By Josh Saunders
Trans models have been photographed beaten up and dressed to show gender norms as part of a trans awareness week.
Thomas Evans, 34, from Manhattan, New York, hopes to depict the abuse transgender people face and the accepted societal norms in his daring images.
He photographed celebrity models Dina Delicious and Brian Michael Smith as part of the shoot, which previously featured ex-Celebrity Big Brother star Rodrigo Alves.
The masterclass, held by Thomas at Central Connecticut State University, USA, coincided with Trans Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Thomas believes the community is suppressed by a lack of access to health care, employment and housing – which can lead to increased likelihood of drug use and the risk of HIV.
Thomas, a photo artist, said: “These models are well-known in the trans and LGBTQ+ community, I wanted the students to with their creativity, hearing their stories and see these people living their truths.
“The first portrait shows the accepted, what people see in prescribed genders of masculine and feminine.
“Then for the second we show the abuse trans people face in society.
“Each model posed in two different portraits.
“We gave Brian the look of a bloody nose from make-up, it was very dramatic and intense.
“The first look is to show what is acceptable in society and approved, that is beautiful and in the box of beauty, masculine and feminine and what is accepted.
“The second shows the abuse in society towards trans people – physical, sexual, verbal, mental and cultural.
“The most common is verbal abuse and that can be just as damaging, we want to represent all forms of abuse from the sides you can see to those that you can’t.”
The photographs contrasted two images, the ‘glamour’ of accepted gender norms and the physical manifestation of abuse geared towards the trans community.
Covered in make-up to create fake blood and bruising Brian Michael Smith and Dina Delicious hope the photographs bring awareness and help to form new allies.
Brian, 35, from New York, an actor famed for his role on NBC show Queen Sugar, believes it was important to highlight the treatment of the trans community.
The event which occurred the day before Transgender Day of Remembrance made it more poignant for him.
He said: “It remembers the victims of violence and suicide, a lot of them because of the communication around trans people, the stigma and violence.
“It’s important these people may not have experienced physical assault and to see that impact of a violent situation.
“When allies understand they are more likely to stand-up for real people, honouring their identity.
“All people should be free to explore how they want to define themselves, nothing is set in stone.”
Dina, a recording artist, actress and activist, from New York, found the ‘polarity’ of the images exciting as she is used to be photographed in a more glamorous way.
She said: “I’m used to having photos taken, but it was interesting and exciting meeting these students.
“I think while in the editing room they will understand it in a clever way, at the time they were taking photos it was in an artistic way.
“It’s very emotional for me, I believe seeing photos will open their eyes and create a dialogue.”
Thomas was inspired by the women’s marches after President Trump’s leaked comment ‘Grab them by the p****’ and the need to support children who are non-gender conforming.
As well as his mindset switch from a young male ashamed of his sexuality, to an adult proud of embracing both sides of his personality
Thomas said: “Growing up as a gay child, I felt a lot of shame, so I tried to hide who I was and created these walls, but now as an adult I recognise being able to access masculine and feminine is a gift.
“As a gay man, I am able to present as a man and still have the emotional response as feminine, which to me is more compassion, sensitive to the world, more empathetic.
“To me being able to carry both is a gift, I want to take the best of each energies and use them.
“I hope for zero judgement on how people present themselves and breaking down stereotypes.
“Society is moving in such a rapid direction that gender is not male or female anymore, the new generation is gender fluid.
“They don’t have to decide to be either a man or a woman in the world but can create their own path, I’m trying to normalise that idea.”
In the masterclass Thomas highlighted his Femme the Man campaign, which he claims has brought a mixture of emotions online.
He says many people thanking him for raising the conversation about gender fluidity and abandoning the notion that people should conform to prescribed gender roles.
Thomas added: “I never set-out for the photo-campaign to be controversial, I follow my passion in life and feel like I’m expressing my hope for equality.
“I want to promote diversity, equality, compassion and love.”
Visit his site for more: www.thomasevansphotography.com