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Toronto is not ready for a transgender wedding photographer

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By Sophia Banks

Two months ago when I came out as a trans woman and raised my voice in solidarity with the transgender community I really had no idea what was going to happen next.

I’ve been lucky to book a few weddings with some awesome couples, but aside from those bookings I have also had to refund several client deposits. Generally speaking, Toronto is not ready for a transgender wedding photographer.

I have spoken with a fair amount of people and did some market research. What I heard most from people is that couples are okay with me being trans but the extended family won’t be. Thus they won’t/wouldn’t hire me because I am trans.

Weddings are typically too traditional and conservative for a trans photographer, they’re not a place to be challenging social norms. As a wedding photographer being transgender will always be a hindrance to getting work. I could establish a small niche market but it would probably be too small to sustain a wedding photography business. Marketing and running a wedding photography studio takes a lot of time and work and it is not profitable or sustainable if I am only booking a sprinkle of weddings.

I am also becoming very flustered and uncomfortable with running a business that inevitably sets me up for discrimination again and again. Considering these factors, it is with a heavy heart and a touch of resentment that I feel compelled to announce that I am phasing out my wedding photography business.

The ship is sinking and I need to get off and do something else. I am still very much committed to the weddings I have booked and hopefully I might book a few more for 2013.

I will be overhauling my website with new projects and portfolios over the next several months. I am not quitting anything, I am simply refocusing my efforts and creativity to other avenues.

Transphobia is very real and as much as friends tell me to ignore it I can not ignore that transphobia has taken my business.

I wasted a lot of time hiding that I was trans and now that I’m out I don’t intend to sit around quietly twiddling my thumbs waiting for society to miraculously come around and realize that trans women like me are being marginalized and stigmatized. As a trans woman, business owner, and photographer I’m learning that my personal and professional success will be largely contingent on how much I advocate for myself and for trans rights.

Update

I feel I should mention that a lot of people have been very supportive. The couples that I am booked with are amazing people and they will get my best work ever. I like being a wedding photographer but I have been to enough weddings that I know I am asking for a lot. As a trans wedding photographer I am essentially asking couples to ask their wedding officiant or minister “by the way are you okay if are wedding photographer is a trans woman in transition?”

Maybe in a year when it is not visually obvious that I am trans things might be a lot different.

After having several conversations after I made this original post I realized that hard part about this for the general public (and for me) is that transition is awkward. I wish I could flick a switch and just be seen as a woman but it don’t work that way folks. I have a lumberjacks beard to get rid of and some fat to redeposit. Some days I just don’t have the patience and gumption to deal with the outside world and I still present as a man.

Society has a lot of expectations about how males and females should act and trans people really throw a wrench in that. Most people will never question their gender. I have every day of my life from the moment I wake up until I fall asleep. I have been socialized as a male and unraveling all of that and then learning new social norms is not a task for the faint of heart and mind. It takes time.

Accepting trans people in society means that we also need to start seeing it as a process when people come out. Hormones take time to take effect, beards takes time to get removed, etc… Trans men obviously have a different process with hormones and other facets of transition.

A phobia is a fear and a fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat. Transgender people are not a threat to anyone.