Amsterdam-based Italian photographer Francesca Menghini creates art as a means for awareness and social change. She started the project ‘Unbounded – Being Gender Diverse’ with the conviction that everyone should have the right to express themselves without being discriminated in any way. By portraying several subjects and highlighting their experience, Francesca wants to show that there are many ways to identify outside of the male/female binary.
Your gender is what feels natural to you. It may be the same as the sex assigned at birth, or it may be different. For many gender-diverse people, the concept of gender binary is not enough, and can be constraining. Some people prefer to have the freedom to change from one gender to another or not have a gender identity at all.
While working on this series Francesca realised more and more how much prejudice exists in our society towards gender diversity. Through visuals and words, she wants to speak directly to the audience, hoping to contribute to destroying the bias that still causes so much suffering and inequality; Each portrait comes with the subject’s statement that aims to raise awareness and respect for gender diverse individuals.
I hope that my work can make people understand that defending the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community should be in the interest of all.
I’m the creator of my own life. I get to decide what to wear, what to do, what to be and to me, that’s powerful.
“Just like a lot of things in our world, gender is made up. It’s not biological, it’s artificial. People get to choose their own identity, their own levels of ”masculinity” and ”femininity”, instead of just taking on the ‘M’ or ‘F’ they got assigned at birth. I’ve always felt out of place, not being one of the boys but never one of the girls too. Until I learned I didn’t have to fit in. I’m the creator of my own life. I get to decide what to wear, what to do, what to be and to me, that’s powerful.” –SVEN
I want to do everything I can to imagine and create a future where there is no right way to be but to be who we are.
“There are moments in life where I realize how precious my queerness is: it makes me experience life, myself, and other people with an openness and acceptance that I am very grateful for. When I was younger my queerness was something I tried to hide or reject, now I try to be as open and vocal as I can about it. It’s not always easy, or possible, depending on the context, but it made me understand that I should never again hide or dim my light for anyone. Being non-binary, I learned to give myself time, space and kindness. There is a longing tenderness about being fully acceptive of one’s body, mind, and spirit. I want to do everything I can to imagine and create a future where there is no right way to be but to be who we are.” –Irene
I have a beautiful baddy queer chest with nipple hairs, nipple piercings and boobies. I love it so much. I felt like I can take on the world and still feel like that when I look at them.
“Before I started testosterone and when I started testosterone I was in a lot of doubt about top surgery. I was like ‘I am not a trans man but people see me like that. A lot of trans men undergo top surgery. Wait, if gender dysphoria exists, gender euphoria also exists’. I started thinking a lot about my boobs (I always have). Then I came to the conclusion that ‘my body is perfect as it is. My boobs are beautiful’ and I already wanted to have nipple piercings for a long long time. I can be masculine and have boobs’. When I decided that, a wave of pure bliss hit me. ‘ I am not gonna undergo top surgery if I think my boobs are beautiful’. Then I got nipple piercings 3 days after I came back from my holiday to Italy. Now I have a beautiful baddy queer chest with nipple hairs, nipple piercings and boobies. I love it so much. I felt like I can take on the world and still feel like that when I look at them.” –Juul
I keep reminding myself that it’s enough to exist as a human, and there’s no mold to fit into.
“I have always doubted myself and my gender as if I had to choose between parts of myself. When I transitioned as a trans man, I thought I was being authentic, but looking back, it was another way of changing myself to try to accept myself.* Now I keep reminding myself that it’s enough to exist as a human, and there’s no mold to fit into. It’s a relief for me, but meanwhile, the gender binary is still the root cause of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and many insecurities for cis people as well.” –Rosalie
* this is my personal experience and does NOT invalidate any other trans person.
This binary thinking is not good for cis people. It also adds a surreal layer of pressure onto trans people. Transgender burn-out is so real of an issue that nobody really talks about.
“I formed a relationship with beauty before I ever formed a relationship to gender per se. I realized that what kept me from transitioning for a very long time was not fitting within the idea of what beauty was. This is gender-conforming. I came to the conclusion I wanted to medically transition for real. I wanted to heal from the physical drain that my curvature and being taken for a woman all the time. When that happened, a lot of people tried to put me back into a box of gender-conformity of maleness, where I was also uncomfortable for a long amount of time. I think that there’s a lot of humanness and the presence of both yin and yang denied to trans people. We are either expected to stay the same or completely want to be a hundred percent the other. This binary thinking is not good for cis people. It also adds a surreal layer of pressure onto trans people. Transgender burn-out is so real of an issue that nobody really talks about. The act of having to keep up a hyperconforming narrative as to make sure everyone knows ‘you’re happy now’ while denying yourself complexities and a life that has nothing to do with gender. Denying yourself nuances and sadness or even regrets, things you don’t like about transitioning. I still have a lot of anxiety around the acne on my face caused by testosterone. Of course, it’s been worth it. I feel more comfortable in my skin than ever. Although the fact my skin is screaming, full of infections, every time I look in the mirror is so stressful. I also get a lot of stress whenever expect me to do or like certain ‘male’ things. I think a lot of people could really gain from hearing that trans people know what it’s like to be both. We know what it’s like to be perceived as both. Even when we’re not comfortable with being both.
That’s how I feel about my transness.” –Hemel
The important for me is to always insist on being your own self in order to give everyone – including yourself – the opportunity to understand your rights of self expression and the power of uniqueness.”
“I think that moving from your place, your roots, like in my case, from my country to The Netherlands like many others living in here at this moment made me not only think about my place in society but also about the ways others look at me. Being it in a race, sexual or human perspective. The important for me is to always insist on being your own self in order to give everyone – including yourself – the opportunity to understand your rights of self expression and the power of uniqueness.” –Miguel
YOU are the only one who can define your gender identity.
“Defining things that can be as vague as gender in a way that includes everything that should be in there but excludes everything that isn’t meant to be in there is almost, if not entirely, impossible. There’s a lot that can factor into why you may be feeling the way you do. Or you might have been sure of yourself from the start. Either way, YOU are the only one who can define your gender identity. The world will always critique us for not being the way they wanted or expected us to be, but that’s tough fucking luck for them. Its’ your flesh sack and you get to choose the pronouns!!” –Kai
I suggest everybody should live the life of the opposite sex sometimes. Just to understand what it is like to be on the other side of gender.
“So how do I move in a world that has changed so much for me? I never realized being a woman is so completely different than life as a man. I know. I can tell. I know both sides. I always felt safe. As a man. I always took my opportunities for granted. As a man. I never cried. As a man. And now: why do I have to take care while cycling the streets at night? Why must I talk louder to be heard even though my message is the same as it used to be? I am sad, surprised and pissed. I am happy, grateful, and curious. All those differences. I suggest everybody should live the life of the opposite sex sometimes. Just to understand what it is like to be on the other side of gender.” –Sandra
It is my hope that through awareness and acceptance of that diversity, we can create societies where everyone is safe to express the truth of their identity, and affirmed for being who they are.
“We are here. We have always been here. For as long as we have recorded history, cultures around the world have recognized the existence of people between and beyond the categories of “man” and “woman.” Those cultures have often been suppressed and forced into the Western gender binary, but the natural world will not be divided into neatly separate boxes of species, sex, gender, or any other sort – it rejoices in diversity. It is my hope that through awareness and acceptance of that diversity, we can create societies where everyone is safe to express the truth of their identity, and affirmed for being who they are.” –Shakira