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Style That Demands to Be Seen

There was Hari as well, streaked with multicolored warrior-like markings and gazing directly into the camera; and Mars, flaunting a thatch of straw-colored hair and the twin chest scars that marked the early phase of a female-to-male transition.

“Some of these kids, they’re proud of their scars,” Mr. Sharkey said. “They wear them as a badge of honor.”

He added: “It’s important for me to visually represent the physical transformation of these young people. Part of the squeamishness in our culture is that we have so few opportunities to address the physicality of this kind of transformation.”

“People transform their bodies all the time,” he said. “We wear makeup, we go to the gym, we are always turning our physical selves into something truer to an idea that we have of ourselves.”

In the interviews accompanying his photographs, Mr. Sharkey asks subjects where they imagine they will be in 10 years. Their goals are often surprisingly modest, even prosaic at times.

“Nancy will have a bakery,” Marie, 18, says of her partner. “We will have a house, a garden, classic stuff.”


Hari, 2012.

M. Sharkey

Tanner, 16, imagines having graduated from college “with a little house in the country, a husband. Hopefully I’ll be able to marry him.”

Mr. Sharkey intends to compile their replies in book form and is working on a TV pilot, a 30-minute dramatic series also titled “Queer Kids,” loosely based on the characters he has encountered and documented over the years.

With his brother, Daniel, he will return to Exeter later this month to make a new series of portraits and a short film about the school and its queer community.

His young subjects, he predicted, are likely “to celebrate who they are with a mix that’s part pride, part resistance, part pure joyful celebration.”

“When people come out of the closet,” he said, “no force in heaven or on earth can put them back where they came from.”

Correction: October 5, 2017

An earlier version of this article, using information from the photographer behind the “Queer Kids” exhibition, misidentified the type of surgery that his subject Mars underwent. It is a female-to-male transition, not male-to-female.

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