Segments in this Video

Gender Neutral Photographs (01:12)


New Zealand photographer Rebecca Swan captures people in special moments that are dissociated from gender or stereotypes.

Cancer Survivor (01:30)

A cancer survivor who is a photographer takes pictures of herself in many different stages of her disease and recovery. When she was bald, people often addressed her as "Sir."

Gender Identity (01:02)

In a same sex relationship, a photographer questions ideas of traditional roles of masculinity and femininity. "Assume Nothing" is a book on gender identity.

Gender Identity: Physical of Spiritual? (01:17)

Gender identity may seem to exist more on the physical level, yet people are not what their bodies are. People are what their souls are.

Androgynous Being (01:19)

A photographic collage is made up of parts of a female body builder and a male dancer. The completed figure is androgynous.

Layers of Gender Identity (01:07)

The myth is that gender is binary and concrete. Many people have different ways of expressing their gender identity.

Intersex Person (01:36)

"Intersex" is an umbrella term covering a variety of conditions based on children born with non-standard anatomy that identifies them as specifically male or female. The word used historically was "hermaphrodite", but today's term is "intersex".

Raised Male/Then Raised Female (02:15)

An adult intersex person was born with ambiguous genitalia and was initially raised as a male, but during an exam, doctors discovered the child also had a uterus. A surgical procedure modified the genetalia later in life, and the child was raised as a girl.

Family Photographs (00:50)

Old family photographs give an adult intersex person visible proof of how s/he looked ambiguous as a child.

Public and Private Presentation (01:23)

In family photographs, an intersex child born with ambiguous genetalia was sometimes forced to "dress like a girl". Yet on the family farm, her parents let her dress and act as she wanted.

Surgery on Intersex Child (01:27)

No matter when an intersex child has surgery, the genitals are damaged in ways that cause lifelong physical and emotional damage.

Gender Ambiguity (01:28)

An adult intersex person recalls the shame and humiliation she felt about her body.

Ear Surgery (00:45)

In addition to genital surgery, Mani had surgery on her ears to pin them closer to her head. As a girl with protruding ears, s/he was considered disabled. Funds were made available for her surgery.

Circus Performers and Intersex Child (01:52)

An intersex child identifies with the different sorts of people she sees in the circus.

Photographs of Intersex Adult (02:06)

New Zealand photographer Rebecca Swan photographs Mani, an intersex adult. (Nudity)

Shame of Intersex Child (00:59)

Mani, an adult intersex person, wants to work with children like herself, who have shame about their differences and what might have been done to them.

Maori Woman and Gender Identity (01:35)

Ema is a Maori woman who identifies strongly with elements of both the female and male genders.

Different Views of Gender (00:59)

In Maori, the word "ia" means he/she. Rebecca Swan's book of photographs challenges the standard definition of beauty.

Maori: Female Warrior (01:15)

Ta moko is Maori traditional tattooing that holds spiritual meaning.

Warrior Costumes (01:16)

Futuristic warrior costumes reflect traditions of Maori culture.

Maori Traditional Music (01:15)

Against a background of traditional Maori music, a Maori woman models 21st-century woman warrior designs.

Babies: Gender Freedom (00:59)

Even in queer culture, many people are attached to assigning meaning to babies through gender. A Maori woman raises a son without gender expectations.

Baby with Two Mothers (01:35)

A Maori woman discusses her son. She believes that the things he does are not exclusive to male toddlers. Will a boy with two mothers be disadvantaged as he grows up?

Abusive Childhood (01:06)

To avoid abuse in her family, a young girl tries to be more boy-like. Yet, she remained a target for the abuse.

Masculine and Feminine Aspects of Self (01:42)

Attracted to things that boys did and what they wore, a young girl experiences her masculine and feminine sides.

Male and Female Selves (01:05)

A Maori woman is happy with herself as a woman, but parts of her are masculine. She is open to change. She raises a son with another woman. (Nudity)

He/She Attitude (01:34)

A photographer captures images of a pregnant Maori woman who describes herself in terms of "ia," the she/he concept of the Maori. She is comfortable with the Maori word "takataapui," meaning "queer". (Nudity)

Images of Warrior Spirit (01:32)

Images of a pregnant, nude Maori woman show a proud warrior spirit melded with a feminine spirit.

Book Launch (01:46)

Rebecca Swan's book of photographic images, "Assume Nothing," launches in Auckland. The book is a result of nine years of intensive work.

Transgender Male (01:56)

Rebecca Swan photographs Jack Byrne, a transgender man. As a young girl, Jack felt male inside.

Transition from Female to Male (01:03)

A trans man is a man who was originally born with a female body and now lives as a man. The journey from female to male often involves hormones or surgery.

