When Mateo Guerrero immigrated to Queens in 2010, he was a queer undocumented teenager called Katherine. When he came out to his mom shortly afterward, she pleaded with Guerrero not to become a man. When his father found out that Mateo wanted to transition, he left the family and returned to their home in Colombia.
Eventually Guerrero’s mom accepted his identity and supported his transition. Three years ago, he started going by Mateo and binding his chest. A year later, he began injecting testosterone every two weeks and saving money for surgery. Finally, on February 21, 2017 he underwent an operation to remove his breasts.
Guerrero, now 22, views his physical gender transition as a form of social resistance. After receiving a visa for juveniles abandoned by a parent, making him a legal U.S. resident, Guerrero graduated from college and took a job training community leaders at the non-profit organization Make the Road. As a pioneer activist, his goal is to empower trans people of color to break societal and cultural stereotypes and boundaries.
I spent a few days in April documenting Mateo’s life as he adjusts to being perceived from the outside as the man he’s always known himself to be on the inside.
Mateo Guerrero laughs at himself as he shaves, because even after nearly two years on testosterone, he knows he doesn’t have much facial hair yet. Still, he likes the habit. Here, he gets ready for work at home in Corona, Queens.
Guerrero cleans his testosterone syringes on his bed. Since July 2015, he has injected testosterone in his thigh every two weeks.
Guerrero said he prefers needles over pills because he believes they have a more direct effect.
He will continue to inject for the rest of his life.
Guerrero relishes going shirtless since he had surgery to remove his breasts in February of 2017. For him, it was the last step in the years-long process of gender transition. He said he’s now proud of his scars. Here, he shows off his chest at home on April 5, 2017.
Mateo’s mother, Maria Guerrero, shares pictures of Mateo as a baby girl in a photo book she brought with her when they moved from Colombia in 2010 to Queens.
Guerrero and his mom share a one-bedroom apartment and love dancing salsa together. Here, they laugh at home on April 4, 2017.
After years of defying gender norms, Guerrero finds it strange to move through the world as a man. He said he’s surprised when he experiences privilege or is privy to misogyny because of his male identity.
At a dance party at Starr Bar in Brooklyn celebrating the International Transgender Day of Visibility, Guerrero pulled off his belt and started the limbo.
Guerrero dances with his girlfriend Sylvia Scahill.
Guerrero holds his girlfriend’s hand on the International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, 2017.