Sima Ajlyakin | Live With It

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Country of origin: Syria
Project location: Lebanon
Program: Arab Documentary Photography Program
Year: 2017

“Live With It” is a series of photographs that documents various of aspects of the transgender community in Lebanon - from the glamour of their lives to the struggles they face. Lebanon’s seemingly open-minded and socially liberal reputation contradicts the lived reality of transgender individuals who are judged and mistreated by their peers, family members, coworkers, and society in general.

Throughout the past few years and particularly since the start of the Arab Spring, topics such as refugees, victims of conflict, and women’s rights have been covered by the media and photojournalists, helping to raise awareness on various issues. Though these topics are crucial and important, many other stories are untouched and underexposed and the experiences of transgender people in the Arab world is one of them.

Getting close to these individuals has allowed me to gain their trust and get an insight on the lives of their day to day lives, exploring their journey and struggles. They are unable to express who they are, hiding their identities inside their homes, struggling to be respected in the workforce or find a job, or simply strolling around the streets. To put it simply, I’ve come to notice such individuals are not treated as respected as human beings in the Lebanese society.

More than following a trend, my work explores lives of transgender individuals who gave me the opportunity to enter their personal space and view the way they live their lives. They are courageous enough to narrate their stories in order to shed light on the need for a change and acceptance in our society. Most importantly, they create space for others in similar situations to speak out. This project is dedicated to all those under external pressure for being themselves and pursuing their beliefs.