Photographic Documentation (01:44)

Photographs are an important way for transgender people to document their transition.

Trans Man at Work (00:58)

A trans man works on equal rights commissions. Before transitioning to live as a man, he performed in a Drag King troupe.

Drag Kings and Queens (01:24)

Drag kings are mostly female bodied performers who dress in and perform male gender stereotypes. Drag queens are mostly male-bodied performers who dress in and perform female gender stereotypes. .

Sex-Change Surgery (01:49)

A trans man talks about his clothing and what he wore prior to his sex-change surgery.

Transgender Musculature (02:07)

A trans man's body no longer has breasts, and even his musculature bear no resemblance to a female body. He shows his performance costumes.

Transgender Poetry (01:03)

Jack, a transgender poet who underwent surgery to transition from female to male, reads his poetry.

Sex-Change Surgery: No Quick Fix (01:40)

After sex-change surgery, the journey from one sex to the other is neither uniform nor direct.

Transgender Misfits (01:05)

It may be difficult for transgender individuals to fit into a world that primarily divides the world into male and female.

Gender Queer Couple (01:38)

Rebecca and Jack, both formerly identified as "lesbians", love each other and marry. Though many people might classify them as "straight" now, they do not see themselves that way, but still identify as "queer".

Gender Queer Relationship (00:49)

A gender queer couple explores new ways of relating to each other. Each of them accepts the unlimited possibilities of their relationship.

Artistic Depictions of Fa'a Fafine People (02:34)

An artist's exhibition depicts "fa'a fafine" or "third gender" individuals. As a Samoan, she believes "fa'a fafine" people are held in extremely low esteem on the social order in society.

The Fa'a Fafine Spirit (01:18)

In the Samoan language, a "fa'a fafine" is a Samoan who is physically male and "gifted with the spirit of a woman (and a man)."

Male/Female Role in Samoan Culture (01:05)

In Samoan culture, the eldest son has s particular role to fill. Shigeyuki Kihara is a "fa'a fafine" whose body is male but whose spirit is female—she defines herself as an artist first, as a Samoan second, and as a sexual and gendered person last.

Samoan Dance (02:03)

Multidisciplinary artist Shigeyuki Kihara discusses Samoan dance as it relates to Salome's dance of the seven veils in her performance "Taualuga". She performs this elegant dance.

Colonial Attitudes in Art (01:20)

An artist creates a series of sepia-toned photographs to counteract those taken by Western colonialists. In the older pictures, women are exploited and men are emasculated.

Colonialist Dichotomy (01:25)

By the time photography comes to Samoa, the Samoans have been colonized a long time. Colonialists want to photograph the people in the nude, even though they now wear clothes outside the studio.

Colonial Photography: Samoa (01:05)

An artist is inspired by colonial photographs of the Samoan people. She intends to make photographs in a similar style but that tell a different story.

Artists Work Together (01:23)

Shigeyuki is a multidisciplinary artist who agrees to work with New Zealand photographer Rebecca Swan. Swan photographs the artist to show all sides of her complex personality.

Layers of Identity (01:49)

An artist is photographed with three distinct objects. The goal of the photo shoot is to represent three aspects of identity including the public mask and the inner truth.

Alternative Gender Identity (01:40)

A "fa'a fafine" may have male genitalia but lives with the spirit and sensitivities of a female. Shigeyuki sees her gender identity as the norm and everyone else as different from the norm.

Gender Diversity (02:08)

Gender diversity is essential for a true understanding of what it means to be human. Those people who are intersex or trans, or even "fa'a fafine." demonstrate courage to accept a non-traditional view of themselves.

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

Assume Nothing

DVD Price: $179.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $269.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $179.95



Artistic expression of alternatively gendered people’s lives reveals a captivating world where gender cannot be defined as simply male or female. This program features New Zealand photographer Rebecca Swan and her images for Assume Nothing, a book that explores the beauty and complexity of gender identity. Four of Swan’s subjects speak candidly about their own gender identities and experiences, focusing on their creative expression as artists: Mani, born an intersex child who was raised as a girl by her parents from a very young age; Ema, a Maori woman who identifies strongly with elements of both the female and male genders; Jack, a transgender poet who underwent surgery to transition physically from female to male; and Shigeyuki, an internationally acclaimed multidisciplinary artist who is a Samoan-Japanese Fa’a fafine, who was born in a man’s body but blessed with the spirit of a woman (and a man). Contains explicit language and imagery. (80 minutes)

Length: 80 minutes

Item#: BVL40872

ISBN: 978-1-61616-406-5

Copyright date: ©2009

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

Winner of the aGLIFF23 Documentary Feature Jury Prize

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video customers.