Sharon Pannen – Project Gender

This authentic series was curated and photographed by Sharon Pannen from Delden, the Netherlands.

“I have started a new photo series called PROJECT GENDER. It’s a series of photos depicting young people who do not fit in the male or female spectrum but who are just themselves breaking the standard set by society. I definitely think it’s important for people to pay (more) attention to this. I have sought out a lot of people who are interested to work with me in making this photo series. I’m hoping to create something that will show a lot of people, who still think it’s weird to see men with make up, transgenders, drag-queens, lesbians, homosexuals, women who don’t shave, etc. I have started the photo-shoots with a few talents who don’t consider themselves as boy or girl and a few who are gender fluid. The whole series will be completed and launched November 11 and I encourage you to do something with the photos to show the community and society.

I received some stories from all the people I shot.”

Justin Donnavan:

“I started with makeup when I was around 12 years old, it was very simple some mascara on my lashes and I did my eyebrows. I did not want people to see that I was wearing make-up, even though I felt comfortable with it. When I met my boyfriend, Thomas, I started feeling confident with it. He has been my inspiration and stimulated me. To walk like a man with makeup over the streets is different as if a woman would. People constantly stare at you and I rarely get a positive response. At first, this was difficult, but I have to say that it has become easier. I get more and more positive responses and people are thinking more with an open mind, which I am very happy about. It feels good to be yourself and to be able to do whatever you want. Always do it for yourself and not for others, it’s your life.”

Andrea Alvarez:

“When I was younger, I used to copy my older brother with everything he did. For example  I wanted to wear his clothes  and play video games with him and his friends. I remember standing in front of my mirror and wishing to be a boy. Nowadays, I noticed that I have never been really girly. I prefer wearing boy clothes and most of the time I rather hang out with boys than with girls. – I guess  I’m just a girl who thinks (and acts) like a boy. Furthermore, I’m not a fan of labels, therefore I find the grey area between boys and girls an interesting topic. I’m more likely attracted to a personality and in not in particular to a gender.”

Amal Stoel:

“For me, gender is about how you truly feel inside and how you experience your inner feelings. I was assigned female at birth myself, but never felt feminine. I always thought and acted like a little boy and always was one of the boys. I struggled a lot with these feelings, because this society can be very harsh for transgenders and “out of the box” people. It isn’t easy, but for me, transitioning is so much better than living and acting like someone I’m not. That means I’m currently in my transition from female to male, and I couldn’t be happier to finally be myself. This society still has a lot to learn, but I hope the acceptance will grow and everyone can do whatever the fuck they want.”


“It doesn’t seem like gender means a lot to me. If forced to choose a word to describe myself, I might use “bisexual or pansexual”, but usually I just say “gender is not that important to me personally”. I am a female by birth, but beyond that, I don’t really care how people see me or conceptualize me, and would like that they do so based on their impressions of me rather than my sex or gender.”

Thomas Helder:

“I am a boy with makeup. I do not use the makeup to hide myself, but just to express myself. I show who and to show my version of art. I see my face like the canvas and the makeup as the paint. From childhood I was already interested in makeup. I always took my mother’s and my sisters makeup and I went crazy with my sister in my room looking at looks. In the past, I was afraid what others would think of it because I thought people would not accept this. Make up is for women. But why? We like to give labels to people. Make-up is for women, soccer for boys and barbies for girls. Why is that? I see make-up like make-up and toys as toys and sports like sports. there is no gender attached. It’s just a doll, ball and lipstick. We as human beings have created certain role models and that has to stop.”


“Nowadays I do not pay attention what was supposedly made for boys and girls. When I walk through the women’s section in a clothing store, my eyes only see pieces of fabric that might be as cool as something from the men’s department, maybe even cooler! I’ve worked for a while in a clothing store and two boys came to me with a black hat with a simple red rose logo asking whether it was for boys or girls. I was really quiet for maybe more than ten seconds because I had no idea what to answer because it was just a black hat for me. I find it a pity how we have been prescribed from time to time with what we’re associated with as a man or woman.”


Photography: Sharon Pannen ☆ IG: @sharonpannen

Models: Amal Stoel, Tricia, Dizencio, Andrea Alvarez, Thomas Helder & Justin Donnavan

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