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Becoming a Woman: Striking Side-By-Side Portraits of Teens and Transgender Women

Charlie-White photography

As part of a multi-year project called “The Girl Studies,” Charlie White photographed teen girls between the ages of 12 and 14 side-by-side with male to female transgender adults. In each image, the paired individuals stand out against a non-descript background, making their similarities in appearance all the more evident. Ultimately, the mini-series is a comparative study of two paths toward womanhood, one biological and the other surgical/chemical in nature.

Photographer and filmmaker Charlie White has had his work exhibited internationally since 1999. Currently, he lives and works in Los Angeles.

Charlie-White photography

Charlie-White photography

Charlie-White photography

Charlie-White photography

This post was contributed by Megan Ramirez.

via WeWasteTime



  • Gemma

    Cis is one of the most racist terms I have come across in my life. There is a lot of ignorance here on all sides beginning with this term.

    There are women and there are trans women. Trans women are not women, women are not trans women. I see the points of people who talk about this being offensive to women–it is on a really basic level. Women are not exterior, women are far more. To have such a history of education and for this photographer to have grappled with the most misogynist representations is shocking.

    I see in these photos vast differences between both subjects. The only similarity is the hair colour and style–something easily replicated. The question that is central in my mind is why is there such a media push here to force us to see similarities when there really are none? Sure trans go through excruciating pain to model themselves after women. But they are lucky enough to have resources for this whilst women all over Africa die of fistula and other diseases related to really being a woman. The big lie here that I see being constructed is that trans women and women are the same or experience the same lives. They simply do not. And noting this is not ignorant. It is the grim or rather happy reality. Shouldn’t we all take pleasure in our differences?

  • Drew

    Tiredofthe Selfabsorbed:
    Fixing other people’s problems before fixing one’s own is definitely the way to trailblaze to happiness. Are you serious?
    You speak of people spending “small fortunes” while other people starve… We all do this for various things. You’ve made no effort to educate yourself about what you don’t understand.
    And your awful attempt to “nice up” your insulting post toward the end could have been left out. The damage was done in your first paragraph.
    To call the surgery useless is just moronic. It’s useless because YOU don’t care to see it happen.
    The theme of your post is “Stop complaining and help people” (Because that definitely fills everyone’s voids. ‘Soup kitchen or becoming the person one’s always felt they were meant to be? Toughie’), yet you’re refusal to accept and/or open your mind is the only reason transgendereds are complaining. The only reason.

  • Yaqub

    My god the ignorance of some of these comments is truly appalling. Just because you were born feeling like the gender your body indicates, does not mean that everyone is so lucky. Plenty of people are born mentally one gender and physically the opposite, and remaining in a body that feels fundamentally unnatural to you is a sort of discomfort I can only imagine. The idea that transgender people are somehow just looking for attention is ignorant horse pucky.

  • nyk nyk

    I really wonder who cares? I don’t give two hoots what anyone does with their own body. If they like I love it. I have grown up to be a fully grown woman. I have experienced child birth and the dreaded menstral cycles. Oh and don’t forget the natural heavy breasts that cause the bra to gouge my rib cage. Sigh!Truth be told, they ain’t missin much! And furthermore, I hope if I get to be reincarnated, and I come back as man and since I like girly things and men so much, ain’t no guarantee I’m going to be a straight one!And I would like to see who gonna make me not be me and not like what I like and want what I want! They can’t do that now! But I believe that there are more serious things to spend brain energy on. Like curing disease or healing the environment or reversing the downward spiral of the economy. If Robert wants to wear a dress and and be penis free….SO!!! As long as (s)he’s being a productive, green and economically stable, peaceful member of the globe. And even if (s)he’s not……SO!! Then whatever. This is a small issue. For small minds, who choose to waste valuable mental energy on this stuff. The penis is gone now, so what are you gone do about it? Stare at him long with disapproving looks and maybe it will grow back? I’m pretty sure you who disagree do some gross things when no one is looking and you’re just lucky no one has found you out yet. This particular thing can’t be hidden so easily. So leave them alone. Focus on substantially impactful meaningful subjects. Recycle. Build up your brains and become blessed peacemakers. Teach your kids the right way to be and not like you and love them ferociously. Then you won’t be busy wondering what other folks are doing with their genitals. Just a suggestion. Have a great life…ALL OF YOU!

