Interviews, Portrait, Projects

Bex Day photographs gender fluidity in the UK’s older trans community

Main image: Irene, Orpington. All images © Bex Day

The photographer explores sexual identity and gender via those who dared to differ

‘Hen’ translates as a gender-neutral pronoun in Swedish, and is intended to move beyond the binary for those who identify neither as male or female. Hen is also the title of photographer Bex Day’s forthcoming project, which focuses on the older generation in the UK’s trans community.

Featuring 50 subjects over the age of 40, Hen tells personal stories and investigates the common themes of loss and discovery that unite its subjects. A deliberately empowering study of individuals often placed at the fringes, it records both light-hearted and disquieting experiences they have had. “When I was younger everyone thought I was a boy and my brother was a girl,” says Day. “My parents never told me ‘You’re a girl so you should dress in pink’; I really wasn’t a stereotypical girl, I was quite boyish and as I got older I felt more and more displaced.

“I think, particularly within the trans community, that feeling of displacement can be quite prevalent as well. There’s something about not fitting in, and not succumbing to stereotypes.”

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Jan, London, from the series Hen by Bex Day

Day found potential participants for Hen through online forums, and formed close friendships with those she photographed. Frustrated by the invisibility of the older generation within the trans community, she sought to capture them as honestly as possible and capture individuality at its best and most endearing.

“I’m learning a lot about myself and who I get on with,” she explains. “What I’ve learnt from doing this series is not everyone can like you; and to be more sensitive to others, more complimentary, because I’m so hard on myself I can sometimes project that on other people. It’s definitely a journey of finding my own identity.” 

Day’s images are bright, colourful and positive, and aim to normalise her subjects, banish negative stereotypes and complicate our notions of gender. “I feel like where we live and the time we live in, there’s so much pressure on labels,” Day explains. “I wanted to involve everyone in the trans community rather than pinpointing specific bits of it – transexual, transgender, transvestite, cross-dresser, drag queen, post-op, pre-op – these words are so heavily loaded, and with this book I wanted to completely eliminate that.”

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Angela, Melton, from the series Hen by Bex Day

“I think it is really important to show an alternative beauty, to enhance it, and not be censored by the media. There’s too much of that now and everything’s so commercialised,” she continues. “I want to show what I consider beautiful.”

Hen is due to be a photobook and an exhibition, for completion next year. For more, go here.