25 year-old, black, bisexual, transsexual female, ZYQ, Xeena A. Ellison at her home in New Orleans. Photography by Robin Hammond, pitures@robinhammond.co.uk. Editor: Mallory Benedict, Mallory.Benedict@natgeo.com, +1 202.791.1282. 15 March 2019

Xeena /

“My name is Xeena Aurora Ellison and I identify as a black bisexual femme zyq. I spent many years trapped inside gay men’s psychological mapping of my body, spirit and mind. The first time I thought of myself as ‘different’ than the others, I was 20 years old smoking a blunt with a friend who later transitioned, too. We were on acid the weekend before and it was my first trip. I danced the whole night, spooked and mystified, by the cybernetic, bright 80’s VHS electronic images of a computer riding through a seemingly empty space. I’m not sure what that meant beyond simulation but here I am now, 5 years later.

I’ve begun my so-called, lauded journey with a nagging ancestral hand on my shoulder that begs to beware of getting lost in the projections of myself and other. What I want to change the most is my body. Black lesbian, librarians, studs, basketball players and other women deemed ‘masc’ because they don’t perform hyper feminity inspire my transition from a ‘male’ vessel to a ‘female’ vessel. I relate to the concept of a ‘Two – Spirited’ being as a black person of Native ancestry. Every step of my transition I spend more and more time learning about a young girl seeking pleasure in her sociopoliticized body.

Sheena A. Ellison”

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