XXXX, photography series, dimensions variable, 2006.

Series of photographs “XXXX” (or XYXY) consists of the pictures of children (9 -19 years old) who decide or are thinking about changing their sex (gender). Also there are their and their parent’s thoughts about that. This is a series that raises questions about normality, naturalness and free expression of self identity. It leaves a spectator with the feeling of uncertainty, as the pictures are like everyday- life depictions, but the texts explain the true situation.

“When I was small, I would watch cartoons about princes and princesses and my dream was to be as beautiful as the princesses were.”

All of my life I had a wish to change my sex.

“It was my idea to call myself Romy. My parents and friends have called me Romy since I was about 11, but even before that they could see that I’m not like a boy. The clothes that I wore were not quite male, I never played football, and all my best friends were girls. I was a very nervous child. I would often have fits of anger. I would shout at people and slam the doors…My parents found in the internet an organization called Berdache, where I met more children like me. We went to see the doctors and psychologists in Amsterdam. They carried out all kinds of tests to find out if I really have a gender dysphoria. The first test was about toys. I was led into a room with lots of different toys, where they watched me from behind a transparent mirror: the kinds of toys that I chose, the way I was playing with them….They did a few more tests and then confirmed that I have a gender dysphoria. Psychologists suggested that we spend our summer vacations abroaad, so that I could wear female clothes, and see how I would feel then. It was wonderful: I was wearing a dress, I could play my favourite games, but other people around didn’t even notice that I am a boy. I feel much quieter now.My fits of anger have ceased. My puberty is being delayed by drugs until I am sixteen, so each month I go to Amsterdam to check if everything is all right. I am a little afraid of the operation, but if I don’t have it, I will never be a real girl, so I will have the male name and e and remain a man. That is something I don’t want.”

“Even since she was little, Ivo would tell me that I have two sons, not a son and a daughter, because she is not a girl. Ivo’s puberty came very early, when she was ten. Her body underwent drastic changes, she had her first periods… Those times were very stressful both for me and for her. Ivo started to smoke, drink alcohol and use drugs…I thought I have to do something, otherwise I would lose my child. In the internet, I found an organization that helps children with gender dysphoria. We went to Amsterdam to meet their doctors, psychologists, other parents and kids suffering from similar problems…Ivo grew calmer and happier … I think parents have to help their children to become what they want to be, which means, what they are.” (Yvone Stoop, Ivo’s mother)”

“Nina has been different than others since he was small. Me and his father thought it wouldn’t be a very big surprise if one day Nina told us that he was gay. Nina (who was first called Guido) would never wear female clothes, but when he came back home, he would immediately put on my clothes that were too large for him. As a child, Nina was very reserved and nervous. I wanted to help him. I started looking for information in the internet and found an organization called Berdache, where Nina met other kids like her. We also got enormous help from the doctors and psychologists. One day, when Nina came back from school, he found some female clothes on the bed in his room. He was very happy. My clothes were too large for him, so I decided to buy some appropriate to his age and height. The doctor in Amsterdam prescribed him hormones. When we came back home, some fifteen minutes were left until the drug store would close. I suggested to buy them the other day, but Nina insisted on going and buying the hormones immediately. It was so important to her…But he was a bit disappointed, because at the start, the doses of hormones were very small, so the changes were not very significant. Nina wanted to start changing as soon as possible… Now he is getting larger doses of hormones, so his body is changing, which he enjoys. Nina changed from a nervous child to a happy one. But her way is not very easy to go. There are parents (that I have to meet at Berdache family meetings) who cannot simply accept the idea that their children are different. Especially the fathers who see that their sons prefer to be girls. Some of them are even ashamed of their children and do not take them as they are. The other thing is school. First we thought that we’d have lots of problems. We found another, smaller school for Nina, where they have a special attitude to children. In their opinion, each kid is unique. So before September 1st we wrote a letter to that school and explained Nina’s situation to the teachers, kids and their parents. They accepted him with no opposition or anger. There was just one Catholic family who wrote us that they would pray for our son’s recovery. I think the key is to not to hide anything from anyone and explain the situation before the rumours and wrong interpretations start.” (Anneliese Jansen, Nina’s mother)

Melissa (9)
Soon Meslissa and her mother are going to see the doctors and check if her puberty has started. In case it has, it will be delayed by drugs until she is 16, when she can decide whether she really wants to become a boy.

“Today we went to the beach. It was the first time Lucas was wearing a skirt. He seems to enjoy it very much. For me, it’s a bit unusual. Although he has behaved a little different ever since he was two. He was very interested in my clothes and cosmetics, and all kinds of toys for girls… I knew that there are adult transsexuals, but not kids. We are trying to get used to this. It’s quite difficult, especially for his father. At the moment, he has more contact with our other two sons…” (Anouk, Lucas’ mother)