Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

They/Them Project shows and tells transgender life stories

Posted on 18 November 2018 by calvin

Xochi de la Luna (left) and Brent Dundore (right) co-hosted a gender discussion at Peace Coffee (3262 Minnehaha Ave.), in support of the They/Them Project on exhibit there through Dec. 5. On the wall behind them are portraits from the project. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Photographer and activist Brent Dundore has been working on the They/Them Project for the past two years, and he doesn’t see the project ending any time soon. So far, he has interviewed and photographed 33 gender non-conforming individuals, giving them a platform to be seen and heard.

“This project has meant a lot to me,” Dundore said, “because it’s given me the chance to educate myself and others about gender diversity. When it comes down to it, this project is often seen through the photographs—but if people aren’t listening to the interviews, they aren’t getting what they can from the project. If you look at the images and they mean anything to you, they will mean much more when you hear the participants tell their own stories.”

Some of those stories are not what you would expect. There is Emma, age eleven at the time of her interview. Emma prefers she/her and they/them pronouns, though she presents herself as a boy. When Dundore asked her, “Do you feel more like a boy when you wear a suit or other boy’s clothes?” She answered, “No, I feel more like me.”

The They/Them Project is currently on exhibit at Peace Coffee (3262 Minnehaha Ave.). The images will be on view there until Dec. 5.

On Nov. 1, Dundore and project participant Xochi de la Luna co-hosted a community discussion about gender attended by a couple of dozen people. Emma’s sentiments were repeated by others from the project in attendance, as well as those in the audience not part of the project.

Xochi identifies as a-gender and uses the pronouns they/them. Xochi said, “I felt like I was living in a box when I was growing up as a boy. I just never was attached to the idea of what it meant to be a man. Those of us who are trans, we want to live in a world where there aren’t so many assumptions made about who we are because of our gender.”

Photo right: Diverse community members came together to talk about what gender identity and gender expression mean to them. Upcoming gender discussions will take place at the Minneapolis Jewish Community Center and Lutheran Social Services’ Center for Changing Lives. Check www.brentdundore.com for details. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Dundore, who identifies as cisgender, gay and bisexual, and a husband, uses the pronouns he/him. “This project got started because I wanted to challenge my own ignorance on gender, and to better understand people who are gender non-conforming,” he said. Sporting a t-shirt that read, “Pronouns matter,” he explained,

“We’re all people with our own individual outlooks on life. I asked each project participant, ‘Could you imagine a situation in which you’d be upset if someone asked which pronouns you use? Every person answered, ‘Please, ask!’” Using the pronouns a person prefers is a sign of respect.

Dundore is an accomplished photographer with a celebrity and commercial portfolio, and an impressive corporate client and publications list. He currently runs BD Portraits Studio (BDPortraits.com) in the Powderhorn neighborhood. His activist photography credentials include starting the “Marry Us Campaign,” “Broadway Legacy,” celebrating black Broadway artists, the “Why I Ride Project” in support of the AIDS fundraising bike rides, “My Voice Seen,” and the “They/Them Project.”

Who is Dundore trying to reach with his current project? “Anyone willing to listen,” he said. “Go to the website,” he reiterated, “everything is there.”

The ongoing podcast can be seen and heard at TheyThemProject.org.

Chanhassen Dinner Theater

Little Brothers

U of M Brain Study

citizen advisory board

Habitat ReStore

Ballet Minnesota

Hiawatha Academies

Nilles-Filler-Combo-Online-ad-10292015