Gender is a spectrum, and we’re all living on it.
If you’re a cis identified person who knows someone who’s transgender or gender nonconforming, you probably have some questions. Because of the binary way we’ve been taught to conceptualize gender and bodies, we want to know things about surgery, hormones, and gender pronouns. But just because you’re curious doesn’t mean asking your friend about these deeply personal choices is the right thing to do. Instead, now is a great time to start educating yourself. Here are 4 Instagram accounts that will help you learn about the experiences of trans and gender nonconforming folks.
Wilson, a Florida musician, took to Instagram to document his female to male gender transition. He’s let his followers (currently he has 311k) in as he’s started on testosterone, had top surgery, and started to see the results of long-term testosterone use. Wilson frequently posts pictures of himself pre-transition, talking openly about his experience coming out as a lesbian in an extremely conservative community, and then out as trans. He also uses Instagram to tackle questions about his transition, such as “Do you have male private parts now?” Wilson’s answer: “Me nor my fellow brothers and sisters should ever have to deal with these types of questions. It should be common sense NOT to ask a complete stranger what their private parts consist of.” Watching other trans folks transition on Instagram gave Wilson a glimpse of what was possible in his own life. “[The images] gave me hope that I could physically change my features, and [an understanding of] how much testosterone can change someone,” he told Cosmopolitan.
Kaye, an artist at Disney Television Animation, is the author of Up and Out, a comic about her gender transition. She started making Up and Out, a lot of which you can find on Instagram, “as a way to handle dealing with the external and internal stress that comes with going on hormonal replacement therapy.” Kaye’s work is as much about the emotional and mental aspects of coming out and transitioning as it is the physical. “More fun times with internalized transphobia and a lack of self-acceptance,” she posted in August 2016, alongside a strip in which she confessed to feeling that she still felt like an imposter referring to herself with female pronouns. In addition to relaying what it’s like to be misgendered, and dealing with her family and friends, Kaye also confronts the beliefs she had about gender and sexuality, such as that trans people have always known they were trans, and that a trans person can somehow not be “trans enough.”
Gender identity and presentation exist on a spectrum. While Kaye and Wilson are trans folks who represent transitions that look like they might adhere to more binary gender standards, Vaid-Menon is a gender non-conforming transfeminine writer and performance artist whose love for fashion, which they utilize for political power as well as expression, is recorded on their Instagram. Vaid-Menon uses Instagram to urge their followers to think beyond the gender binary, as well as to chronicle what it’s like to be a person of color with a beard in a world that selects those folks for racial profiling, and their tips for coping and confronting fear and hate so that one can find and celebrate beauty in all of its manifestations.
Sheng, 21, shows the various aspects of his transition from female to male on his Instagram, including his updated driver’s license. In a 2014 Huffington Post interview, Sheng said that at first he’d been reticent to reveal photos of himself as a child, since those images didn’t reflect who he was, but, like Wilson, was fortified by other trans folks on Instagram, and then “decided I wanted to own up to my past.” Sheng, often posts about privilege and masculinity, as well as the violence against black trans women.