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Photographer captures transgender people in ancient tribe

Photographer Àlvaro Laiz began documenting transgender people living in Mongolia with his series Transmongolian in a stunning effort to share trans lives around the globe. The second installment of his series is titled Wonderland and brought the photographer to South Africa to capture the Warao people. 

“I began working in Mongolia with transgender people, and then I got to know there was another point of view,” Laiz says. “Some anthropologists call it the ‘two spirits’ or berdache theory. While I was working in Venezuela I came to know an anthropologist specialized in the Warao people — we found a common language in our love for photography. We always think about transgender people as something new and related to the cities (drugs, HIV, et cetera) and I wanted to change that.”

The Warao tribe do not see transgender people as male or female and call them tida wena. Historically, tida wena have been revered in their tribes but in recent times are increasingly being excommunicated because of the Warao’s susceptibility to outside influences and stigmatized thinking. A reported 40 to 80 percent of Warao people are infected with HIV, and the tida wena have been largely held responsible.

Check out Laiz’s Wonderland video: