'Mimi’s Family' Shows Visitors' Children Can Talk About Gender, Too

what it looks like to be a trans grandparent

Photographed by Matthew Clowney

“I was very fortunate to have parents who raised me as a feminist,” says Matthew Clowney, the photographer behind a pioneering, new art exhibit on display at the Boston Children’s Museum that invites children into a day in the life of a grandparent who is transgender and her family. “I was raised with this mentality that people are just valuable and worth loving on their own terms. It was very informative to my worldview, so that is a big part of my work.” This mentality is evident in his photography, as is the influence of the appeal to human connection in the work of photographers Tina Barney and Sally Man who he cites as influences. 

Clowney’s photography of Erica (Mimi) Tobias, a grandparent who transitioned from male to female in her 60s, is featured in the exhibit Mimi’s Family, an exhibit geared toward children. The exhibit developers created the show as a way to not only share Erica’s journey of transitioning later in life but also engage children in conversations about love, family, and gender. Clowney explains, “I don’t think there is no conversation connected to children happening, I think there is a good amount of that, but I still think most the conversation is targeted at adults and that’s where I hope that this show might contribute something.” While creating the exhibit, the developers also consulted with advisors from a number of community organizations including The Network/La Red and the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD).