Does Transition Into The Female Role Mean I Fancy Men?

Often people who are not trans or in the LGBT+ community can get confused around gender and sexuality. I guess it’s an easy mistake to make.

The simple part is to remember that gender is about who and what I am and sexuality is about who I fancy.

When I lived as a woman during my twenties I was often asked by family and friends “does this mean you fancy men now? Wouldn’t it be easier to just be a gay man?”

My relationships have always been with women whether I live in the male role, or as the woman I believe myself to be. I must say though that I always find a boost to my self esteem if anyone takes an interest in me. That doesn’t make me a gay man though. I’m flattered if any one dares to fancy me (poor sods) but I don’t consider myself to be male, so I’m not a gay man. I’m also not a heterosexual woman. I’m only interested in women romantically.

The Bane Of Codependancy

It would be easy to state that codependancy is people pleasing and the desire to make others happy, but that view would be a naive statement.

When I am in the company of others I don’t want to make decisions for myself because I am afraid that I will cause offence. My preference, at least outwardly, is to agree with suggestions from the other person, because I want to make them happy. It’s easy to go along with this way of thinking and acting, but to do so is to believe the lie.

When I’m reflecting upon this kind of behaviour with an open mind I can see the truth of the matter. That truth is disturbing. People pleasing is dishonest and self centred. My codependancy is born from a fear of rejection, of not being good enough, a belief that if I state my needs in any given situation then you will not like me and will abandon me. My self esteem is low.

I know this internal belief comes from the horrors of my childhood. My upbringing has left me full of shame about who I am. I feel like I am a useless, worthless and bad person. These emotions become heightened when I interact with others, and to be seen as a good person I must make you happy. If I disagree with you then I am bad and you won’t like me. I’ll then feel the shame of my very existence, exposed, naked and raw. It’s self centred and puts me at the centre of the universe. It’s a statement that I have the power to make you feel good or bad, that I’m that special and unique.

It also means that you cannot have a relationship with me. If I’m not being true to myself in my dealings with you, then you’re not in a relationship with me. You are in a relationship with who I think you want me to be. It’s a selfish way to live.

In romantic relationships I am at my worst. The emotional entanglement overwhelms me. If you point out a fault, or disagree with something which I say or do, then you must be right. I find it easy to see things from your point of view, and in doing so I lose myself completely. I slowly stop having opinions or ideas and I end up a confused mess in near constant pain. I stop being me.

The above is a scary picture, and painful to see in black and white, but this was my experience for most of my life.

Living on my own for several years has given me a break from the mess, and it’s also given me the opportunity to begin to address my codependancy and heal. I practice self care in many ways, and doing so improves the value which I place in myself. My friends can now ask for an opinion and I’m able to respond truthfully. I can be with others and say what I would or wouldn’t like, at least some of the time. I’m a work in progress, and I have to put a lot of effort into being honest with others. I still have a strong fear of rejection and abandonment, but I am improving slowly. A romantic relationship is definitely off of the cards, but I’m finding I’m more able to be honest with friends and family to a degree.

I’m finding out who I am, and beggining to let go of who I think you want me to be. I’m not perfect, I can still avoid sharing my truth some of the time. But I’m certainly moving forwards one step at a time.

Review Of The Second London Regional OCA Group

What a fabulous time I had last weekend. Six of us met at the Hayward Gallery to see the exhibition Kiss My Genders, to have a social chat and to critique work that we had brought along.


Kiss My Genders was a wonderful combination of photography, art, collage, film and installations by 35 artists from around the world. The exhibition explores gender identity, the politicalisation of gender, gender fluidity, and discrimination. “Crime Scene” by Zanele Muholi portrays the horrific murder and violence committed against the black lesbian and transgender community in South Africa. Hard Hitting!

qrfCrime Scene by Zanele Muholi

The whole exhibition was fascinating and has left me with questions; What is gender? Who decides or claims ownership of my gender by labelling me? Why do people commit violence against people who don’t conform to historic social norms?


I identify as gender fluid and currently living in the male role, I’ve questioned my gender and identity a lot over the course, so it was a refreshing exhibition for me. However, I did feel that the exhibition lacked some emotional depth in places, and portrayed gender fluid and transgender people as being about clothing, make up, and performance (drag). Gender and identity are so much more than these limited aspects.

hdrplA View from Elsewhere, Act 1, and She Postures in Context – installation by Victoria Sin

Seeing the exhibition before we had coffee/tea/lunch etc, was a wonderful way to break the ice. It provides a platform for discussion and that cut through the nervous tension of being in a group. I need that because I struggle with being around people, but I settled and I really enjoyed myself.

