One Year Later...

Ok, it’s April 24th and today marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of my medical transition. You might read a lot of these, you might not…maybe you’ve seen a few YouTube videos of people describing their physical experience through the whole ordeal. This isn’t about any of that. This is about the effects that transition has brought on my life and their meaning, the repercussions, and the future. This is for anyone who is looking for a reason to live their truth, regardless of gender.

It took a very short time between my first doctor visit and the day I was prescribed hormones. This was it. These were the magic pills that were going to make my life immensely more satisfying, and relieve the dysphoria and body dysmorphia that have plagued me my entire life. Wrong wrong wrong. That didn’t happen…at least not right away. The beginning hormone replacement therapy also came with the ending of my almost-three-year relationship. No need to go into detail over the specifics of what happened, but the root cause was that my then-girlfriend felt as if her happiness was being stripped away from her, that she lost the man she wanted to be with forever. And I get it. I spent a large portion of the time after (read:months) in absolute anger and sadness, feeling abandoned and unworthy of love because of who I was. I spent the summer flailing in the sea of self identity, drowning and desperately searching for a life raft. With the help of my closest friends, I began to realize that all great losses are followed by a period of rebirth.

Becoming single was the single best thing to help me in my transition. It allowed me to figure out who I was, and how to love this person. After a summer hiatus, I jumped back into my photography, knocking down shoot after shoot, finding my voice and meeting new people in the process. With no relationship to weigh in my judgement, new opportunities arose. I attended the Fujifilm Festival in Venice Beach in the fall. I gained new connections. I stepped down from my full-time grocery management job and took a chance on myself, stepping down to part-time and filling my fridge with money made in photography. Things were beginning to take shape.

All this time grinding wasn’t without its drawbacks. The side effect of working hard is loneliness. You see, this is where being transgender has a big impact on your life. Dating waters are tepid. Partners don’t want to hold hands with you public. You get ghosted. You get curved (look that up). You’re fetishized and disposed of just as quickly as you were ensnared in new feelings. I guess these are just cultural things that are going to take time to change. In any case, this is something that I feel needs to be brought to light, just to make everyone aware, trans or not. It’s a thing.

Moving on, International's Women’s Day came around this year and I was featured by Adobe for their artist spotlight. I don’t believe in divine signs, but the timing of this was immense for me, as it motivated me to go create new work purely for the feature. I worked on a 3-day deadline and sank three different shoots to mark the occasion. Something happened. My work took on a new life, it began to actually have a look of its own. So I ran with it. I pushed hard to create more artistically. Suddenly focusing became easy. All it took was a single nod of validation from someone (a company, in this case). Adobe’s blog post (you can read it here, I’m towards the top) labeled me as an artist. I now knew my identity for the first time in my adult life.

I am a transfemale fine art and portrait photographer. I have no problem being out and saying this. Sure, it puts me in a vulnerable position and leaves me susceptible to violence and discrimination, but I get to be me. I get to live my life, and that’s something I won’t let anyone nor myself deny me. It took me thirty three years to figure it out. But I got here. If that isn’t success then I don’t know what is.

It isn’t all roses though. I’ve had several major depression episodes and struggle with anxiety. Virtually none of that is transition related however, it’s got more to do with my lifestyle habits than anything else, but I just want to be open and honest with everyone reading. I still struggle with my weight. I’m still unhappy with how I look. But it’s getting better. I can face myself because I know who I am. I know what I want from life, and it’s going to take hard fucking work to get there. I know who I am…that’s a solid place to start.

I quit my job. It’s the riskiest thing I’ve ever done, but I only have one life, and if I’m lucky I still haven’t lived half of it. I’m spending the rest of it living for me. If there’s someone else along for the ride great. My friends and family will be there, maybe they won’t. Transition has taught me to ditch expectations, because they are the birthplace of disappointment. Disappointment leads to regret, and regret is the single most useless emotion we face. You have to be flexible, where you stand today may not be where you stand tomorrow. Don’t waste the opportunity to experience your life because of fear, embrace it. I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. And it’s ok. Everything will be as it’s going to be.

One year later. I now know that life is limitless…

I went to yoga and cried like a baby.

Ok, well, there’s a bit more to it than that.