  • Timmy

    I say there shouldn’t be hate towards the l,g,b,t community.
    just like mentally handicapped people its not their vault they were born with genetic syntax, their rights should be respected. after all we allow straight couples (even mentally challenged straights) raise kids, but in the end that’s why we have the dept. of children and families , because anyone regardless of gender or orientation can fuck up a child’s life and if they marry that OK too. I went out with this chick turns out she was still married(even though they had been separated for a few years) and why so she can collect his benefits when he died . In fact he wanted a divorce and she wont give it to him til he locks the other woman out of the benefits. so it goes both ways, and now you can marry a foreigner and get them in the states and ya’ll can be the same gender (depending on the state) and criminally bring someone into citizenship. a right only straight people had that now is open to all yay!!. but there is a serious differences in accepting your child for who they are and wanting a certain crush or child to turn for you. heck to add i had a great lesbian friend and she swore up and down to everyone when we first met that she knew she was gay at the age of 2. then about a year ago we hooked up a couple of times then one day she broke down told me how she had kids and how when she was younger she was a wild child and her husband didn’t want to be with her but she loved him so much she didn’t want to be in another relationship with another man. so we stopped hooking up shortly after she got herself a sexist girlfriend and when i would hang out with my friend her GF would say all men are dirty, perverted, etc etc. and then she keyed my car. (this all stemmed from a hotdog incident young in this chicks life.) but yeah she drove me away now my friend that i had been close to for 6 years is not in my life because of reverse sexism. its not my fault I’m straight and shes not. just the same for her.
    but on the lighter side now we get to change the formula

    “Mommies where do babies come from???” child says
    mothers say”when two woman love each other they go through a scrap book at the local sperm bank.”
    or for 2 dads “when two dads love each other they jerk it into a cup and then hire a surrogate to crate a child.”

    what i mean is its not as easy to say..
    when a man and a woman love each other they have sex 9 months later your here”
    telling a child they’re a test tube baby is like telling them you survived your abortion its messed up. but most real things in this world are messed up.
    and I ultimately think we as a society should absolutly hope for our children not to be l,g,b,t. but that is not saying we should shun them, we should be encouraging; All children are born innocent and sexual orientation shouldn’t be a reason to belittle, or mock a person.

  • IDK

    Quite frankly, my initial reaction to seeing these pictures of transgender was “confused repulsion” (I mean, they look like either hard-faced, hard-drinking women or men in drag). But then I looked again and realized that each looked….sad, depressed and maybe a little weary. It was eerie and uncomfortable…like you’re looking at someone who is involuntarily exposed but remain stoic in the face of the stares even if the stares reflect confusion at what they’re looking at.

  • Sarah

    @Everyone Else, I’m with you on that one.
    @ Jacques and Being a Woman – I guess though I’m born with a Vagina by your definition I’m not a woman – I’ve never had a baby and don’t know what it’s like. I guess all my large-framed female friends are not women too, despite their vaginas, because they don’t know what it’s like to have small hands or a small frame. My friend, who stopped menstruating due to stress, she musn’t be a woman now too since she doesn’t know what it’s like to buy tampons now. And as for all my friends that don’t fit your definition of “woman” due to various differences in their bodies from your definitions.. well they must be “not-women” too along with the transgender women.

    Gender is not biological. But hey, if my large framed, non-baby making body is not “woman” enough, well I’ll stick with the “not real women” as you imply thanks. Least my transgender sisters and I don’t going telling each other why we’re not female.

    My vagina is a body part like my arm. It does not “make” me a woman and nor does it make me the sole authority on what it means to be a woman. It doesn’t make you one either.

