Representations of older transgender people are nearly absent from our culture and those that do exist are often one-dimensional. For over five years, photographer Jess T. Dugan and social worker Vanessa Fabbre traveled throughout the United States creating To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults. Seeking subjects whose lived experiences exist within the complex intersections of gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic class, and geographic location, they traveled from coast to coast, to big cities and small towns, documenting the life stories of this important but largely underrepresented group of older adults. The featured individuals share a wide variety of life narratives spanning the last ninety years, offering an important historical record of transgender experience and activism in the United States. The resulting portraits and narratives offer a nuanced view into the struggles and joys of growing older as a transgender person and offer a poignant reflection on what it means to live authentically despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
To Survive on This Shore was published in 2018 as a hardcover book by Kehrer Verlag and is available from Indie Bound, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon. It was also published as a limited edition portfolio designed for university art museums and other teaching collections.
Vanessa Fabbre, PhD, LCSW, is an Assistant Professor at the Brown School of Social Work and Affiliate Faculty in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Vanessa’s research explores the conditions under which LGBTQ people age well, and what this means in the context of structural forces such as heteronormativity, heterosexism, and transphobia.
Her research has been published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Social Work, The Gerontologist, the Journal of Gerontological Social Work, and the Journal of Urban Health.
Jess T. Dugan is an artist whose work explores issues of gender, sexuality, identity, and community. For the past decade, Jess has photographed people within queer and transgender communities, focusing on the complexities of identity, gender, and sexuality. Jess earned a BFA in Photography from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, a Master of Liberal Arts in Museum Studies from Harvard University, and an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago. Jess regularly exhibits internationally and has work in several museum collections.