Story Three of five
Queer and Nonbinary Photographer
Soraya Zaman (they/them) is an Australian-born photographer based in New York City. Their work encourages a better understanding of transmasculine gender identity.Read Their Story
Soraya Zaman (they/them) is an Australian-born photographer based in New York City. Their work encourages a better understanding of transmasculine gender identity.
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I’m a human, who is queer, who is nonbinary. I believe in advocating for myself and others.
How would you describe your coming out experience?
Honestly, we need to lose this term ‘coming out’ because it takes away personal agency and, historically, can be connected to shame, and a need to explain our existence to others for acceptance. Let’s reframe the language to ‘inviting in’. Also it isn’t just a one-time experience, I invite people to learn about my gender identity daily.
How do you educate people about gender identity?
I try to remind people about my gender in a way that's affirming for me – but it's not something I can do every single time. That’s the thing about 'inviting in' instead of 'coming out' – I decide when I want to have those conversations. Cisgender people have the responsibility to educate themselves on gender identity beyond the binary. The work can’t solely lie on us.
Being nonbinary is my identity, but it's also a challenge I have to take on daily because people look at me and assume that I identify as female. We all need to stop making assumptions about gender based on the way someone chooses to look. It has nothing to do with their gender identity.
My pronouns are on my email sign-off, on my photography call sheets; I make sure everyone’s pronouns are specified. I have them on my social media, front and center. I encourage cisgender people to do the same.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by everyday heroes and people who choose to live their life unapologetically even under the threat of harm.
How do you embrace your queerness in what you do?
No matter what I’m doing, my queerness is always there and present for the world to see.
“I embrace my queerness by never hiding it. I’m proud of my identity and I am beyond thankful for it.”
What does Pride mean to you?
I think there is self Pride and community Pride. As LGBTQI+ individuals, we exist outside of society’s heteronormative constructs and rules, so Pride to me means owning your radical love, unencumbered self-expression, and celebrating the limitlessness that is inherently built within. Pride in the community means taking action against injustices that impact LGBTQI+ people, even if those injustices don’t impact you directly because how can you show Pride whilst ignoring violence and injustice against others?
How do you feel about queer representation in your community and overall?
I think as a whole, representation is getting better, but there is still a long way to go. When I was a kid, there was nothing in media that reflected back to me how I saw myself. We all need to continuously challenge the industry to be inclusive on every level and push for representation not only in front of the camera but across all disciplines. All industries need to hire queer, trans, and nonbinary people not only because of our identity, but also because we are the best person for the job. Hire us because being gender inclusive is so necessary and adds incredible value and perspective to any project, whether it’s gender-focused or not. That is what true representation looks like.
What are your hopes for the future?
This is such a big question. I hope for the most marginalized among us to be liberated and safe because when they are free, we all will be.
What advice would you give to your 10-year-old self?
The ways in which you think you are different from what you see around you, are actually your gifts.
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** Transmasculine is a general, broader term for individuals who were (AFAB) Assigned Female at Birth but identify closer to the masculine (or male) side of the gender spectrum.