Dry Your Eyes Princess 2015

Dry Your Eyes Princess is a collaboration between photographer Stephen King and historian Dr Emma Vickers. King has photographed trans* military veterans from across the UK, exploring the intersection between gender identity and military service. “Dry Your Eyes Princess” is a derogatory term unofficially used within the Armed Forces to deride personnel and in doing so, encourage them to 'toughen up'. 

King has collaborated with trans* veteran participants involved in research with Dr Vickers, based at Liverpool John Moores University. 

Dr Vickers gathered an extensive body of testimonies through interviewing trans* veterans across the U.K about their experiences of life before, during and after military service. King then collaborated with the same participants to analyse and reinterpret Vickers’ research. These images are reflective of pinnacle moments and are constructed through a truely collaborative practice, a process that leads to a portrait that is not based upon the physicality of identity but that is based on the social and cognitive landscapes surrounding the interviewees’ experiences. 

In the UK the ban on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* personnel in the British Armed Forces was lifted in 1999. Before then, and due to limited understandings of gender identity, officials tended to conflate gender identity and sexual identity and many of the trans* personnel who were discharged were accused of being gay. One of the similarities between almost all of Vickers’ interviewees is that they joined the services as a form of therapy in the hope that the hyper-masculinity of the forces would rid them of the discomfort that they felt with their gender disphoria. 

About Stephen King



Stephen King is an award-winning photographer based in the UK. His background isbased in editorial photography, in 1998 he co-founded Document magazine where he wasSenior Photographer / Photography Editor for 10 years. His personal practice is basedupon social documentary, portraiture and communities, with a focus on identity and place.His projects have explored dementia, military veterans, community activists, workplaceand masculinity. He lectures in photography on Merseyside as well as undertaking commercialcommissions and developing personal projects, he has exhibited widely across theUK.

About Dr Emma Vickers 

Dr Emma Vickers is a senior lecturer in History at Liverpool John Moores University whoworks on the relationship between gender, sexuality and war. Her recent book, Queen andCountry: same-sex desire in the British Armed Forces, 1939-1945 was published by ManchesterUniversity Press in 2012. The research upon which this project is based uses oraltestimony to reconstruct how trans* personnel experienced service in the British ArmedForces and how senior officials and officers conceptualised them, both before and after1999. The absence of data on trans* personnel across the three services means that sucha project is critical to assessing the well-being of veterans and the interplay between theirservice lives and their gender identities. 

About the participants 

In the UK the ban on trans* personnel in the forces was lifted in 1999 although unofficially,they had never been banned from service. there was simply no official policy on if and howthey should be allowed to serve. This meant that while some personnel were allowed totransition and stay in service before 1999 others were forcibly removed. The participantsare based all over the UK from Cornwall to Scotland and are of various ages. 




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