Different: Transgender in Russia in Tatiana Ilina’s Project
Born in Moscow, lives in Paris. Graduated from Rodchenko Moscow School of Photography and Multimedia. In her series she studies the social issues and personal problems of people. Her project Minority was exhibited in FOTODOC Centre for Documentary Photography in Moscow in 2012.
As it happens with most of my projects, this one found me by itself — a transgender person wrote me on Vkontakte (Russian social network – Ed.). What they told me about their life and how unhappy they were inspired me to start this series. I found other heroes through Vkontakte as well. These people are bullied, many of them do not leave their houses, one even committed suicide.
I have been shooting this project for half a year, and I eventually encountered different reactions: some people felt it and immediately saw the suffering of heroes, and some were disgusted.
Transgender people are everywhere, there are more of them than we think. They try to blend in with the crowd. They lead a double life, conceal and hide. What is it for them: a tragedy they are silent about? Pain caused by the dissonance between how they see themselves and how their physical body is? Could it be a passionate wish for something banned and secret, something that lets you feel different and changes the world for at least a couple hours? Will this different world and real world never cross paths? All of these questions never left me since I allowed myself to have a closer look them. I understood a lot — from their faces, where I could read all these questions, mixed with doubt, fear, unrestrained emotion and some kind of protest. Protest against nature, against yourself, against silence. This protest, kept deep inside, was growing and was ready to devour everything around it.
Katia lives with her mother, and worries that she can’t find a girlfriend, who would think of her not as a man, but as a woman just like her. The first time she felt the wish to become a woman when her mom and her friend dressed her in women’s clothes to go to a women-only restaurant. After that moment, reincarnation became her main passion.
Gioconda came from Ulan-Ude and became famous for her incredible talent for creating original women’s clothes, as well as a good singing voice. She shoots original videos and performs in clubs. Gioconda is worried that in small cities people with non-standard sexual orientation are marginalized and can free themselves only when they come to a metropolis.
Vera has been feeling that she is a woman since childhood. When she was six, a kindergarten friend offered to perform oral sex on him, and she gladly agreed. Now Vera lives with a friend, who works as a prostitute, and her little son. Vera plans to find a boyfriend soon, to move to his place and start a family.
Andrey is married, despite the fact that women attract him more than men, and hides this fact from his wife. Andrey is worried that he can’t find a partner or several partners, who would understand his passion and take him seriously. He is looking for a real relationship.
Dasha is keen on art and is leading, in her own terms, a creative life. A sex change is her secret wish. At the same time, Dasha is attracted to women. Once she posted her photo as a woman on the Internet, and now meets women online, who are tired of a boring family life and are looking for someone like her.
Valeria is living with her girlfriend, who she is soon going to marry. The girlfriend understands and shares the preferences of her friend, helping her with unusual makeup and clothes. She believes that you need to let men play something, otherwise they will leave you for another woman.
Ksenia is taking hormones, but is not ready for the operation just yet — she likes variety in her sex life. She is looking for partners, both women and men, and hosts group meetings at her place, believing there should be no taboos in the sexual sphere.