Monday, June 4, 2018

A Case Study, of Sorts

For a project that's growing slowly closer to completion, I am photographing and interviewing younger people.

The most recent interview was with a couple of my neighbors, a young couple that I had first thought were lesbians. After I met them (we have dogs, and thus meet from time to time in the natural pattern of walking the dogs) it became clear that there was something more subtle going on. This is not my first rodeo, so I didn't bother trying to guess exactly what, simply filed them in to mental "nice dog people, some gender thing going on" folder which, I admit, is empty at the moment except for them.

Recently I accosted Clove, one of the two, and requested an interview/photo session, which was granted, huzzah! In the course of this discussion, Clove clarified that they are "gender non-binary" and prefer the use of the pronouns "they/them" and that I should refer to them as such in any completed work.

As an aside, I appreciate profoundly what appears to be a trend in the non-binary community to use "they/them" pronouns rather than any of the neologisms "ze/zir" and so on. I never could get the neologisms straight, but even the AP accepts "they/them" as gender neutral singular. Thank you, gender non-binary peeps!

Anyways, the work I have in mind doesn't actually refer to the subjects in the third person, so it was a non-issue.

What's not a non-issue is the mugshot that accompanies their testimony. It occurred to me that since neither Clove nor Jackie typically project much in the way of masculine cues, I (and presumably other people) tend to read them as feminine. Thus a photograph of them together is likely to read as "lesbian couple" which is not correct. OMG! This "coding" business is actually real. Since the point of these pictures is to present truthful testimony, I think it's important that the photographs be truthful.

As another aside, I find it interesting that "not masculine" seems to come out "feminine" in my brain. Would "non-feminine" read as "masculine" to me? I don't know. Jackie and Clove do present, I think, a few feminine cues. But subtly, and not all is clear to me.

So, I put my mind to it, and shot them as neutrally as possible. Even shoulders, looking straight on, neutral expressions.

I think it worked pretty well. It reads, to my eye, as ambiguous and distinctly neither masculine nor feminine.

Since I haven't asked for permission to use their pictures generally, I won't share here. The Final Project will be viewable as a book preview on blurb in a few weeks, and I might do a blog post with the work presented as itself earlier. I will cite this post as suitable.

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