Lou Bank is a New York based photographer and zine-maker. Lou is a non-binary transgender human and uses they/them pronouns. They received their BS in Photography from Drexel University in 2015. They have an eye for absurdity and seek out playful and beautiful moments in mundane daily life. Their work explores intimacy through romance, friendship and chance encounter. They once made a GIF that was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Their work has been published in American Photography, BUST Magazine, Juxtapoz Magazine, and Auto Straddle.
Gender May Vary
Whether it is throughout a day or throughout a lifetime, gender is not necessarily constant or fixed. Gender is complicated. It’s constantly evolving. It’s performative. It’s instinctive. It’s personal. Gender is different for everyone. It can at once be incredibly confusing and totally straight forward. Gender can be hard to talk about and part of what makes it so hard to talk about it is that it is such an individual experience.
For this project I met with non-binary folks to talk about gender. We tried defining gender and explaining our own genders, finding that each of us has our own definition and that it is constantly evolving. We talked about living in a cis-binary society, the pain of being misgendered, and how it feels to have the government try to erase us. The existence of trans and gender non-conforming folks has become a frightening legal and political issue, but a large part of our time is spent battling much more mundane annoyances like finding somewhere to pee and filling out gendered forms.
This is a lot to deal with especially while trying to figure out your identity, so we talked about coping mechanisms and strategies for helping us feel safe and affirmed. In our homes we create spaces to protect us, comfort us and affirm us. These spaces are curated with acts of self-love through physical objects and intimate community building. When we go out into the world we use clothing, hair styles and posture to express and affirm our identities. Personal style becomes an armor helping us show the world how we feel and narrowing the gap between how we see ourselves and how the world perceives us. In every interaction we ask you to remember that you don’t know someone’s gender by looking at them and that anyone’s Gender May Vary.
Excerpts from interviews.
*What is gender?
E: Gender is a way to understand the world and my place in it. When I realized that gender didn’t have to be binary it really changed the world for me.
Syd: For me, gender is an amalgamation of my history, how I feel inside and how I present to the world. Its fluid and contextual and it can change based on where I am, how I’m feeling on a certain day or who I’m talking to. Some days I’m more masculine, some days more feminine and sometimes both. There is no solid way of defining a group of people’s or an individual’s gender. It’s a feeling, it’s a look, it’s so many different things.
Bex: I think binary gender is a piece of shit and was made up as a way to make people to feel comfortable. I don’t understand it. We’re all just molecules and we can do whatever we want and wear whatever we want.
Austen: Gender is the way my body moves through the world and how it relates to other bodies in this world. It’s also how my body relates to itself.
*How would you describe your gender?
Tate: Today I would describe my gender as a rainbow beta fish in an ocean full of regular colored beta fish, but it can change from day to day. I tend to present masculine but I like to throw in shimmers of femme flair that disrupt people’s interpretation of what masculinity can be.
Austen: I guess black pants are my gender. I guess my glasses are my gender.
Allie: Gender as a silly joke that I can play with! I think of myself as a rather burly but feminine man. I like feminine things but I don’t think that makes me feminine. Sometimes I feel more masculine when I’m wearing something beaded or frilly because it exaggerates the contrast between the genders within me.
Alex: Growing up Asian and being told that it makes me not masculine.
Growing up I was constantly told that being Asian meant I was not masculine. People kept telling me that I wasn’t a man and eventually I decide they’re right. My gender, race, sexuality and politics are all ambiguous and in some sort of middle.
*Does style play a part in your gender? The style of your clothing or of your personal space?
Sam: I use clothing to control how other people perceive my gender. I used to try to present as a butch lesbian but I just felt like such a twink all the time. Now that you ask, I actually have dysphoria about my room… it just doesn’t feel representative of me.
Rae: My clothes protect me and my room is somewhere I can be free. My space is definitely a reflection of me. It’s something that I don’t do for anyone else. It’s a beautiful space to go to and just be and be myself and it’s my place to be alone. My room is full of light, soft tones and plants. When I go out I like to wear darker earth tones because I feel that it allows me to blend in more and be more innocuous.
Joan: There can be a complicated dynamic as my presentation flows between androgyny and femininity. I call my style “futch.” There’s an aspect to feminine clothes that put you in a place of vulnerability and it’s not always easy to feel comfortable enough to wear that. My style changes depending on the scenario and how much I want to be looked at.
Dylan: I wonder what other people think when they see me and how does it differ from how I see myself? I try to use style as a way to express myself in a way that people can understand but it’s hard to know if it’s working.
Angel: When I was first transitioning it was really important for me to feel seen as how I wanted to present myself. That became very frustrating and made me angry all the time. Now gender is part of figuring out how we can all be seen as equals. Dichotomies exist because they are constructed but gender is less about identity politics for me and more about spiritual growth. We all embody male and female energy and hiding one or pushing it away because we don’t want to present it doesn’t make it go away, it still remains in shadow.
To view more of Lou Bank’s work please visit their website.