Community Builder Award Winner: Youthphoria
Youthphoria is a free photo service celebrating the joy of trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive youth
Youthphoria, Family Focus Media’s Community Builder of the Year Award Winner, is a free photo service for trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive youth in the greater Philadelphia area founded by photographer Shannon Collins. “I created Youthphoria in April 2021 after a random shower idea that turned into reality, due to the flooding of immediate support I received from Philadelphia’s queer community,” Collins said.
Collins wanted to create photographs that shared the joy of being trans that is so often overshadowed by the negative depictions of trans youth in media and news. “It’s so rare to hear about trans youth experiencing joy or euphoria, when we are being inundated by record-shattering anti-trans legislation and discriminatory stories in the media,” they said. “I wanted this project to serve as a way for youth to feel uplifted and ideally be able to access moments of gender euphoria by giving them the space to fully sink into themselves.”
Youthphoria sessions are targeted to people are in their mid-20s and younger, with a priority for BIPOC individuals or further marginalized applicants. Collins collaborates with LGBTQIA+ vendors, who are paid through mutual aid donations, to complete the photoshoot experience. Susan Padron is the stylist who offers items like binders, shapewear, and accessories that participants are able to keep after the session. Jessica Saint offers hair and makeup services. Additional complementary services include custom tailoring by Nik Ronca and haircuts and coloring by Fyre Wood.
“For many of our trans youth, they’re experiencing a new milestone during their gender journeys, whether it’s starting hormones, recovering from gender affirming surgery, or wanting their first suit for a new job,” Collins said. “During these transitional periods — like graduating college or moving to a new city — it can be challenging to prioritize things like building a wardrobe that affirms you.”
The photoshoot service is entirely free for participants. “Even with the best support systems, being trans can be expensive, especially as gender affirming care dwindles or is banned entirely,” Collins said. “I didn’t want to put any of the labor of cost on the youth experiencing the sessions — I wanted them to fully focus on being uplifted by the community to hopefully be able to tap into trans joy more freely.”
In the future, Collins hopes to train other cities to use the mutual aid blueprint of Youthphoria to create similar free photo projects centered around trans joy. “Similar to community fridges, it would be really cool to see a map of different trans photo projects throughout the country, dedicated to normalizing the many ways gender euphoria can show up for people,” they said.
Sarah Bond, Founder and CEO of Family Focus Media, said that Youthphoria reflects the company’s 13-year mission of building community in the greater Philadelphia region. “It is the thing that unites us with our Members (local business and nonprofit leaders), and what I recognized in Youthphoria,” she said. “They laid foundations for collaborations at the LOVE Awards Celebration and I hope we can connect them with more opportunities to grow.”
You can support Youthphoria by visiting their website, where you can make a donation or offer to volunteer products or services to support the photo sessions. You can also apply to participate in a photo session if you are a trans, nonbinary, or gender-expansive youth.
Lead photo courtesy of Youthphoria