I love yoga. You might not be able to tell by looking at me, but I love the challenge of a good vinyasa session and the meditative effects it brings on. Its a way to find peace in my otherwise infinitely busy mind. However, despite my love for yoga, I always resorted to apps or youtube classes to get my bend on to…I hadn’t actually attended a yoga class at all. I just appreciated the idea of getting some exercise and meditation in without having to hit the gym.

Flash forward to the beginning of February. My good friend Penelope (who, I might add, is tremendously positive and encouraging) had been insisting I check out The Yoga Room in Redlands (shameless plug, sorry about it), so after about as much procrastination and gender-related anxiety, I relented and took a trip down there. In an ironic twist, my good friend Paige’s mom (yep, same Paige from some of my favorite photos) works as the studio manager. Prior to the class, Penelope introduced me to some of her friends and the studio owners, and not once did anyone even raise an eyebrow at my trans-ness. I normally wouldn’t place any importance on this in my blog, BUT I do think it’s important that my fellow trans people can feel welcome in an environment like this. I don’t think this is something the people at the studio even had in their heads, but it meant a LOT to me.

The class itself was jam packed with seasoned yogis but not once did I feel intimidated or inadequate; in fact, quite the contrary. Seeing so many other yogis gathered in one place but all on their own journey was inspiring, and I knew that even though I might not be able to do everything or that I’m a little (a lot) pudgier than anyone else in the room, I knew I’d be ok.

This wasn’t a hot yoga class, but the room was kept warm and humid, comfy at first but then became a sauna after working up a sweat. It didn’t feel gross though, but it reminded me to towel off and drink water frequently. The moves themselves were ones I was familiar with. Plenty of Down Dog, Side Angle, and Warrior variations to bust my ass to. But it wasn’t the vinyasas that broke me down, it was the instructor, Daniel, and his speech that absolutely reduced my ego to rubble for a good week or so.

Daniel spoke about the need to maintain flexibility, not just in yoga but in life. That the place I’m in today may not be the place I’m in next week, and that it was neither good nor bad…just remain flexible and whatever comes up can be dealt with.

Simple enough right? Obvious? Hella. But something about the grueling 90 minutes of yoga combined with something I needed to be reminded of just broke me down. I cried. Not just little soggy eyes, I’m talking Cornelius in Fight Club crying. Maybe I needed to let go of certain expectations, maybe the yoga just fucked me up physically to the breaking point, but either way I laid in savasana weeping like reborn soul. It was the most amazing feeling, the feeling of physical weight and pain having been extracted from the body.

I left the studio with this amazingly tranquil aura around me. I felt like I was even seeing differently…nothing seemed chaotic or urgent in ways that normally area. Maybe this is something that yogis regularly feel, maybe it was an anecdotal personal experience, who even knows.

I’ll definitely be going back.

Sage Noire 004 - LA Autumn

Los Angeles. There isn’t another place I would rather call home. Despite being a resident of the Inland Empire, there is not another place in California that feels so familiar and cozy to me. I’ve been exploring the city since I was old enough to ride a train by myself, and it’s brought me my most incredible life experiences.

I’ve only experienced a tiny fraction of what this town can offer. The spaces are dynamic and ever changing, it’s rare to experience the city the same way, day-in and day-out. This is a city that defines itself by whatever the fuck it feels like it. This is a city that embraces tradition and nurtures the new. We aren’t afraid of change, we embrace it. We aren’t a perfect city or as deeply united as we can be, but there’s a thread we all share that can only be felt, not shown.

These images are my attempt to narrate ONE perspective of Los Angeles…and I can guarantee you that if I took these same photos today in the same places at the same times of day, these will look completely different.

Los Angeles. End of autumn, 2018.

Last Minute Engagement Session in Idyllwild, California

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you all had a great holiday season! Now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays is behind us, it’s time to get back to creating.

Mike and Misty got engaged over the Christmas holiday, and since they were in town visiting family they were able to book a last minute session just hours before flying back to the east coast. We went up to Idyllwild and shot around for a while; nothing about this session was posed, We just spent the time hanging out while these two love birds were gaga-eyed for each other – getting engaged can kinda do that to you.

A big thanks to the couple for the quality hang, it’s days like these that make this job feel like a vacation rather than work!

Who’s next?!