1st Prize Singles, Portraits, Nominee, World Press Photo of the Year

23 April 2020

Oleg Ponomarev, Russia

The Transition: Ignat

Ignat, a transgender man, sits with his girlfriend Maria in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 23 April.

Ignat was bullied throughout his school years, and confronted by the school psychologist following rumors that he spoke about himself using the masculine gender. Ignat opened up to the psychologist about his gender identity—the first stranger to whom he had told everything—but asked to keep it a secret. The whole school found out, and the insults and humiliations became permanent. Many LGBTQ+ people in Russia keep low profiles because of stigmatization against nontraditional sexuality. An amendment to the Russian constitution, made in July 2020, stipulates that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, with no other options possible. Although an attempt was made to make a further amendment preventing transgender people from changing their status on legal documents, it was not passed. Transgender people can marry, but the road there is difficult.

The first impressions I had when I saw this photograph were of dignity and love. Ignat, the transgender man in the picture, passed through a living hell throughout his school years, being the victim of insults and humiliation. His has been a struggle for a basic right: the right to exist. Despite everything, Ignat preserved dignity and love. But at the same time he is not sure what to expect from people, and there is a look in the eyes that says: 'Can I trust you? Will you hurt me?'

Andrei Polikanov, General Jury member