Dimitri was born as a boy in the small village of Skála Sikaminéas, in the Greek island of Lesvos, and at the age of 14 told her parents she was a girl. She struggled to be accepted throughout her life, and experienced tough times, as living in a mental institution during her childhood, and years of homelessness in Athens. She had to fight for her right to cross the invisible border of gender identity. After both her parents passed away, she started wearing women clothes, eventually including dresses and high heels. Dimitri told me she now feels comfortable with her identity and the way she looks. In her broken English she shared some of her thoughts and came across as a compassionate and kind soul…when I asked her why she often looks sad, she said her mood is melancholic because of all the horrible things happening in the world, of which she is very much aware. She didn’t only refer to what she learns from the news. Living in Skála, she witnesses first-hand the effects of forced migration, with the thousands of people that every year, fleeing conflict or persecution, land on this island to seek refuge in Europe, often on the shores of her very own small village.
In this photo, Dimitri is proudly wearing a red dress, her favourite colour, to celebrate St. Dimitri’s day (26th October). Her eyes show the scars and the pride of her battle. The invisible border between Turkey and Europe, that so many risk their lives to cross, lies in the water just few km behind her.
How do you think the image relates to these 3 keywords: Identity, Dialogues and Europe.
Identity is Dimitri’s identity as a woman and as a transgender. It’s an identity she had to fight for, since when, at a very young age, she realised there was something different about her. It’s the identity she managed to reconstruct and she can finally feel at peace with and shout out loud.
Identity is also strongly shaped by the place that we call home. Migrating to a foreign country might loosen our sense of identity, by melting it with another culture. It might also strenghten it, in opposition to what we perceive as “other”. Can we learn how to preserve our identity, while we mix it and enrich it?
Dialogues are the dialogues Dimitri had to face with her parents and all the people around her, the dialogues feared, the ones avoided and the ones fought for.
They are the dialogues around immigration, made of the rights of those forcibly displaced from their home countries and of local communities facing an influx of newcomers. They are made of linguistic and cultural barriers and efforts for social integration.
Europe is the Europe that is gradually learning to defend Dimitri’s right to her gender identity. From the centre to the perifery, from the big cities to all the small skala.
It’s also an Europe dealing with an humanitarian crisis, with so many seeking refuge beyond its borders. It’s made of men, women and children, born in Europe or trying to reconstruct their identity here.
About Chiara Fabbro:
My name is Chiara Fabbro. I’m Italian, currently based in London. I’ve been working most of my life as a research scientist in different fields, from nanotechnology to conservation science for cultural heritage, to cancer research, often changing area and moving places, driven by curiosity.
Throughout the past 12 years, I’ve been accompanied by my passion for photography, which I combine with my love for travelling and a big interest in the issues related to forced migration. This led me to volunteering in the humanitarian field, with different NGOs and charities, also contributing as a photographer. I strongly believe in the importance of documenting what is going on in the world, to raise awareness and tackle misconceptions, and in the power of photography to tell stories by evoking something in a way that is complementary to words.