Passing - Zai Gray Rutter

Artist's Statement

In Passing, I discuss how passing is studied and talked about by cis scholars, and I look at the ways that passing is internalized by the trans male community. Passing as a cis male has numerous aspects and complications, however the aspects and perspectives I choose to focus on are those that personally trap me. And it should be noted that not all passing is oppressive, but I have yet to feel freedom from it. Presented is an effort to translate the history and the experience of trans passing. Using imagery of locations, I tried to make connections to the efforts of passing, while forming critique of its often internalized objectification, and cis male standards. I chose to photograph places and objects because I did not want to objectify the trans body, and the focus should not be on the successes or failures of that person’s passing. By juxtaposing these landscapes to this writing I strip them of their will, of their self and context, as trans people often are in these studies, and during the cis scrutiny of passing. I chose to include text written by cis scholars trying to define and isolate aspects of trans peoples’ passing. I found that all of the articles compared trans people to cis standards and gender ideals, judging them on their ability to preform to those marks, and then making definitions of passing based on that. The dialogue between these two sets of images should pose questions about how trans people internalize cis standards of passing, and if passing is liberating or oppressive. I chose refer to the authors as cis scholars as they refer to their subjects not by their names, but by their statuses as trans people. There is one moment where a writer references the trans writer Leslie Feinberg, and the last image of the series includes text by her. It is often that trans people are not recognized unless a cis person chooses to see them.