It was 1990 and my world was crumbling down around me. I may have only been 7 at the time, but I knew life would never be the same. Anger. Hatred. Sadness. The emotional roller coaster was too much to handle. My parents were getting divorced, and not the amicable kind you see on TV. I tried to find my footing. I failed, many times. Who was I? Was I to blame? Years of therapy and searching for my self-identity gave me some answers. It wasn’t until I picked up a camera when I found my passion, my purpose. I knew I wanted to help women who were searching for themselves. I wanted to do something big, I wanted to make a difference. And then I met Olivia...
I focused my photography on the idea of Empowering Women in 2014. It wasn’t until December of 2015 that I learned just how powerful my lens could be, and the ultimate meaning of empowering a woman. I was contacted by Olivia to do a boudoir session. We talked quite a bit on the phone about the session and the goals of taking such photos. Olivia wasn’t like any of my other boudoir clients – she is a transwoman and wanted this session to commemorate the beginning of her transition to living life as a woman.
Like most of us, Olivia spent most of her life trying to figure out who she was. As a child she was frequently the only boy at the girls birthday parties, longing for more femininity in her life. Once puberty hit, her feelings of femininity were deeply moving but she didn’t quite understand them, and often times felt shameful for having them. She spoke with a counselor in college who introduced the idea that she might be a transwoman, but she shoved those ideas aside and thought if she could distract herself enough that the feelings would cease. She felt that she needed to be fixed and the idea of being a transwoman was not want she wanted to hear. She decided to go to seminary and immerse herself in the teachings of God, hiding the feelings that had been growing inside since she was a young child. It wasn’t until a clergy training when she let go of some of the shame and started accepting and loving who she really was. In the class, they were instructed to develop themselves, to really see who they are so they can relate better with the people they work with. She was finally able to acknowledge her feelings so she could be authentically present in her work.
Olivia eventually became an ordained minister and is now serving in a non-parish based ministry, working as a child of God to help and support others. However she still struggles with her self-identity on a regular basis. It wasn’t until the last couple of years where she decided it was time to embrace her womanhood and start making the transition to living life as a woman, whatever that may look like.
Our boudoir session was a few weeks after we met, and it was a truly empowering experience for both of us. She was able to be the woman she knows she is meant to be without judgment or fear. She was able to embrace her body, knowing there was nothing shameful about it. The experience empowered her to take a new look at her body and really start to love everything about it. I left the session feeling like this was exactly what I was supposed to be doing – helping women to embrace who they are, to feel beautiful and sexy, and to fall in love with themselves all over again (or for the first time!). I left that session knowing I had made a difference.
We got together after the session to go through her final photos and our meeting was full of emotion – she choked up, I shed some tears, we both smiled ear-to-ear knowing that we accomplished what we set out to do. She told me that the photos, “represent a homecoming, because there is nothing of artifice...when I look at the photos, it feels like what a woman looks like.” She felt like the child of God she knew she was, and there was no longer a feeling of being broken. She told me, “In the reflection of your lens, I was able to discover parts of myself that I didn’t know existed.” Since our session, Olivia has felt even more empowered to live the life she wants and while she doesn’t know exactly what the future holds, she is more confident and excited about her life as a woman.
The road to finding ourselves can be long and arduous. It can have many complications along the way. And while our journeys will be our own, we all have one thing in common – self-love is crucial in our search for happiness. I may not know what the future brings, but I know I will continue to show as many women as I can that they are strong and beautiful and worthy of joy through my lens.
Love yourself always,
Name and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of my client