Wes Leal is a transgender illustrator and street artist. Known for feminist zine This is What Makes Us Girls*, Wes’s work consistently looks at LGBT issues and representation — his latest project is no different.
Wes and partner Boni are working on a year-long ongoing documentation of his transition, and the first issue comes in the form of two zines.
The aim of the project is to create visibility and awareness about transgender realities, and to educate people. The depiction of the transmasculine body is important in a world where trans representation is rare, and hardly ever positive.
The first zine, Boy, is an intimate and beautiful visual journey made up of photos taken by Wes and Boni.
“To help me say a final goodbye to my old self Boni took photos of me before I begin hormone therapy, capturing my last few weeks in this body. She will continue to capture my changing body monthly as soon as I begin taking testosterone. I felt that it was important to have my partner of several years capture my changes because she understands my relationship with my body better than anybody else ever could,” says Wes.
The images are intimate and loving. Their relationship allows for a loving and intimate presentation of Wes, in a way that trans bodies rarely get shown in the media.
The other images in the Boy Zine are taken by Wes — pink and blue walls which, for Wes, represent the way that the world sees him and the tension between the reading of masculine and feminine.
“I immediately felt something when finding a pink building in Rondebosch and began to think that in a lot of ways that the world reads me similarly. The people who misgender me see me as a pink barrier that can’t let masculinity in. No matter how much I present like a cis-man, all they see is a pink wall.”
The second zine is a hand-held documentation of Wes’s thoughts as he approaches the Transgender Clinic for his first appointment. The zine is a documentation of his thoughts and feelings leading up to the appointment, as well as the journey it took to get there.
These zines will be made available to order in Cape Town, and all funds made will go towards ensuring that Wes has access to the best medical and mental health care during his transition.