Hello, everyone! I'm sure my story will be a bit different than most but I think you'll find it worth the read!
I've known Molly since birth, she's my big sister! But we didn't grow up being so close. Molly is 7 years older than me and she had been more interested in journaling about boys than carting around her younger sibling.
Our relationship really developed around my senior year of high school. I had been struggling with my sexuality and being in a small town was not helpful.
Molly started visiting home more and spending time with me. When I began college she even spent the night with me in my dorm room! I started my undergrad degree at UW – Green Bay and got involved with the LGBTQ resource center which completely changed my life! I felt like I belonged somewhere for the first time in my life.
This is also where I met Jonah (name replaced for anonymity). Jonah is a transgender man and the first transgender person I had ever met in my life. He told me his story about growing up in a small town and feeling alone. He had always hated being forced to wear dresses and didn't relate to anyone around him.
Meeting Jonah opened my eyes to a part of myself that had been suppressed for nearly 18 years. I am transgender.
When I came to this realization I began taking small steps to own my gender identity. I shaved off all of my hair (about 20+ inches) and donated it!!
Then, I came out to my family and close friends. I was overwhelmed by acceptance and love. I had decided to begin HRT (hormone replacement therapy) to change my physical appearance and I wanted to document it.
Molly came up with the idea of photographing my transition. This was the best idea, EVER. I had always been uncomfortable with my appearance and never connected to photos of myself. This was a way for me to reclaim that uncomfortable feeling and show the world my authentic self.
I began HRT on July 21st, 2015 and my cheeks hurt from smiling all day.
The months flew by and before we knew it, I had finished a half of a year of HRT. Looking through these photos was an incredible feeling and I couldn't believe that it was actually me. I was finally feeling confident and whole.
During this time, I started researching surgeons to perform top surgery (a double mastectomy and chest masculinization for trans patients). I had been binding my chest daily and while it temporarily soothed my body dysphoria it also came with a sore back, trouble breathing, and poor posture.
After finding my surgeon I began fundraising. The total for the procedure was $6,400 and that was without travel expenses! Did I mention I'm a college student!?
Amazingly, I met my goal and scheduled my surgery date for August 12th, 2016.
At the time of my surgery I had also reached my one-year mark on HRT but with recovery and school beginning again we didn't have time for a photo shoot. However, I had been interviewed by the Love Wisconsin project around this time where I shared my journey and I have a photo from that!
While it is easy to see the changes I have gone through it was difficult for me to realize them on a day to day basis. I started putting the photos side by side which helped me see my progress and put into perspective just how far I have come. With college graduation just around the corner I am faced with a new challenge of navigating ‘the real world' and holding true to myself.
There are so many barriers holding back transgender people, especially in the work force, but I am confident that I will find the perfect fit for me and continue to show the world who I am!
Photography has given me a platform to express myself and gain confidence.
It also allows me to share my unique story with others. Visibility is essential in helping the world become more accepting of transgender people and show those that are struggling with their own identity that they are not alone.
I exist and I am thankful that photography has helped me prove that.
If you’re interested in following along on my journey you can find me at:
YouTube: Kayden Keyser