18-year-old Jasper Behrends just graduated from his northern Virginia high school in June, where he was a part of the advanced placement studio art program.
Jasper grew up with art being an important part of his life. "I’ve been doing art for as long as I have been able to hold a crayon. Ever since I was a kid, art has always been an outlet I use to express myself."
For the Concentration section of his AP Studio Art Exhibit, students get to pick a specific subject and do an in-depth study on it. Jasper picked gender, sexuality, and body dysphoria. After throwing himself into his work, the transgender teen was shocked when school administrators told him to tone it down.
"After starting my concentration, the school vice principal came to me after my art teacher informed the administration about my 'potentially sensitive' concentration subject. 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." Jasper was told that his art should follow the school's dress code, which meant no one could be shirtless in his drawings, even though nothing had been said about images of breasts in his previous work or other student's work.
Jasper wasn't able to find a compromise between his work and what his teachers wanted. "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."
Jasper submitted his work and earned the highest possible score on his Studio Art Exhibit.
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
It's easy to see why Jasper did so well. The moving pieces he's created are powerful and poignant commentary on LGBTQ and trans issues.
"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."
"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."
After sharing his story on Twitter, Jasper has received an outpouring of love and support for his work and his post now has over 13,000 retweets. His work currently lives on his portfolio, where Jasper has opened up about their inspirations and meaning.
"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."
"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 To 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."
"I will definitely keep creating queer art," Jasper told PRIDE. "It’s literally the only type of art I truly enjoy doing. Art is just materialized passion, and my passions stand with the queer community."