As a child actor, iO Tillett Wright turned her shoes around in the bathroom stall so that people would think she was a boy. As a teenager, she fell in love with both women and men. Her life in the grey areas of gender and sexuality deeply inform her work as an artist.

Why you should listen

iO Tillett Wright thanks her parents for not asking her to define herself as a child. Her experience of growing up without having check boxes like “female,” “male,” “gay” or straight” thoroughly infuses her art.

iO’s photography can be seen regularly in two features in The New York Times: Notes from the Underground and The Lowdown. She is also the creator of Self Evident Truths—an ongoing project to document the wide variety of experiences in LGBTQ America. So far, she has photographed about 2,000 people for the project. Her goal: 10,000 portraits and a nationwide rethinking of discriminatory laws.

iO had her first solo show at Fuse gallery in New York City in 2010, and exhibited her latest work at The Hole Gallery in early summer of 2012. She has published three books of photographs; Lose My Number, KISSER, and Look Ma’, No Hands. She has directed several music videos, and spent nineteen years acting in films.

What others say

"Photographer iO Tillett Wright has shot everyone from Olivia Thirlby to Iggy Pop, but since 2010 she has focused her lens on average Americans, taking simple portraits of anyone who identifies as somewhere along the LGBTQ spectrum. " — Elle Magazine

iO Tillett Wright’s TED talks

iO Tillett Wright on the TED Blog

Culture

How should we talk about transgender issues?

March 31, 2014

Geena Rocero did a pretty bold thing at TED2014: She came out. The transgender fashion model chose Vancouver to reveal to the world that she was assigned male at birth. “I am here exposed … to help others live without shame and terror,” she says in today’s talk. The trans community has had a spotlight […]

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Culture

Gallery: iO Tillett Wright examines the 50+ shades of gay

January 30, 2013

iO Tillett Wright remembers the moment she decided to start living as a boy — age 6 when the kids at school barked at her that girls weren’t allowed to play basketball. As a teenager and adult, Tillett Wright went on to fall in love with a woman, and then to fall in love with […]

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Quotes from iO Tillett Wright

[I] asked people to quantify themselves on a scale of one to 100 percent gay, and I watched so many existential crises unfold in front of me. People didn't know what to do, because they had never been presented with the option before.
iO Tillett Wright
TEDxWomen 2012 • 1.2M views Jan 2013
Inspiring, Courageous
Familiarity really is the gateway drug to empathy. Once an issue pops up in your own backyard or amongst your own family, you're far more likely to … explore a new perspective on it.
iO Tillett Wright
TEDxWomen 2012 • 1.2M views Jan 2013
Inspiring, Courageous
My mission to photograph gays was inherently flawed, because there were a million different shades of gay.
iO Tillett Wright
TEDxWomen 2012 • 1.2M views Jan 2013
Inspiring, Courageous