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Agender: Portraits of Young People Who Identify as Neither Male or Female

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Sasha was lit on fire on a public bus because they were wearing a skirt and a men’s shirt. The image was taken shortly after Sasha was released from the hospital in their parent’s living room.

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Micah was shot both on the street around their house and at home. They identify as neutrois or an absence of gender.

The term “agender” refers to individuals who identify as neither male or female, preferring the term “they” as opposed to the gender normative pronouns “he” or “she”. On November 4th, 2013, Maybeck High School senior Sasha Fleischman was sleeping on a public bus on the way home from school when they were suddenly awakened by flames leaping up their body. The teen suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns up and down their legs, spending over a month in a hospital burn unit. The story made headlines across the San Francisco Bay area where the incident took place and Fleischman suddenly found themselves thrust into the spotlight as a voice for the agender and genderqueer community. Photographer Chloe Aftel shot the victimized teen as well as others who do not allow society or culture to define them.

Aftel captured most of the young people in their homes or places significant to them, desiring to show an intimate and everyday vision of agenders. Commissioned by San Francisco Magazine, individuals like Emma were able to share their stories and speak their minds on issues of gender—“I think a lot of people like to see gender as this scale of blue and pink. I never really identified with either side of that, or even in between blue and pink. It’s so much more complicated—my identity varies so much on any given day. Sometimes I tell people I’m gold or something.”

Researchers have discovered that those who live as neither male or female suffer the most from discrimination and violence in the LGBT community, their determination to remain undefinable seeming to provoke and disgruntle those uncomfortable with gender norms. “When I wear a skirt,” Fleischman told San Francisco Magazine,”it makes them think about gender and not jumping to conclusions.” For people like Fleischman, it is crucial to simply be who they are, even in the face of intolerance and personal risk.

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Edie captured in their boyfriend’s parent home in Berkeley.

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Emma, shot in their apartment in San Francisco. They plan to possibly change their name after high school.

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Sarah is one of Sasha’s closest friends, shot in their room in their parents house. They are in high school and live at home.

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Mariyln lives at home with their parents, shot in both their bedroom and bathroom. Growing up, Mariyln felt neither a man or a woman fit their identity as an adult.

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Mark was shot in their San Francisco apartment. They wear both “male” and “female” clothing.

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Rain with their girlfriend.

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Mariyln lives at home with their parents, we shot in both their bedroom and bathroom.

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Rain models professionally, usually as a man. Here they are shot in their apartment in Berkeley.

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