Two of us had brought photography for critique and a third person had brought a draft exhibition proposal to be reviewed. What I liked about this part of the afternoon was the non critical way the critique was given. Questions were asked rather than statements being made. I particularly liked the feedback I was given on one of my embroidered photographs. It helped me to clearly see how I’ve moved from the technical approach of learning a new skill, into bringing my emotion to the forefront of my art.

The next London Regional OCA Group will be in September, although we’re unsure of the date and venue. We are a cross genre group so any OCA student is welcome to attend.


Reflection On A Question On Gender And Identity – Exercise 3.10

The brief for exercise 3.10 can be found at the bottom of the page.

Gender and identity are important to me, and are significant around the world at the moment. People are being able to explore and express their identity, and statues, laws and policies are being changed to recognise that gender is not a male female polarisation. we all know that our chromosones and genitalia define whether we are legally a man or woman, but gender is not as simple as this.

What the bloody hell is gender I aks myself? Truth is I realy do not know. We are socialised into behaving in certain ways according to whether we are a man or woman/boy or girl. But if we are socialised into this behaviour then surely we cannot say that this is a true reflection on gender. Socialisation means that gender roles can be different depending upon culture, class, ethnicity and religion. Gender roles have also changed over the centuries. So is gender defined by what we wear and the unequal division of unpaid labour within the home, then to me, this is not gender, it’s culture. There is far more that I could explore here, becaue it’s a theme that matters to me, but I’ll leave that for another day.

When I read the brief for this exercise I knew that I would not be able to complete it. My anxiety is high at the moment, so I could not make a formal portrait of another person. But I did not want to avoid the exercise. After assignment two my tutor and I discussed how I could develop a body of work which explores identity, where I use masks and props with a variety of people, in a manner that they feel represents an aspect of their personality. I figured that I could do this with self-portrait for this exercise.

This has been one of the most fun photo shoots that I have made. It’s not perfect and there are some points of learning for me. This series will need to be re-worked in order to be added added to the Identity body of work (which will not be about gender per se).

The shoots took place over two weekends, and at slightly different times and lighting conditions, which is where the issues lay for me. The first weekend I shot the ‘female’ clothing with the male mask, and the following weekend the ‘male’ clothing and the ‘female’ mask. The props include the books on the sofa, which and in my hands (which are photography related), the photos above me in the seated photos, the book case, the crystals, two masks, different outfits of clothing.

In the diptychs that I have presented as a seperate post (see here) I have tried to match composition and tonal range, and in Lightroom have set the white balance the same through out the eight photos. Because I shot over two weekends then thematching composition is ok, but will be better with a re-work of the series. I have tried to demonstrate  what may be defined as male body language where I am wearing the make clothing, and female poses in the female outfits. The clothing, body language and masks are a relay between the photos and the title ‘A question on gender and identity’. I felt that the title gives the viewer space for contemplation, without requiring further introductory text. People can make of it as they will.

In order for a successful re-work I need to

  • Invest in some lighting equipment
  • Have a technician to take the photos
  • Buy a new mask for when I am wearing the male clothing
  • Use a cream foundation as a base and then the powder on top
  • Re-touch lipstick frequently and use a slighlty brighter colour
  • Take all of the seated shots at the same time with all sets of clothing
  • Take all of the standing shots at the same time with all sets of clothing
  • More male clothing outfits

I made several hundred photos for this shoot so evaluation and selection has not been easy at all. It involved going through a process of adding picks and labels in Lightroom and going through the “cut” process in which i delete photos, on five occasions, and finally I printed contacts in black and white so that I could make the final selection by matching tonal range and composition, without the element of colour to disteract me.


Leaving out photos that I like, but that did not fit in with the series was hard. There were thre that I particularly liked, but as I am developing as a photographer I am learning to avoid attatchment and personal involvement where I can, so that I can have a more objective approach. This is very much a learning process and work in progress for me. The following are tow of those favourites.


Over all I am pleased with the diptychs that I have produced. They refelct aspects of my personality, the staging and composition are ok, but with room for improvement, and the masks and props work well.

