When 18-year-old Jasper Behrends began working on the concentration section of his AP Studio Art Exhibit, a clear focus emerged: gender, sexuality, and body dysphoria.
Lofty topics for a high school student, sure, but Jasper wasn’t exactly shooting in the dark. The transgender teen faced challenging questions around these topics every day, and had an opportunity to really say something in his work.
The school’s vice principal disagreed.
“After starting my concentration, the school vice principal came to me after my art teacher informed the administration about my ‘potentially sensitive’ concentration subject,” Jasper told Pride. “He said that although he had ‘no problem’ with the LGBTQ theme, there is a ‘time and a place’ for ‘these things’ and that it did not belong in public schools.”
We are incredibly happy to report that things did not end there.
“After a lot of arguing, I just decided to ignore everyone and keep doing it. I just kept making art and didn’t listen to the administration. I wasn’t able to put my work in any of the school art shows, I wasn’t able to even show my parents, but I was proud of what I was doing,” he said.
But that didn’t mean Jasper’s work went entirely unseen.
my schools administration told me to stop doing my concentration on gender and sexuality bc it was "inappropriate." but i didn't. and now… pic.twitter.com/qrEHb8lavm
— j ? (@enjoIras_) July 12, 2017
He submitted his final project to the College Board, and they selected it to be included in the 2017-2018 AP Studio Art Exhibit, a real honor in this competitive field.
It isn’t hard to see what the College Board saw in Jaspers powerful pieces.
Check them out below, along with his descriptions:
“Bullying is very common in the lives of LGBTQ+ youth. Insults such as ‘queer,’ ‘gay,’ ‘fairy,’ ‘fag,’ and ‘pansy’ are thrown at kids daily.
Having had personal experience of queer friends taking their lives or attempting to take their lives due to bullying has left marks on my life, I was inspired to create this piece.”
“Throughout my transition, it often feels like I am mentally transitioned but the rest of my body has yet to catch up to my identity.
The sunflowers represent the mental growth and lack of physical growth of my identity.”
“I often feel trapped due to my assigned gender and biological genitals. It not only makes me feel like I am missing out on a lot of experiences, but also makes me feel isolated and confined within my biological sex.
This piece represents these feelings.”
“This piece is a self-portrait that shows the raw and personal moment when a transgender person takes off their binder. It is a happy moment due to the relief of the pain, but it is also a moment filled with dysphoria and often grief.”
To Have and Hold
“Most of the pieces in my concentration highlight specific hardships of LGBTQ+ people. Being queer, especially being transgender, is often seen as ‘confusing’ or ‘complicated’ to those who are not LGBTQ+. This piece shows that being queer is, at its foundations, simple and pure. Love is what brings us together.”