Introduction written by Claire Fitzsimmons
Photos by Soraya Zaman
This question served as the driving force behind Soraya Zaman’s “American Boy,” a portrait series celebrating transmasculine people from big cities and small towns across the USA.
“It is important for trans and
The beauty of “American Boy” lies in its commitment to sharing real people’s images and perspective, honoring their stories, and validating and centering everyone in an affirmative way. These portraits give a glimpse into each person’s life at a specific moment in time — their personality, honesty, humor, beauty, vulnerability, and strength.
In the Salty spirit of passing the mic, we’re hearing directly from people of trans masculine experiences what it means to be an American Boy.
Aohdàn: America only recognizes English and Saxon definitions of boys. Imagine a world where people thought about the 567 original and different definitions that were here before Saxon/English of what it means to be men/boys to people whose men decorated their war shirts with quilled flowers and wore their hair long……. because from flowers comes war paint, and long hair was about connecting to everything around you.
Justin: When I first hear the term American boy, I don’t think of my self. I think of white cis straight men, but I am just as deserving of this title as they are. I want to be proud of my country and I want to be proud of my gender. However, the history of both is scarred with violence and oppression towards others. I am a part of the narrative that will change this. What it means to be an American is changing. What it means to be a boy is changing. You are looking at the new definition of an American boy.
You are looking at the new definition of an American boy.
Sam: I think it’s incredibly difficult to think about what it means to be an “American boy” because
Teddy: When I hear the phrase “American Boy,” I always initially think of that song “America’s Boy” by Broadcast. The song critiques and plays on the same hyperbolic Imperialist American masculinity that I think Soraya is pushing against by naming this project “American Boys.” If I had to choose I’m probably closer to the “American Boy” by Estelle side of the spectrum – pretty much just because I like to dance around to it sometimes. American masculinity is riddled with paradox and impossibility. Despite being literally an American and boy(-ish), outside of the context of this project I’ve never identified as an American Boy. In
American masculinity is riddled with paradox and impossibility.
Chella: An “American Boy” can be absolutely anyone with any characteristics. If that individual connects to and claims the word “boy,” their identity is valid. Respect this. It costs nothing, and it is all we ask.
An “American Boy” can be absolutely anyone with any characteristics. If that individual connects to and claims the word “boy,” their identity is valid. Respect this. It costs nothing, and it is all we ask.
Lazarus: When I was a kid and any group was divided by the illusion of two genders, I panicked.
Steve: An American Boy to me is an individual who is courageous and not afraid to express themselves. Trans or not, gender to me is how one expresses themselves. I feel as in today’s society, most people would say an American Boy is usually cis,
I feel as in today’s society, most people would say an American Boy is usually cis, hard working, born male, and waves an American flag on their front porch because they’re proud of their country.
Emmett: Me. I am an American Boy. I’m just a guy who likes walking around in his house shirtless, enjoys singing in the shower, and eats chicken nuggets for dinner. Oh and I’m missing a Y chromosome. Still a dude though.
About the Photographer: With a camera as their singular companion, Zaman traveled to Cairo, Mongolia, Syria and beyond. Upon realizing their lens could help them find the power in their own complex identity, the Australian-born creative moved to New York and began working for various brands as a fashion photographer.
Four years ago, Zaman decided to dig a little deeper and investigate something highly personal to them: gender expression and the experience of being trans/non-binary. “There was shared commonality in a lot of the stories that I would hear about trans* people growing up, and there was also a lack of transmasculine representation in media,” they say now.
The self-funded project “American Boys” — which brought Zaman to 21 different cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Hollywood, and Seattle was recently released as a book.
Zaman showcases a range of transmasculine experiences, and penned personal reflections on their experiences, which ultimately puts humanity and tenderness front and center. It was also important to Zaman to highlight and support people who didn’t necessarily live in cities like New York or Los Angeles, or other cities considered “queer hubs.”