Irina Werning

Irina Werning

© Irina Werning, Tam's Comback, 2022. “Showing love on the streets shouldn’t be a problem in my ideal world, but it still is.” Tam kisses polyamory partner Widad in the market. Some people were curious, others were mad and told them that God would judge them.

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Why are most pictures of trans people in their rooms? What happens when they take to the streets and connect with people, especially in a very traditional society like Bolivia? Tam is a 23-year-old non binary dancer from Bolivia, living in Buenos Aires. This is the story about Tam’s return to hometown for the first time since transitioning during lockdown. We invite you on this journey out and about the streets of Cochabamba, where we challenge gender stereotypes, play with people, or simply wait and see what happens….

Tam says: “Trans non-binary people exist in Bolivia, South America and the whole wide world. there isn’t just one way of being non binary, we are all unique, just like human beings. This is me.” Despite Bolivia passing a very updated law for gender Identity and making progress on LGBTIQ issues in the past decade, it still remains a very conservative society where gender roles are defined since childhood.

Bolivia has a rich history and emerged on the idea of respecting its ancient cultural traditions. As the country developed, it has been difficult to stray away from traditional values that place importance on strict gender roles. The patriarchal ideologies that Bolivia originated with have silenced women and LGBTIQ for centuries. A 2013 Pew Research Center opinion survey showed that 43% of Bolivians believed that homosexuality should be accepted by society, while 49% believed it should not.

Sometimes a big city like Buenos Aire is an ideal place to transition and explore new things. Tam told me “Living away from home gave me the space to embrace those changes as they came, figure out how I wanted to present, and not worry about who I saw from high school at the local grocery story when I was trying out something new.” The trans umbrella holds space for many different gender identities and expressions. Gender is self-determined and transitioning can be different for each trans individual.

The project is funded by the Pulitzer Center.