Trans Project | Erika | Cedar Rapids Iowa LGBTQ* Friendly Boudoir Photographer

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Trans Project with Erika

Cedar Rapids / Iowa City / Eastern Iowa Boudoir Photographer


I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Erika for quite some time now and her family has always had a special place in my heart. I found my safe place in the Gay Straight Alliance Club in high school and she was married to the teacher that facilitated it, Missy (but back then I knew her as Mrs. Breddin). They recently moved back from Ohio and I knew I had to get her in front of my camera!

I seriously loved reading through her post-session questionnaire and learning more about her! Her session was just so her- from the books to the flag of her home country, right down to the communion on the window sill. This session was so fun and unique and I truly can’t tell you all how excited I am to share it!

I honestly cried when I read the following post by Erika after her session with me. I always want to change lives and viewpoints with my photography and show the subject that they matter and are deserving of loving themselves. That’s what I’m about, that amazing self-love adventure. Boudoir isn’t the start or finish, it’s just a small part in each person’s self-love journey. I’m so touched that I get to be a part of so many journeys!

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Yesterday was incredible, amazing, affirming in so many ways.

I had the privilege and the joy of being part of a photo project for Lexy Larson-Anderson (Boudoir by Lexy). She is doing a project to chronicle and present the stories and real-selves of tranagender and non-binary folk in the Cedar Valley.

When she reached out to me about being part of her project, I was initially excited and then consumed with worry and doubt.

As a trans woman i find myself comparing myself to cis women on a daily basis. Am I dressing right? Am I too tall? Are my feet and hands too big? My face is too masculine. My shoulders too wide. My voice too deep. I’m full of doubts and worries. Feelings of not being good enough, pretty enough.

In most of my personal pictures I use filters to hide the faults I see. Now, I was being asked to place myself in another person’s hands. I would not be in control. There would be no filters to hide behind. I was excited, but terrified.

I arrived at her working location, a quirky and charming airbnb in Waterloo. She put me at ease immediately. She was so excited. Her enthusiasm countered my fears and overwhelmed them. My worries and doubts, my feelings of not being “enough” vanished.

I was enough because I was me, and I am more than good enough for anything. While she worked, while she posed me and directed me I felt beautiful. She declared picture after picture, shot after shot how much she loved it, how pretty I looked. These weren’t just words, I could hear the truth of the words in the emotions of her voice. I was pretty. I was sexy. I was female.

I have to wait several weeks before I get to see the photo results of yesterday. But, I don’t need to see them to know what will be in those pictures. A quirky, geeky, complex, contemplative, beautiful, powerful woman. I know because I saw that woman during the shoot. I saw her. I see her. She is me.
— Erika
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Erika Elizabeth Breddin

Post-Session Questionnaire

 

Q: What do you identify as?

Female

 

Q: When did you come out?

To myself: 1980. To select others: 1995 To the public: 2018

 

Q: If you feel comfortable, share your coming out story

Coming out for me was more about a journey of steps than a one time event. I knew from a very young age that I was "different"; but growing up in a conservative religious family meant that I knew I had to keep certain things hidden. So I spent my time in my imagination, in JC Penney catalogs, in my mother's closet when I was home alone. Because of the baggage I carried from my family of origin I spent much of my life in denial as to who I was, or at least the extent of my gender dysphoria.

For most of my life I thought of myself as being a crossdresser. I thought I could just be a "part-time girl", have a boy side and a girl side. Yet, the more time I spent giving my girl side life the more I came to know that was who I really was.

The summer of 2018, while I was serving as a pastor in eastern Ohio I came out to my congregation during my sermon. (You can watch it if you want: https://www.facebook.com/114356992048344/videos/1065799346904099/ ) That was my official coming out, but as I said it was a lifetime of coming to terms with who I was one step at a time that brought me to the place where I could declare from the pulpit my truth.

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Q: When/What if anything made you realize you were trans?

I don't think I can point to any one thing. More than anything else it was about knowing that the way I had been labelled, the M or F box that had been checked by the doctors at my birth was not rally who I was. The hard part for me was I was really good at being a guy. I was an athlete, I could be very manly and masculine. Yet, I always knew that though those were things I was very good at, they were masks I was wearing to keep the world from seeing the truth of who I was.

 

Q: What are some micro aggressions that make you feel unsafe?

The more I embrace who I am as a woman, the less safe I feel in general. When I was still presenting as a guy, there were few times I was afraid or felt unsafe. Yet, now my feeling of safety is nowhere near as strong. When I am in situations where I don't know people. When I am alone. When I am in places where I know there are un-accepting people gathered. My fear level rises. I become more wary. My eyes are moving at all times, I am watching people more clearly. But, that really isn't a micro aggression.

When it comes to micro aggressions, it's normally the looks and stares, the comments whispered to others. I also find for myself that I feel a level of discomfort and unease (perhaps feeling unsafe) when I am intentionally dead-named or misgendered.

 

Q: What are some of the most hurtful questions to ask? How can I be a better ally/friend?

So, what parts do you have? Are those real?

Being an ally means doing all you can to accept and affirm a person as they wish to be identified. Not only to their face, but also when they are not around. Being an ally is taking a stand for a person when others dead-name them, use the wrong pronouns, or speak of them in other intentionally harmful or derogatory ways.

 

Q: What is the biggest misconception you want to dispel?

That trans-women are full time drag queens. That trans women aren't women. That trans people in general are somehow damaged goods.

 

Q: What's been the hardest part of your transition so far?

The hardest parts of my transition have all been times when I was either outed by others, or paid a price in my professional life for being out. I was kicked out of Seminary when my (now ex) wife outed me to the faculty. I lost my job as a youth director when I was outed by a friend I had confided in. I lost my job as a pastor when the leadership of the church I was serving could not make peace with the fact that I was not only transgender, but that I was going to transition.

 
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Q: What is the best experience you've had since coming out?

There are many things i can point to that have happened over the last few years. However, in recent months it was a conversation I had with my mother. (My parents are doing their best to accept, even if they don't understand). Over the Christmas holidays in a private moment she confided that I was "so pretty" in the picture I had shared with them when I came out. I almost cried.

 

Q: What do you personally define as transitioned?

Transitioning to me isn't about reaching a destination of some kind. Transition for me is the journey, and the moment you step out from the gender you were assigned at birth you are transitioning. Whether that is something that is seen in a public way, or if it's just something you do in the privacy of your bedroom. It's about the journey, and with most journeys it's far more enjoyable if you enjoy it rather than focusing on getting somewhere. When all you think about is the destination, you can miss seeing some truly incredible things along the way.


Are you interested in participating in The Trans Project? Click here to learn more! Please note that these are not paid sessions therefor I’m doing them in my personal time and not everyone is guaranteed to get chosen. Not hearing back from me does not mean that you weren’t but I will be contacting people as I have time to fit sessions into my schedule. At this point I’m not turning people away but rather finding space in my schedule when Kasie and I can do the sessions together!

 

Check out the rest of Erika’s images! Click and scroll through to view large.

With Love,

Lexy