Right person, wrong body: UMD lecture shows bodies in transitionLoren Cameron’s first book, “Body Alchemy: Trans-sexual Portraits,” documented female-to-male transitions — including his own — at a time when there were few similar resources available.
By: Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune
Loren Cameron’s first book, “Body Alchemy: Trans-sexual Portraits,” documented female-to-male transitions — including his own — at a time when there were few similar resources available.
The California-based activist and artist presented “Transgender Images,” a lecture and slide show of his work on Wednesday night at the University of Minnesota Duluth. His intent, he said at the start, was to show bodies in transition in a non-sensational way.
The lecture was sponsored by UMD’s Queer and Allied Students Union and drew about 100 people.
Cameron, who first identified as a lesbian, began transitioning in 1986 as a 27-year-old. At the time, there was nothing available that talked about his experience, he said.
“It’s difficult to get your head on right when you can’t get your body on right,” Cameron said. “This is not fun and games. It’s called, ‘I had to do this or I couldn’t go on.’ ”
There were hormone treatments, a mastectomy, nipple reconstruction and a hysterectomy. He described the early years as feeling pubescent, with wisps of a beard and his changing voice. Now, almost 30 years later, Cameron is bald with a shadow of a beard. His tattooed arms are sculpted. He’s not had a full phalloplasty, but, as he said:
“Whose business is it what’s in my pants or not?”
Cameron showed his portraits in two parts, male-to-female transitions followed by female-to-male transitions. Each part started with a portrait of the subject dressed in a way that represented personality and interests. They were followed by nudes in various states of transition.
“They all have stories to tell,” Cameron said. “Sometimes they’re great stories, sometimes they’re heartbreaking.”
A colonel from the Air Force “went stealth,” shedding the old life and having every surgery available and voice lessons, to transition to female.
A woman named Aleisha Brevard was born Alfred Brevard. She became a Playboy bunny, a B-movie actor and reportedly told Cameron she had “married four times and none of them knew.” She gave Cameron one pose: a modest one with her hand across her stomach.
Some photos were less modest, showing successful and unsuccessful attempts to construct male body parts that weren’t there before. All the photos were artful.
Cameron spoke about the burden of costs associated with surgery, which isn’t generally covered by insurance, but not having an option to not do it. He talked about the freedom of being in the right body and the hardship of finding a partner. He said his own work has been dismissed by some in the transgender community because a full transition is unhip, and ambiguity is the thing. He’s also been credited as one of the first to bring light to this experience.
One point Cameron repeated a few times: “We’re all just people.”