It would be difficult to walk around or take public transportation in most American cities and not notice the large homeless population. Homelessness is as unfortunate as it is ubiquitous. However, public attention has rarely been given to the specific struggles of homeless transgender teens. It is difficult to estimate the exact number of homeless transgender teens in the United States, but a report published by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force notes that transgender people are disproportionately represented among the national homeless population. According to the report, 1 in 5 transgender people need or are at risk of needing homeless shelter assistance. Yet, homeless transgender youth are often dismissed by even some of those shelters that are welcoming to gay, lesbian, and bisexual homeless people.
In the midst of these tragic facts, photographer Josh Lehrer is putting his talents to work for homeless transgender teens in New York City. In a brief video, Josh observes that of the 30,000 homeless teenagers in New York City, a staggering 35 percent are transgender. Josh’s ongoing project, “Becoming Visible: Portraits of Homeless Transgender Teens,” gives a face to homeless transgender youth in a world that typically overlooks them. Josh’s first set of photographs in the series premiered in spring 2010 at Robert Miller Gallery and received rave reviews from a number of media outlets, including the New York Times and New York Magazine. The materials and methods he uses in developing his portraits, as well as his careful attention to the process, ensure that they will last for thousands of years. In this way, the photographs afford the teens an historic context in which to root their identities and assert their presence.
Josh is now in the process of launching a new generation of photographs in his series. In order to continue doing this important work, he is asking for donations with a goal of raising $30,000 by April 2. You can donate to Josh’s project here. The donations will pay for materials and studio rentals as well as provide stipends for the homeless transgender teens who appear in the photographs. In his video, Josh describes the project in greater detail and discusses the effect his photographs have had on the teens themselves. Josh says, “…Many of these teens came to see themselves in a new light...they saw themselves lovingly depicted; a very real glimmer into the transforming and uplifting power of art.”