"Transcending Love" offers an intimate glimpse into the relationships of transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming couples across the USA
New York University Kimmel Windows Gallery presents Transcending Love from November 16 - February 20, in Schwartz Plaza on the corner of Washington Square East and West 4th Street, visible 24/7. Transcending Love is a photo exhibition, held in honor of Trans Awareness week and in collaboration with the NYU LGBTQ+ Center, that offers an intimate glimpse into the relationships of transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming couples across the USA with hopes to open hearts and minds to a community long-deserving of respect and basic human rights.
Transcending Love focuses on transgender couples and families across the country and is curated by B.Proud, an artist and activist who creates documentary projects celebrating the LGBTQ+ community as a means of educating through visibility.
“The project was begun in response to the aggressive bigotry being levied by the previous political administration and the general lack of understanding and acceptance by our society. Visibility matters. For the transgender community, it is validating. But it is also a means to educate the broader population," said B. Proud, the show’s creator.
“These photographs hope to open that door by showing that it is the heart and soul of a person that truly matters and that everyone is worthy of the love they truly deserve. The subjects show an array of relationships, all with the common thread of people being their true, authentic selves and falling in love.”
About the Artist:
B. Proud. It’s the name that’s on her birth certificate, and it’s a name she must live up to. Artist/Activist Barbara Proud creates documentary projects celebrating the LGBTQ+ community as a means of educating through visibility.
B. Proud is on the faculty at ICP ( The International Center of Photography), in NYC and the University of the Arts, Philadelphia.
Traveling to 24 states to date, Proud is determined to make a difference if only by changing one mind at a time.
About NYU LGBTQ+ Center:
The NYU LGBTQ+ Center within the Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation creates a welcoming environment for students, faculty, staff, and alumni to engage with and develop their understanding of LGBTQ+ communities through programs, events, learning and development, support, resource sharing, and consultation.
About Trans Awareness Week:
November 15th marks the beginning of NYU’s Trans Awareness Week. Trans Awareness Week is a nationally observed week-long series of events that celebrates the lives and experiences of transgender, non-binary, and gender expansive communities, as well as educates the NYU community to foster solidarity with these communities.
Exhibition Sponsored by:
NYU Art in Public Places under the aegis of the Provost’s Office, and the NYU LGBTQ+ Center.
Special thanks to Stern School of Business for their support.
Explore the Exhibition:
T & Bella—Buffalo, New York
T feels like he has been transitioning his entire life but loves the way his body now matches the way he has always dreamed it would. Bella has enjoyed watching all of the physical changes.
Bella: “It’s exciting to see, what’s going to happen next. He’s growing muscle there and this muscle is getting bigger. That’s exciting. I like to see the changes.” She has the greatest respect for how he wakes up every day determined do whatever it takes to be his authentic self.
Male privilege, something new to T, has had its positive and negative effects. Bella thinks he gets lots of perks with the ladies because he’s now a handsome man.
But T also sees the other side. “I was always black, but you know, transitioning from a black woman to a black man, you’re automatically seen as a threat. It’s kind of like I transitioned lower on the spectrum of life. I can walk past somebody in the street, and they automatically feel threatened without even knowing me.”
Holly & Toni—Las Vegas, Nevada
Holly struggled with her identity as early as her pre-teen years. It was not until she was 55 and discovered, while searching the internet, that there was a name for what she was feeling, and she was not alone. She was transgender.
When Holly told her wife that she was transgender, Toni looked at her and said, “Well, if you’re going to do this, that’s fine, but you’re going to learn to do this right. You’re going to learn to do your own makeup, you’re going to learn to buy your own clothing, and you’re going to learn proper deportment, so that when we go out and interact in public, that you’re going to be presented as a proper lady.”
Toni: “I never thought my marriage was in jeopardy after Holly came out. We had a history together. We had been through the Vietnam War, the death of our young child, and so much more. Holly was happy in our relationship but now she was happier in her own skin.”
D’Jamel & Gianna—Atlanta, Georgia
D’Jamel: “Once upon a time it was hard to fathom that this type of love was accessible to me. For a long time, I spent time trying to figure out myself, how to navigate this world, being trans, how to navigate my sexuality, just trying to find the language. At one point in time, it was difficult to fathom someone fully accepting me, fully loving me, fully affirming me, but fairytales are real.
“Everyone deserves to be loved and everybody has that unique love out there for them. Everybody goes into those moods of feeling like am I not enough. But there’s somebody out there who likes exactly who you are.”
Gianna: “As a trans person I knew I was worthy of this type of love. I didn’t know when it would come. I’ve had different variations of short-term relationships, but they didn’t have the full potential.”
Gianna’s tattoo reads: Some people were made for a season, while some were made for a lifetime
Bree & Peg Vienna—Virginia
When this photo was taken, Bree identified as nonbinary, gender fluid and was serving openly in the military as Lt. Col. Brian Fram. At times, while not at work or on weekends, she expressed herself as Bree. Peg, their two daughters, and work colleagues were fully accepting. When she came out at work, a commander said, “Thank you. You broke my stereotype. I had this picture of what a trans person was and why they didn’t belong in the military, and just by coming here and exceeding the standard of what we asked of you every day, you completely changed my mind.” Bree was forced to make a choice during the previous political administration. In order to continue serving in the military, she would have to officially declare that she was transgender or deny Bree the right to exist.
Bree and Peg: “We can barely see ourselves in this picture today. Even the uniform has changed from Air Force to Space Force. But through it all, the constant has been the love. We love each other, our family, the opportunities we’ve been given to represent our community.”
