. What someone needs to experience that the gender identity does match the appearance varies enormously. In this series I meet a new generation of people who show me how they live their lives.

A portrait series about gender freedom.

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  • Sim (Hasselt, 34)
    I’ve learned so much the past few years. I can be, become, breathe, accept myself, others, in a gender free way. No labels, categories, male/female - we can all just be human beings. Preferably together, sometimes apart. Of course, I’m sometimes excluded - not everyone accepts my non conformity. Also, it’s an open ended journey - who knows where I’ll be in a year from now? I don’t know.

  • Noelle (Amsterdam, 20)
    Labels don’t quite feel right to me. I am a whole person who has their own story. I am a human being and what I feel is just what I feel without labels or limitations. My identity isn’t only one part of me, it’s all of them combined. So I am not fond of defining myself whether it be gender or sexuality, but others may want to do that which is completely fine too. In the end you are you and I am just me however we wish to define our identity.

  • Marvel (Zutphen, 26 )
    If you really want to know what someone is going through, you have to ask honest questions and be a listener. Be open and avoid making assumptions. It's the same with gender. You might look at someone you think is a man, but maybe that person doesn't identify as a man. That's only something you can learn by getting to know someone.

  • Emma (Hoogland, 13)
    Life becomes easier when you no longer take responsibility for everything you have done, but just do what feels and is right.

  • Maart (Groningen, 23)
    Every time I go the public bathroom I stand in front of the doors of the men’s and women’s bathroom and I think which one should I choose. I prefer to go to a bathroom where everyone is welcome. You know such a bathroom that we all have at home.

  • Seb (Amersfoort, 29)
    For me gender is also about food. For example, men are expected to eat a lot so that they can work hard. While women are allowed to eat little to be able to wear a certain pair of pants. All my life I have been involved in sports and health. When I dare to accept my femininity, dressing up becomes dressing. By being allowed to be more woman I also become more man.

  • Hayden (Amsterdam, 21)
    Being fluid is more than body and soul. Being fluid gave me the freedom in being what I felt I couldn't be, knowing that it’s alright being feminine in a trans black body as I can in my masculine ways, bring fluid means being open breaking out of boxes, moving freely over the spectrum, getting in touch with me, with hayden, but never forgetting that my feminine side excited, labels gave me a way to communicate and learn I hope you will find yours too.

  • Junior (Rotterdam, 20)
    I've always had to work hard for my goals I've always fought to walk in my truth even though I come from far I don't let anything define me but myself.

  • Lucas (Assen, 20)
    My pastor responded after my coming out by saying that he would be honoured to baptize me again, under my new correct name.

  • Celine (Merkenbrechts, 21)
    Being or more so becoming yourself is quite scary but also immensely beautiful. While I’m proud of how comfortable in my body and identity I’ve become, I know there’s still a long way to go. I am full of excitement about what’s to come but I am also anxious. There’ll be happy tears and sad ones. There’ll be nostalgic and euphoric smiling. It almost feels like the version of yourself that was is talking to the one that will be. I guess what I am trying to say is that it all will bittersweet but in a good way.

  • Lanthe (Zeist, 26)
    Being human is magical. There is so much more than the dichotomy that has arisen and is made in this world. How many people, how many genders. That's how it feels to me too. I think gender is fluid and my gender expression can fluctuate as a result. Being nonbinary is everything and being nothing at the same time.

  • Levi (Amsterdam, 17)
    I believe that freedom is for everyone. That everyone should be able to love everyone and that everyone can be themselves. I myself am still on the way to what is freedom for me until now I feel trapped in the gender assigned to me at birth. I am now at the beginning of my transition, it is tough, but I am sure it will be more than worth it

  • Nova (Breezand, 19)
    Acceptance what does that actually mean. The dictionary says: to accept, to be accepted. That sounds very easy when you read it that way, but it doesn't always happen. I also notice this in daily life in the form of pointing out, calling names, being spat at or by means of annoying questions. I don't care much about that, but I understand that it's not always easy for everyone to let go. I therefore hope that one day everyone can and may just be themselves without hiding or pretending to be different than that person actually is. Because that's acceptance!

  • Ellen (Rijen, 20)
    For me, gender is a concept. A social concept. I don't really do labels anyway. I am who I am and whether you like it or not, I will still be who I am. The most important thing is that I feel good and I don't need a label for that. In the end, you have to live the longest with yourself.

  • Lela (Utrecht, 22)
    Someone once asked me whether gender played a large role in my life. Of course it does, but I think a lot of cis people forget it also plays a large role in their life. Every time someone uses a certain dressing room, for example, that is also a decision they are making. For everyone, gender is a (unseen) part of their daily life.

  • Ryan (Hilversum, 29)
    What is feminine and what is masculine? Is sitting with your legs apart masculine, is long hair feminine? Is nail polish feminin and are muscles masculin? Nothing is masculin or feminin by itself, but as a society we have quietly agreed that one is masculin and the other feminin. Even pregnancy and carrying your own baby in your belly, which for many is the most feminine thing there is, is not feminine for everyone. For me, being pregnant with my own baby is not feminine or masculine but an experience apart from those words. It's something my body can do, it's beautiful and magical and difficult and tough, all at the same time.

  • Soof (Amsterdam, 21 ) & Chris (Lage Zwaluwe, 24)

    As a non-binary couple we understand each other and you bring each other (more quickly) to a higher level of self-acceptance. There is always room to be who you are at any given moment. Learning and discovering more together about who we want to be as a couple and as an individual feels liberating. Above all, we want to celebrate together that being queer is beautiful and learn to keep occupying our space.

  • Casey (Rumpt, 21)

    Transgender individuals are often asked many uncomfortable and inappropriate questions. Questions that are not relevant to the interrogator. It doesn't matter what my deadname is or what's in my pants. I am who I am and it matters little else.