A Perfect Daughter: Gender Reassignment by Gillian Laub

Nikki was born Niko. A biological boy at birth, she began at the age of 10 the complicated transition to becoming girl. With the utmost support of her family and friends, two years later, she is living happily as the person she always knew herself to be — singing, acting and dancing, often draped in pink.

Earlier this summer, PEOPLE magazine commissioned photographer Gillian Laub to spend several days with Nikki’s family in California, documenting her life after the transition through video and photographic stills. Her portrait shows what it was like for Nikki coming out with her gender identity, finding solace in puberty-blocking medication and looking to the gender reassignment surgery on the horizon for her teenage years.

“It’s always an honor when someone is open and wants to share their life in such an intimate way under the gaze of a camera,” Laub tells TIME, “so the minute the editor told me about Nikki, I said of course I would love to do it.”

To gain their trust and to make them feel comfortable, Laub spent the first day just talking with the family without her cameras.

“Nikki told me she spent the first ten years of her life feeling like she was in the wrong body, almost betrayed by it,” she says. “After the transition, she finally felt happy, safe and proud in her body. I wanted to convey the new feeling of freedom and liberation.”

What stood out to Laub most and what she aimed to capture in the video above was how immensely loving Nikki’s family was. With the knowledge that 50% of transgender youth will attempt to commit suicide by the age of 20, they strove to provide all the support they could for their child to lead the life she wanted.

“Although this story ultimately is a very happy ending,”  Laub says, “the family went through years of heartache and stress. They lived with a secret that they all struggled with for very long. The reason they were sharing their story publicly is because they wished they had known sooner that this was actually something many families deal with; they wouldn’t have had so many years of worry and confusion.”


Gillian Laub is a photographer based in New York and a frequent contributor to TIME. See more of her work here

Eugene Reznik is a Brooklyn-based photographer and writer. Follow him on Twitter @eugene_reznik.


Related Topics: , , ,

Latest Posts

2014.  Gaza.  Palestine.  Schoolchildren head to class at the Sobhi Abu Karsh School in the Shujai'iya neighborhood. Operation Protective Edge lasted from 8 July 2014 – 26 August 2014, killing 2,189 Palestinians of which 1,486 are believed to be civilians. 66 Israeli soldiers and 6 civilians were killed.  It's estimated that 4,564 rockets were fired at Israel by Palestinian militants.

Inside Gaza with Photographer Peter van Agtmael

What photographer Peter van Agtmael encountered in Gaza changed the way he worked.

Read More
WASTELAND PERMITTED USE: This image may be downloaded or is otherwise provided at no charge for one-time use for coverage or promotion of National Geographic magazine dated December 2014 and exclusively in conjunction thereof.  No copying, distribution or archiving permitted.  Sublicensing, sale or resale is prohibited.     REQUIRED CREDIT AND CAPTION: All image uses must bear the copyright notice and be properly credited to the relevant photographer, as shown in this metadata, and must be accompanied by a caption, which makes reference to NGM.  Any uses in which the image appears without proper copyright notice, photographer credit and a caption referencing NGM are subject to paid licensing.        Mandatory usage requirements: (Please note: you may select 5 branded images for online use and 3 images for print/unbranded)1. Include mandatory photo credit with each image2. Show the December cover of National Geographic somewhere in the post (credit: National Geographic) unless using only one image3. Provide a prominent link to: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/12/superfund/voosen-textat the top of your piece, ahead of the photos 4. Mention that the images are from "the December issue of National Geographic magazine” GOWANUS CANALNew York, New YorkPollutants: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, lead, copperYear listed: 2010Carved from a tidal estuary 160 years ago, the Gowanus Canal is Brooklyn’s industrial artery—and a deeply polluted waterway. Even so, it’s frequented by herons, seagulls, crabs, and canoeists. Defying local fears of economic stigma, the EPA listed the canal as a Superfund site in 2010. It hopes to start dredging contaminated mud in 2016.

Photojournalism Daily: Nov. 24, 2014

Mideast Israel Palestinians

The Best Pictures of the Week: Nov. 14 – Nov. 21

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,268 other followers