  • http://na primo

    There is a lovely line in ” The Night Of the Iguana ” (Tennessee Williams(when a lady lends a man a handkerchief. I think he masturbates with it then post climax he is gutted by guilt and shame and asks her if she is disgusted . She is so beautiful she replies “nothing disgusts me save man’s inhumanity to man”

    There are awful things happening all over the world and a persons sexuality is what they are-all these arguments about what is male and female so nothing compared to one African child starving.
    I have never met a “transgendered” person who was not kind and sensitive -they have had to walk through the fires of Hell just to be who they are.
    On the other had there are plenty of examples of “mans inhumanity to man” in some of the hateful , narrow uniniformed replies I have read here-for Gods sake have a little compassion- do you honestly think that a person would choose to be gay or transexual with the kind of flak to which they are exposed? It takes tremendous courage to be the person you feel you are when it means you are subject to this kind of vituperation. On the other hand spitting bile and hatred on the anonymous web is as far removed from human decency as it is from courage.
    Be kind, life is tough enough already

  • Jim

    The only similarities I see is the hair style, eyebrows, skin tone and whatever makeup artist can do to make this work.

  • Me

    God the creator determines what is what. “male and female he created them…” I’m tired of the debate and I will not negotiate. There are two genders, and one cannot pick… and I don’t care what anyone says…so there.

  • http://blazewing.paganlife.ca Blazewing

    Haha, look at all the hate.

    I love it when cis-women say trans women are nothing more than men. They launch this trap they expect trans-women to fall blindly into, and alot of them do. The trap is simply this:
    If you agree with them, then you are nothing more than a man in drag.
    If you disagree with them, then you are nothing more than a man in drag pushing your ideals.

    I have seen this time and time again, and I’ve gotten to the point where I could care less what EITHER gender think at this point. Cis-Women are afraid of trans women, as they see us as a threat and attack us. Men see trans women as a threat to their sexuality, and god help them if they feel attracted to a trans woman.

    Fuck this game. I refuse to play with anyone.

  • Muriele

    To those who are confused that all biological women experience things that transgendered females (MTF) cannot: There are many biological women who are barren, who have menstrual problems including lack of menses, and so on. Gender identity is based on physical traits, which include brain chemistry. The chemical makeup of people is the prime factor in gender identity. If you do some research, you will find the COGLIATI test, and some of those people who are biased against transgendered people will find a big surprise. Finally, all people should be afforded dignity and compassion. Let’s not show hatred toward one another for our gender identity, but work together to overcome the problems our world faces.

  • Matt

    Why are people so hung up on everyone else’s struggles? If you were born a woman and feel that way inside, be grateful for that. Not everyone has it so easy. Think of how difficult it is for them and realize how much you can help by simply not being such a judgmental prick all the time.

  • patrick

    i like shemale but not transsexual,i mean i dont like Tg because they are just man but shemale who completely born like that and didnt change any thing in himself with doctor or some thing like that is ok,i am one of them who like shemale partner.
    so if any one there emill me:
    valizadhpatrick@yahoo.com

  • CognitiveDissident

    In finding this page I am so relieved by the freedom to have an opinion and yet not feel so burdened by it that I have to share it with anybody that I think will listen!

  • http://www.kjvnt.com David Lambert

    Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness……… 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

    Genesis 2:7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

    Genesis 2:18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

    Matthew 19:4-5 “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they two shall be one flesh?”

  • Evalina

    Dude, I was born a woman, and I have huge hands and size 11 feet, who the heck says transwomen can’t be “real” women because they don’t have small hands and feet? That’s so weird! Also, they may not have some of the milestones of a born woman but they go through other similar hardships and doctors visits and experience comparable difficulties, fears, and propensities for depression. I had damage to my womb and likely won’t be able to have kids but if you think never experiencing post-partum depression means I’m not a woman, you’d better think twice. Do you think adopted kids aren’t really part of the family, too, because they didn’t go through the experience of passing through the mother who raised them or, like, nursing breast milk?

    Honestly, you clownshoes had better think twice about a lot of stuff, because you’ve got some pointless judgement and hate in you that’s really poisoning your soul.

  • ALS

    Looking at all these comments has be going “Wow, just… wow.”

    Well, my small contribution would be this.

    Preschool: All friends were girls. Had a crush on one of them. Active, passive, extroverted, introverted, fun, boring – All I could befriend and/or identify with easily. Boys, on the other hand, I couldn’t figure out. I had one that was a friend, because he was very sensitive and quiet.

