“One in four LGBTQ youth identified outside of the gender binary. More specifically, 25% selected gender queer/gender nonconforming, a different identity, or chose multiple identities. Within the gender binary, 7% of youth exclusively selected transgender man or transgender woman.” From a 2019 national survey for LGBTQ youth performed by the Trevor Project
Earlier this year, a friend of mine reached out to me asking if I knew any non-binary or trans stylists in the Philadelphia area. Unfortunately, I don’t, but asked them why. They mentioned that a photographer friend of theirs was building a team of trans, non-binary, and queer individuals for a project they were creating. “Wait! I’m queer! I’m bi!” I told them, and they connected me with photographer, Shannon Collins, so I could learn more about their project, and see if I would be a good fit.
I had already been following Shannon on Instagram for some time, and had a great deal of admiration for not only their work, but their approach to educating individuals on topics such as gender, race, and disability. When Shannon shares, it’s from a place of love with a purpose of education. I learn from them constantly, and I’m grateful for it.
As soon as I heard about Youthphoria, I immediately knew I wanted to be involved. When Shannon and I connected, they told me about their idea for Youthphoria, gender affirming photoshoots for trans, non-binary, and gender fluid youth in the Greater Philadelphia area. The photoshoots are at no cost for the participants, and Youthphoria is funded by mutual aid. One of their many goals for Youthphoria is to bring a positive, celebratory, affirming opportunity for trans folks or people who may be experiencing gender dysphoria.
As Shannon stated on the Youthphoria website, “These sessions focus on folks who are in their mid 20s and younger, with a priority given to any BIPOC individuals or further marginalized applicants, such as disabled, trans youth. We are dedicated to prioritizing applicants with intersecting marginalized identities, because it’s essential that we celebrate folks as diverse as the community we live in.”
During our conversation, Shannon expressed their intentions to find a stylist who could help the Youthphoria participants to feel seen, fully as themselves. This meant that they wanted someone who could find clothes, accessories, underwear, binders, shapewear, shoes, jewelry, whatever the participant wanted for their outfit for their photoshoot, so that their photoshoot day could allow our participants to completely feel like themselves.
The outfit, the hair and makeup, and the photoshoot are all designed to help the folks who are participating to feel celebrated.
Since our first photoshoot together in July, Youthphoria has photographed seven individuals, and I have had the pleasure of styling five of them.
Once Shannon receives a completed application through the Youthphoria website, they send a welcoming email, introducing the two of us to the applicant! From there, I set up a zoom call with the applicant, so that we can discuss and bring out their vision for the shoot. This is always such a fun conversation, because these chats about style have included inspiration from flowers and nature, Leonardo DiCaprio from the 90’s Romeo and Juliet, the sun and the moon, Beyoncé, Kim Possible, monochromaticity, angels, and steampunk. Then I get to work shopping for their shoot!
About 2 weeks before their shoot, we have an in person fitting, where I bring all of the things that I picked out for them, and they get to try everything on. Then we decide together what their outfit should be for the shoot. The fitting is probably my favorite part of the process, because it’s when I really get to know the participants, and I am totally in my element as their cheerleader/fairy-godmother.
I struggle with finding the words that I want to say, because the experience is so genuine and special. I have been able to help folks find clothes that finally feel like them, because prior to Youthphoria, they never felt comfortable shopping for the kinds of clothes that they really wanted to wear. It’s truly a pleasure to be involved.
Youthphoria is funded by mutual aid. While Shannon donates their photography services, hair and makeup, styling services, and the entire outfit for each participant are being paid from the mutual aid fund, with the average cost per individual session totaling to around $1,300. If you would like to donate to Youthphoria’s mutual aid fund, you can do so via our GoFundMe, Venmo (@youthphoria), Cash App ($youthphoria), or PayPal.me/ShannonCollinsPhoto.
We are always looking for more applicants, so if you or someone you know is trans, non-binary, or gender fliud, is in their mid-20’s or younger, and in the Greater Philadelphia area, fill out the form to apply!
Make sure that you’re following Youthphoria, Shannon Collins Photography, and Ruairí Foran (Youthphoria’s hair and makeup artist) on Instagram!