Not a ‘girly girl’

An ongoing collaborative, documentary project with Bea, winner of Miss Transgender UK 2017/18.

“When I left school, I thought, OK, I’ll teach myself how to be a man,” says Bea, 31, from Scunthorpe, UK. “I’ve been a mechanic, a security guard, a bouncer, a private investigator, a bailiff and a high court sheriff.”

Fast-forward to November 2017 and Bea is accepting the crown for Miss Transgender UK in Brighton. Taking centre-stage she says: “Growing up I didn’t know ‘trans’ was a thing, so I carried on being a boy. I gave up the fight four years ago.”

As a pageant queen, a model, a transgender woman and a woman full stop, Bea frequently finds herself under scrutiny from others, whether from close family or complete strangers. The project title came from this frustration of Bea ‘having’ to deal with other people’s expectations.

A week after the pageant Bea described wanting to “fly”, i.e. to die. “It looked like I was on a high, but I was very much on the edge. At the end of it all I was still sat on my own at night, back in Scunthorpe.”

84% of transgender people in the UK have considered ending their lives at some point, with half attempting to do so at least once.

In her words

As the collaboration developed, the project started to include some more conceptual shots, which we developed the ideas for together, for example Bea posing in a ballgown with a gun. The picture was taken shortly after an LBC radio journalist was transphobic about Bea while on air.

The resulting photo is her statement as to who she is, and poses an “F you” to people who think she should conform in any way.

It’s important that Bea’s story is told from her point of view as much as possible, instead of left open to interpretation. We’ve spent endless hours chatting over the last two and half years or so, and each image is paired with a direct quote.

“When I see the work,” says Bea. “I don’t see a story from someone that has followed me, I see a story created by someone who knows me. It’s so genuine and honest. I can say ‘that’s me’. That’s my life.”

Featured in: Photomonitor, Amber magazine, Shutter Hub, Fable and Folk, Fleur and Arbor (upcoming), and exhibited in group exhibitions at the Open Eye Gallery, Festival Pil’Ours and Cambridge University, all curated by Shutter Hub, and at the Glasgow Gallery of Photography.