As Black Lives Matter continues to grab the world's attention, London-born New York-based photographer Leon Cato hopes to shed light on the struggles of black transgender people in a new series called 'adam's apple'.
The project follows the transition of Naechané Valentino Romeo from female to male over a twelve-month period, sharing a personal story with compassion and sensitivity. "During this time, I not only saw changes from a physical aspect but also from a social context as well. Each click of the shutter was accompanied by a level of acceptance or non-acceptance, the latter seems the more frequent," Leon tells Creative Boom.
Leon believes that black transgender people have to deal with another level of discrimination, "not only from a racial perspective but from transphobia within their own ethnic community".
"There has been much media attention recently on the continued struggle for black lives to matter within a world that still seems to set limits on black achievement. Communities derived from African heritage are united in their quest to join together and pave the way for equality and acceptance," he continues. "Yet, there is still disharmony within that same united front when it comes to accepting our transgender brothers and sisters."
During Leon's interviews with Naechané, he confided that many individuals within his close community had been unable to withstand his chosen transition, forcing him to adjust to a new norm. "Rather than a display of empathy, he found that he was often forced to deal with ignorance and occasionally contempt. I purposely documented his transformation using black and white images in order to portray his emotional journey as well as his physical one. The depths of colour are stripped away leaving the shades of grey to tell a story."
Leon adds: "I hope this documentary offers some education to those of us still learning about transgender experiences. I hope it offers encouragement to those who don’t yet feel accepted. Most of all I hope it helps pave the way for each person of colour to believe that, regardless of their gender, there will indeed be a day where they will truly feel free at last."