Selected from the recent open call for submissions for the upcoming Photoworks Annual Issue 24, Olga Lidia Saavedra's series uses photography and storytelling to explore the relationship between the family unit and transgender individuals in Cuba.

This work is the result of a participatory research project that assembles visual narratives and lived experiences through family portraiture and oral history. It offers an insight into family attitudes toward transgender experience in Cuba, one of the few countries in the world where gender reassignment surgery is state-sponsored. Homosexuality was decriminalised in Cuba in 1975. This legislation also encompassed decriminalisation for gender non-normative persons.

Melody and Yordanka at home, from the series The Family as a Space for Gender Transition. © Olga Lidia Saavedra, 2014.

My work examines how family stories were used to create a gender narrative during the ‘revolutionary’ period. The production of the participant’s family portrait and their testimonies evidence a rupture in the way gender is assimilated and represented within the Cuban family. By reflecting on contemporary images of transgender individuals in relation to their family, I seek to focus on those spaces where being a transgender person has been the principal factor in the fragmentation of the Cuban family. It is not primarily about being transgender, but about how the experience of gender transitioning affects everyone.

These family portraits depict the apparently straight/hetero family as a space where sexual and gender difference is happening. It also provides a significant strategy for rethinking queer family spaces not as separate or subaltern but as implicated within seemingly normative family arrangements.

Juana, Jorge Luis, Pollito and Lazaro at home, from the series The Family as a Space for Gender Transition. © Olga Lidia Saavedra, 2015.

For this project, I used oral history narrative from 8 Cuban families whose members’ ages range from 25 – 80 years old. It facilitated a space for conversation about family and gender transitioning across generations.

See here for details of Olga’s exhibition at Onca Gallery, 15 – 20 August, 2017.

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