    Elementary: Had a few more crushes on girls, friends with others. Still knew all the girls’ names I was around, and later realized that they were my social group. Energetic boys seems careless and rough. Quiet boys seemed awe-struck at girls (straight boys, that is) and were scared to socialize with them. I started noticing that I was losing peer relationships with girls and being cut off into “boyhood” with people I rarely had anything in common with. Attempts to be friendly with girls seemed to cut me off more and more. I played with GI Joe’s (usually dramas between the characters, not actually fighting…), and I played with Barbies. Around 4th grade age, I began cutting myself off from people – boys I couldn’t relate to, girls who found me alien. As I became more self-conscious, and more self-aware, I started to realize how feminine I am when I’m being myself all alone, and feared if I didn’t put on an act, I’d look like a gay male, which I’m not.

    Teenage: Mortified of socializing at all at that point. Couldn’t be myself, couldn’t be with the girls’ crowd, and loathed the guys more and more, except a few sensitive enough to appreciate me, and didn’t care to play the hypermasculine game of intimidation and devaluing of women. My fake, surface self I created killed my ability to be “normal”, that is, myself, around people. I began to lie to myself that this guy-ish facade I made was the only self I could be on the outside world, and became very bitter.

    Adult: Well, that tactic doesn’t last forever. There I was, surrounded by a beautiful, feminine room of mine, flowers (fake ones) all over, paintings of beauties from 1800′s, clothing all androgynous, no friends, no desire to date, and eventually it dawned on me that, hey, I’ve always thought like a girl, the voice in my head when I talk to myself or read has always been a girl, I relate to girls, I act when alone like a girl, when I’m happy I lose the “guy” facade… gee, I am a girl. I look back and everything, from first memories, to present, all makes sense, like a puzzle. I had been so unsure of myself, hating myself, and confused, but like a weight lifted off of me, I wasn’t scared any more to accept what had been going on: Despite the body, Where it counts, in my head and in my heart, I have always been female.

    Now, I say female. I can’t say I’ve been a woman or girl all my life, that’s what a cisgender woman could say. This is the point. Being female and being a woman are not the same thing. Female is an identity, way of approaching reality and emotion, method of relating to people, and how a person knows their real self.

    I have yet to go through any surgeries, but I am “transgender female” or whatever the latest label is. After any surgeries, would I be a woman? I don’t actually know how to answer that perfectly. I will simply had my body match by mind better. If that isn’t a “woman” to some, so be it, because it isn’t the point.

    Cisgender women can say that I’m not a woman, wasn’t a woman, and will never be a woman.

    I am me, and if I desire to alter my body to feel more at home in my own skin, it should be so. If your dogma or god or friends or self-righteousness tells you otherwise, be ready to fight the real war, the war against any human being that desires to alter the shell they live inside for their own benefit, freedom, and happiness. I am not the only person alive that has changed their appearance, and I assure you I am not the last.

    That is all.

  • Christian

    Im truly shocked at the redneck nazi attitude that some people have towards women that are transgender. They are certainly not lab rats as one person poses on here. They have female brains and are in every sense female, but they have been born with a body that is not one that conforms to female standards. There is no normal in society today, there is majority and minority, and if you don’t fit the normal then you are shun from society. Everyone is normal, people are just born different from each other, no arms, deaf, blind, male body, no penis, small breasts, big breast, brown hair blonde hair, coloured eyes, pointy nose, button nose. we are simply humans trying to exist and lead lives as best we can. Just because a women is born without female genitalia does not mean she is not a women. Please open your eyes and realise that you are born without your choice and who you are when you are born makes the person you end up being.

  • steve

    Wow! The teens look very much like the adults, how hard was that to arrange? Is that Olivia Love in the third pic?

  • malik

    The human body is just a highly advanced machine. Much as in other machines, its functions are driven by stimuli (Hormones, enzymes, etc). Like other machines, it can malfunction (Gay, Lesbian, trangesder,etc).

    (Yes, I believe that sexual orientation that negates natural procreation is a malfunction).

    But unlike other machines, it cannot be simply “fixed” or discarded.

    People with “not normal” sexual characteristics (in my opinion) should not be criticized or demeaned. Accept people for who and what they are and be the best you can be.