Chelsea & Chris “LBC Party of Five”—Middletown, New York
Chelsea and Chris are a Cis-Trans married couple sharing their journey from trying to conceive, an IVF success pregnancy, Chris’ FTM transition, their youngest daughter’s leukemia diagnosis at age 2, and now just sharing their life experiences as an LGBTQ+ blended family raising 3 kids on their YouTube channel LBC Party of Five.
Chris: “Chelsea was my person because it felt right. Chelsea brings out the best in me. She makes me rise to the occasion. Chelsea loves and accepts me for who I am. Her weaknesses are my strengths and vice versa. I can’t imagine a life without her.”
Chelsea: “I guess I knew Chris was the one because I’ve never been able to let my guards down, and he was able to get through all my barriers…naturally, like organically. I didn’t have to hide from him. He was just loving and accepting of me even through the flaws.
I’ve never had anybody as loving and accepting of me for who I am and help me see my own potential and all that I have to offer.”
Ja’Mel & Alphonso—Atlanta, Georgia
Transgender. Two-Spirit. Spiritual. Advocates/healers for people living with HIV.
Ja’Mel: “This relationship is very different from the ones before because it started off with honesty, complete transparency. It was freeing for me to realize for the first time that love was not about ownership. It was about honesty and freedom.”
Alphonso: “We met around the time that I was figuring out how I wanted to express my gender, giving more light and life to the more feminine side. Meeting someone that is able to love, all sides of me, however I present, was never something I thought would be tangible. This relationship has been life changing.”
Liam & Diana—Las Vegas, Nevada
During a life threatening, serious illness, Liam had an epiphany right on the table in a hospital ER. Afterwards, at age 49, he began his transition and entered seminary.
Today he does public education around what it means to be a human being, sex and gender, and seeking justice. Along the journey, Liam and Diana, each, converted to Judaism. Liam’s book, Trans-Forming Proclamation: A Transgender Theology of Daring Existence, was released in 2020.
“We want people to know that we belong together and always have- you can see that in the way that we support each other and encourage each other.”
“My work is based on the model that we know to be true created by Martin Luther King, if you want to work for change in the south, you need to be talking to church folks. Really, if you want to change hearts and minds, you got to hit the people where they live.”
Rah & Silk—Appleton, Wisconsin
Silk’s joy comes from her drag performances. She is sometimes a “diva,” but other times performs as a male illusionist, adopting the persona of “Prince Silk” St. James. In her 22 years of performing, her 4 children have seen her as male, female, and everything in between.
This particular spirit spins off into their home life as well. Rah says, “There are some days that I come home to a different person than I left. I might come home to a male. I might come home to a female. She might have blonde hair, or he might not have any hair. It’s an adventure. I support her however she feels.”
Logan & Laila—Garden of the Gods, Colorado
Both Logan and Laila represent the presence, the strength and the resilience of transgender service members in the United States military. Their story as a couple began in 2012 when they met online through a support group for transgender military service members. They have both deployed to the Middle East more than once.
The Ireland’s have become mentors, “big brothers, big sisters,” to transgender service members and continue to advocate for inclusive military policy.
Laila: “We just want to be granted the dignity and respect that anyone else does and that they deserve. We want to raise a family. We want to live life without fear. We are creating the future that will tell our story. We do this because we know that it’s the right thing to do.”
Adriana & Marli—Preston, Maryland
Adriana and Marli are both entrepreneurs and fitness enthusiasts whose separate businesses focus on providing products and services to allow their customers to feel their absolute best in their bodies. Marli is the founder of “gc2b,” the gender-affirming apparel company.
Marli: “When we weren’t together, I wasn’t making the best decisions, and being with her helped me realize that I could transition and be accepted.”
Adriana believes there is something very special about each of them as individuals but even more special as a couple. “The relationship strength will always be there no matter what gender someone is. Things don’t have to end because things change. They can actually evolve.”
Trystan & Biff—Portland, Oregon
The excitement a new relationship for Trystan and Biff came to a jarring halt one night in 2011 when a social worker called to say that within two days, they would be placing Biff’s sister’s children, ages 3 and 13 months, into foster care…unless he could take them and care for them. They took them in. A few years later, Trystan gave birth to their biological child.
Trystan: “Most generations of queer people before us have never been able to do what we’ve done. Not just adopt kids but have a biological kid. We’re really, really lucky that we live in this time and place, because in any other generation before us, this would have been very close to impossible. What we’re doing is what queers have always done, which is taking the pieces that are given to us and making something beautiful out of it.”
Z & Jabari—Nashville, Tennessee
Z: “He’s the first guy I’ve ever dated, period. It's new but it’s more freeing, and I’ve never felt more comfortable or more masculine than being in a relationship with another masculine energy. I think the beautiful thing about our relationship is I’ve learned so much about fluidity in myself and others.”
“I was blessed that spirit knew my intention and I walked into it. I let go of any preconceived notions of what my life should be like, and I’ve never been happier or honestly more queer in my life.”
“We went into this on the foundation of radical honesty, love, and commitment. We accept one another as we are, for who we are.
Owen & Blue—Las Vegas, Nevada
Owen and Blue knew they wanted a family. They discussed adoption, but a willing donor and “self-carry” seemed the best course. Any discomfort from the feminine changes in Owen’s body was their logical means to bring a child into their family.
It was thoughtfully planned that it would be a spring birth, thereby giving Owen the convenience of being able to wear large hoodies and shirts in an attempt to camouflage his baby bump…for safety reasons. Owen would use shopping carts to hide his belly and learned to walk, sit, and stand with a certain deliberation in order to be less conspicuous. Now he is proud to be the first “seahorse dad” in the state of Nevada.
Owen: “Every family is valid. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to family. Whether it’s chosen or blood, there’s one thing involved. Love.”