Soraya Zaman’s American Boys isn’t just a collection of portraits meant to simply be perused, though one certainly may, and many probably will. It's an intimate look into the lives and stories of transmasculine Americans, whose very identities are often put up for debate by those far outside their daily lives. And while the title of the book may seem ill-fitting at first — declarations of patriotism, in this climate? — that’s quite literally the point. American Boys rejects the notion of traditional boyhood as defined by the masculinity of cis men, and offers up a timely, impactful declaration of its own:
Our American boys are trans, and they will not be erased.
Back before Trump began his crusade to erase trans people from schools, bathrooms and the military, Zaman had been traveling the country to meet young folks paving new ways to exist in this world.“I just wanted to take images that meant something and were personal to me,” says the Australian, queer, nonbinary photographer, “but that quickly changed with each new person I met and photographed.”
Across 21 states, Zaman met transmasc folks from ages 18-35 at different points in their transitions, photographed them, and asked them to pen essays to accompany their portraits. “It became apparent that honoring and sharing stories, validating and centering everyone in a positive and uplifting way, was necessary and important,” Zaman told Out, “especially in the now changing political climate.”
Zaman found their subjects through social media, mostly through Instagram, and their stories are accompanied by a timeline that contextualizes the work alongside landmark moments in LGBTQ+ history.
“When you spend time with someone, one on one, and ask them to tell you their story, they all are impactful,” Zaman said. “The words and stories I share in the book touch on a number of things including coming into trans identity, discovering sexuality, navigating family, race, religion, love, behavior, location, politics etc. The people in the book are pioneers of the new movements in gender identity across the country. They live their true authentic selves against the grain of our heteronormative society. All of these stories, big or small are impactful.”