Ella is a long term project, started in 2014 and still in progress, that describes the most significative stages of the growth of Elian Angel Ruiz, a transexual adolescent from Madrid.
I started taking pictures of Eli when she was 10 years old. I came back in Madrid in 2015 and for two weeks I have lived in close contact with Eli. We developed a strong and sincere bond, also with her family, based on the awareness of our common battle for the right of being yourself. Since then, we have always been in contact and in April 2019 I met again with this young woman, now 15 years old, to continue the project.
When Eli was only two, her parents realised that their son felt like a girl and that her biological sex didn’t match with her genre identity. At first her parents were concerned about this behaviour, finally they understood that the most important thing was for their child to be happy and free to be what she desired. At 9 years old Fernando officialy became Elian – the male name has been substituted on all her documents – and at the age of 11 she started taking a testosterone-suppressor, a medicine with reversible effects. At 13 years old, Eli started taking estrogen to adapt her body to her gender identity.
Several recent studies demonstrate that the suicide rate among adolescent and adult transexuals is far superior than in the rest of population and one of the main causes is the repression they go through in family life and in society. Eli’s mother is a major spokeswoman of COGAM, an association that today gathers a hundred families of transexual children and fights for their right to grow serenely in a society that acknowledges them.
The aim of this project is to raise awareness and to inform about this theme, bringing Eli’s pictures and life story in different contexts and countries: first of all in Italy, where the issue of transexual children is still a taboo. As Eli’s mother often says: “It is important to talk about this theme, so that the parents that find themselves in the same situation we are in don’t feel alone, so that they can understand that the only way to help their children be happy is to let them be themselves”.