The Final Four DiptychsOn-Gender-and-Identity-1




Brief:- How would you make a formal portrait of someone, that tells the viewer about that persons charachter, life and interests but remains subtle and restrained? Making a ‘formal’ portrait is a ‘real world’ scenario for most photographer. It’s generally a full-length portrait of a person whowing their whole figure deliberately posed to be the main subject of the composition. It wont include exessive display of emotion or activity. A formal portrait demands great care over the composition and the lighting. You will need to make many exposures to capture a meaningful portrait from your subject. Wait for your subject to relax. Be alert to their nuances of facial expression and gesture and try to find a ‘real’ face, not a self-conscious or smiling or ‘this is how I want ro be seen’ sort of face. By juxtaposing significant elements (props, setting, clothes) in the frame, you’re setting up a kind of ‘dialogue’ between them, in which a resonance should occur, but try to remain subtle. Before you start, research the photographs of Rineke Djkstra and look at Thomas Struth’s portraits on the Tate website:

Exercise 3.10 – A Formal Portrait – Planning – Self Portrait -Gender – Identity


This is a scary one for me because I am going to need to make this a self-portrait. As you are aware I do not have anyone that I can work with on this, and although I had initially considered working with one or two people who I know who are homeless, my mental health currently leaves me unable to approach people.

I have anxiety about revealing myself, so I am going to build upon my tutors feedback with regard to assignment two. She suggested that I explore identity by making portraits of people and by using masks where possible.

The brief is quite specific about what a formal portrait is, and I am choosing to break away from it a little, otherwise I will not be able to complete the exercise. I hate my face right now, so I cannot create a formal portrait of myself in which my face is revealed, it wouldn’t help my mental health.

So I am going to create a multi layered approach that will include the use of masks, clothing, and current books and camera, to explore questions around gender identity along with practice representations of my current lifestyle. The use of masks will mean that I am breaking away from the brief and also respecting my needs with regard to keeping my mental wellbeing as well as I can.

The photos in this post are self portraits that I have taken in a manner that I can cope with sharing with others.

Richard Keys

Tutor Feedback – Excited About Photography

I will write a full post about my tutors (Jayne Taylor) feedback once I’ve had time to digest and reflect upon what we discussed.

However, one thing that I have really connected with is the potential for developing the Painting With Light Assignment further. I now have lots of thoughts and ideas floating around in my brain, that will develop over time. Certainly the theme of self and other has come strongly to the surface. A theme that’s particularly important to me, and where I am currently in my life. Jayne has prompted me to consider that a good piece of work doesn’t need to be viewed as having been done and dusted, but how it can be built upon and developed into a body of work.

As for being excited about photography – I am. I have enjoyed the coursework and my personal photography, but since going to Cork I have been out with my camera more frequently. The more often I am out with a camera in my hand, the more I enjoy photography.

Image the Portrait – Opening Questions

“Portraits are about identity: passport, mug-shots, celebrity and anthropological photos all function by the recognition of the person – particularly their face. Could you still identify someone visually if you didn’t show their face? Or could you identify someone visually merely by showing the place they live and the traces they leave? If regular signs of a person’s identity (e.g. the type of clothes they wear) are changed, what happens to your interpretation of them?” (Enoch, R; 2017)

Could you still identify someone visually if you didn’t show their face? There are some people whom I would recognise by their height, build and outline. However, this is when I seen them in real life as three-dimensional beings. Their body language, mannerism and movement would also give them away. I doubt that this would be the same if I saw them in a photograph without their face. There are certain pieces of clothing, environment, possessions and vehicles that I would recognise and associate with them. My answer is perhaps I would recognise them, if they were presented in a photo in a manner that reflects their lifestyle.

Could you identify someone visually merely by showing the place they live or the traces they leave? I would perhaps be able to do this if I were presented with a series of photos of a friend or family member. If a single image showed their home, then yes, but as we get down to smaller identifiers, then it would be less likely without a series. The more subtle the connection is the harder it would be. What fun it would be to create a suspense mystery on this theme.

Sadly, I think I could answer this question better about certain celebrities. With the Queen, the pope, and certain Formula One Drivers or footballers the denotation could have more obvious and person specific meaning, thus making the person more easily identifiable.

If regular signs of a person’s identity (e.g. the type of clothes they wear) are changed, what happens to your interpretation of them? If the Queen were to don a Morrisons uniform and sell me cheese from behind the deli I would still recognise her (I would think that Prince Harry has got her involved in a charity stunt). If certain female friends wore a dress I would consider that they were going to fancy dress, a funeral or court. There have been times recently when I have recognised the face of people in town, and have had to pause to consider where I know them from. They have been physically out of context, and this can also be confusing.



Enoch, R; 2017; Foundations in Photography; Barnsley; Open College of the Arts; Online at (accessed on 13/09/2017)