YouTube user iiGethi documented her male-to-female transition with roughly one thousand photos over a three-year period. She then edited them into a single video, which quickly went viral.
The footage is striking for a few reasons. The first is perhaps the most superficial (and obvious): iiGethi’s transformation is astonishing. Through hormone therapy and Facial Feminization Surgery, her appearance changes dramatically, literally before the viewer’s eyes.
The second isn’t about what iiGethi captured, but the video itself. Because of social stigma and violence often faced by trans people, many try to maintain their anonymity while transitioning. But iiGethi’s YouTube stardom (there are nearly 4 million views to date) does quite the opposite. Much like Against Me frontwoman Laura Jane Grace’s coming out story in Rolling Stone, iiGethi is inviting public conversation about a very private process.
Comments on her YouTube channel run the gamut. But from the honest and inquisitive (“To be honest, I’ve wondered this a lot … why?”) to the deeply moving (“I am 70 years old, and I am so awed by your courage”), they are overwhelmingly positive and open. The dialogue the video is generating provides a small glimpse at the online culture that can serve as a lifeline to many trans men and women as they begin the complicated process of transitioning.
The video is also unique in its reach. The “T” at the end of LGBT is all too often silent. And as gay marriage has come to stand as the banner issue for the 21st century “gay community,” there has been a quiet erasure of other queer experiences embodied by millions of men and women in the United States and elsewhere.
So documenting a story like iiGethi’s isn’t just important for a trans community struggling for visibility, safety and basic human rights, it’s just as vital for a country grappling with gender, family and identify configurations that are (and will continue to be) ever-evolving.