THE PLIGHT OF THE TRANSGENDER
featuring Alex Elliott
The one that keeps getting stolen.
The Plight of the Transgender was taken in honour Leelah Alcorn; an Ohio transgender teen driven to suicide by her family's active rejection of her identity. Forced into a cruel gender conversion programme by her parents at the age of fourteen, Leelah endured almost three years of shame and isolation by her family; accused of attacking and embarrassing their image by coming out as gay (a step towards coming out as transgender, she believed), she was even taken out of school by her parents at the age of sixteen. At age seventeen Leelah took her own life, posting her suicide note on Tumblr for the world to read.
This photo was taken by Alex and I in February 2015 as an homage to Leelah's death; both seventeen at the time, we were immensely moved by her story, and wanted to use what resources we could to honour her and help propagate her message of transgender acceptance. I uploaded the photo onto my personal Flickr account under a Creative Commons: Attribution No Derivatives (2.0) copyright (a license that allows for the public use of a photo, but requires the photo remain unedited and feature a credit to the artist).
September that year, we were alerted by the Italian LGBTQA+ rights group Arcigay that our photo had been gravely misused by Fratelli D'Italia: a far-right political party in Trento, Italy that actively campaigned against acceptance of transgender and LGBTQA+ individuals. A maliciously edited version of our photo was printed in the party's posters and manifestos across the region, as part of a campaign to ban gender education in local schools; Arcigay immediately put us in contact with a lawyer to help tackle this misuse, and the story quickly became international news.
We immediately reserved all public rights for the photo, meaning any public usage would need expressed permission from Alex and I - this, unfortunately, did little to curb the sheer scale of misuse that would follow. In the years following its use by Fratelli D'Italia, the photo has been used by political parties, journalists and organisations across the globe; in early 2019 it even made its way back to England in the form of a Brexit meme.