    Thank you all

  • ALS

    @malik

    The problem with your use of “malfunction” isn’t that it suggests that something is working wrong, which is what the word means, but that it implies that it does not serve a useful purpose.

    As a lesbian, I really can’t understand how a straight could not be attracted to women, and could be attracted to men. To me it defies all senses of beauty. I know that that’s the way I am, and I don’t necessarily look down on straight women, I just don’t understand them.

    To be honest, ever think of overpopulation? Masses of children waiting in the wings for parents to adopt them? Could not the homosexual humans help solve these issues?

    I cannot agree that being homosexual is purposeless, nor that one’s sexual orientation is only defined by its “usefulness” to society, nor that someone being born, such as myself, with a mind different than their body is some kind of flaw. I am not flawed. Apparently members of society such as yourself have a flawed idea of what “functional” means.

  • Just me

    I can’t believe some of the comments that I am reading a the definitions of a real woman…. I must say that if you feel like a woman and want to change once you do so you are a woman. Having a period does not make you a woman. By saying this you are implying that girls that do not have a period in teens that are given hormones (yes birth control is hormones ) to start their period are less of a woman. Oh and you realize that there are many women that have fertility issues and cannot conceive a child at all are less of a woman. There are many women that will never experience giving birth to a child this don’t mean they are not a woman. I embrace each and every one one my tg sisters and commend you on going down that hard path to womanhood. Just because I am biologically a woman don’t make me any better or more a woman the only difference is one chromosome. Anyone want my periods you can have them and take my uterus too cause I’m done with that as well. ;-) don’t pay idiots any mind they “natural” hormone made them stupid. I was just thinking so when I go through menopause I won’t be a woman anymore?

  • Wise One

    Transexuality will cease to exist in a culture fully accepting of homosexuality from birth. Children brought up in a culture where homosexuality is not allowed to exist and “no homosexuals exist”, recognizing they are homosexual, can only tie what they are to gender confusion. Later, societal and religious stigma does the rest (I cannot be a homosexual, therefore I must be the opposite sex.) Michael Jackson will be recognized as a textbook example of the syndrome in regard to age instead of gender (I cannot be a pedophile, therefore I am a child trapped in an adult’s body.) The same societal and bigoted religious forces were at play. Most post-opt transsexuals figure this out all too late and feel they are mutilated freaks. Medicine is in grave error to “fix” what is essentially a psychological problem with physical means just because it is barely possible.

  • Tribble

    Did any one notice that Jacques is a man’s name (french for Jack)? I’m not saying Jacques is a man, but the view “he” gave was very stereotypically female and not shared by most women.

    When I was about 5 I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered “a man”, not because I felt like a boy, but because I wanted the life my dad had (he was a soldier and travelled the world), not the life my mum had (she stayed at home and looked after the kids). As I grew older and found out more about what it really meant to be a woman. I didn’t want that either. No to menstruation; no to pregnancy; no to labour, etc. etc.

    I think transgender women are very brave, not because they want what I have, but they put up with bigotry, bullying and harrassment to get what they need.

  • Barb

    The pics are interesting and say to me that being a woman or becoming a woman, or a man, for that matter, takes many forms and many paths and nature expresses that with much more diversity than we think. I find the no makeup approach refreshing and the fact that none of the people are “beauties” in the traditional sense but interesting in appearance. I am not a very girly woman and think of myself more often in genderless terms but I am a woman and cannot imagine how horrible it must be to have your brain tell you one thing and your mirror the opposite (well, my brain tells me I am a 25-year old Bardot but my mirror tells me I am a fat and ugly middle aged shapeless woman, so I can empathize somewhat).

  • you

    Transgenderism and homosexuality is NOT the same as trans people are homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, and asexual. transsexuals are not based on sexual preference but gender identity. We as transgender folk, do not fit the gender norms therefore prefer to be identifies as either the opposite gender, bigendered, or even nongender. We dont conform to society which can be scary for some people, but will make sense as time allows and research is done.
    as of now, there is a distinct difference between a transgender womans brain and a male or female brain giving the traits of a person right down the middle. a third gender if you will.