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Louisville Photo Biennial show spotlights trans joy and acceptance

A black and white still photograph shows a trans man's bare chest with scars from top surgery. The man holds a flower and has tattoos on his right arm.
Lane Levitch
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Lane Levitch
Lane Levitch is the subject of his own photo gallery at Revelry Gallery on Market St. for the Louisville Photo Biennial. He hopes "Trans Felicity" will act as a means to uplift other trans people.

Artist Lane Levitch describes the feeling of the sun on his bare chest as euphoric. Before his top surgery, Levitch didn’t like how the world saw him. Now, he’s putting himself, his body and his identity on display in the gallery show “Trans Felicity.”

Levitch’s show is part of the Louisville Photo Biennial, a city-wide photography event during which several venues mount their own shows.

The show, now up at Revelry Gallery on Market St., consists of self-portraits Levitch shot on film. The main focus of the images is his chest, some with the scars from subcutaneous mastectomy, or top surgery, visible.

When deciding what the subject of his gallery would be, Levitch originally wasn’t thinking of centering himself or his identity.

“But one of my good friends committed suicide in December, and he was trans,” Levitch said.

Henry Berg-Brousseau, the son of Democratic state Sen. Karen Berg, wasa trans rights advocate who died by suicide last year.
Levitch said Berg-Brousseau's death was a turning point in his public transition.

“I don't want to do this show just for him. But I want to raise awareness about just [the] overall queer experience, and I wanted to honor him,” Levitch said.

“Tran Felicity'' is inspired by many LGBTQ+ people Levitch has met through his journey of coming into his identity as a trans, queer man.

Placing himself in front of the camera wasn't the original plan, but Levitch felt it was important to be trans person living life as example to trans youth of what their future could be.
Lane Levitch
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Lane Levitch
Placing himself in front of the camera wasn't the original plan, but Levitch felt it was important to be trans person living life as example to trans youth of what their future could be.

When Levitch was living in New York, he ran across the work of illustrator Grayson Colbert, @softxprince, on Instagram. Colbert often makes trans bodies the subject of their work.

“Seeing them be a trans person and drawing the art that they wish they saw growing up, really had an impact on me,” Levitch said.

He aims for “Trans Felicity” to offer a similar type of representation to trans people in Kentucky.

“My overarching theme is just like to be seen, because when I lived in New York, I was surrounded by queer people all the time and a lot of trans or gender non-conforming people and just being around those people made me feel seen and accepted,” Levitch said.

He wants trans youth in particular to know that things do get better.

Before coming out and getting gender-affirming care, Levitch said he couldn’t see himself in the future. He didn’t think he’d make it to high school graduation.

“I feel like, for me, it saved my life,” Levitch said. “I feel more confident in all aspects of my life and I'm more confident like what I want out of life now.”

Levitch hopes cis people who attend the show will understand that things like hormone blockers, hormones themselves and gender-affirming care are sometimes life-saving needs for trans people.

“Someone in my life has already come to me [in reference to his show] and said they’ve started to question their gender identity,” Levitch said. “That’s another goal of mine for cis folks viewing this show: question what they’re comfortable with.”

The Kentucky Legislature passed a bill into law this year that bars children from accessing gender-affirming care. It also includes requirements for public schools that would let teachers misgender trans students and prevent those students from using bathrooms that match their gender identity.

While Levitch doesn’t feel his work or identity should be political, he knows that, for now, it is.

“It's very scary but I'm trying to be authentic and not like force politics on it so it hopefully it doesn't read too political,” Levitch said. “I'm just trying to outweigh the positives with the negatives like I'm trying to be this show is going to be so good I don't care if there's hate.”

“Trans Felicity” is on display at Revelry Boutique Gallery through Oct. 2.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.