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The reactions I got from some gay guys to my photo shoots with trans models will shock you

The reactions I got from some gay guys to my photo shoots with trans models will shock you

Trans model Jake Graf, photographed by Paul Grace.

Being gay I’ve always struggled with heteronormative ideals and am continuously looking at ways of challenging the ‘blue for boys, pink for girls’ way of thinking.

I’d been photographing gay and lesbian weddings as well as queer club events around London for a couple of years when LGBTI activist Stav Bee asked me to photograph their trans club night at Dalston Superstore.

It was a real eye-opener to document the monthly T-Club event where the trans community and their friends would come together in a safe space to hang out, drink, dance and just ‘be’.

It was here that I met film director and actor Jake Graf at an intimate screening of his trans themed film, Brace. We talked about collaborating on a photo shoot to create some forward-thinking visuals as a push to help ‘normalize’ opinion on the trans community.

Then 2015 went crazy. We had features and images included across eight international publications from Turkey to New Zealand and across the US, 5 of which were front covers. The net was also buzzing with articles.

Disappointingly though, it appears transphobia is still rife – and shockingly so within the LGBTI community.

At the end of the summer, we made the front the front cover of London gay scene magazine QX. This was pretty huge as it was the first time QX had ever featured a trans man as a front cover.

I went into an Old Compton Street bar to pick up a copy and got chatting to a group of gay guys. I told them the story behind the cover shot and was horrified at their reaction: ‘But gay men’s magazines should only have real men on the front.”

This wasn’t an isolated incident. I was at a party later in the year talking to a

gay friend about a forthcoming shoot we were planning. He was really confused about what I was doing it and questioned whether it was only because I wanted see what it was like to ‘fuck a tranny’.

It was upsetting to bear witness to these instances of intra community phobia but instead of getting angry I was motivated to change attitudes.

I now regularly photograph trans people from all over the world and from all walks of life, and have recently worked with Ben Melzer, Hannah Winterbourne and Munroe Bergdorf.

I refer to classic designer ads in the shoots but with transgender models to challenge perception of love, lust and life in a cisgender world.

I hope my work goes some way to breaking down barriers and helping acceptance of transgender people. It’s been a rewarding couple of years but as long as transphobia exists, my work with the trans community goes on.

Paul Grace is an LGBTI wedding and documentary photographer.