GÖPPINGEN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 21, 2016: Female masker Manu, 34, alias Mina, poses for a portrait in his home on February 21, 2016 in Göppingen, Germany.'Giving up my manlihood by dressing as a rubberdoll exemplifies 'his bow to the beauty of femininity'.- Female Masker Manu, 34, alias Mina, heterosexual man
VIEW GALLERY | 11 PHOTOS
Female masker Manu, 34, alias Mina, poses for a portrait in his home. "Giving up my manlihood by dressing as a rubberdoll exemplifies 'my bow to the beauty of femininity'. Göppingen, Germany, Feb. 21, 2016.Corinna Kern
GÖPPINGEN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 21, 2016: Female masker Manu, 34, alias Mina, poses for a portrait in his home on February 21, 2016 in Göppingen, Germany.'Giving up my manlihood by dressing as a rubberdoll exemplifies 'his bow to the beauty of femininity'.- Female Masker Manu, 34, alias Mina, heterosexual man
ELZE, GERMANY - AUGUST 20, 2015: Female masker and transsexual woman Katrina, 46, in front of her home August 20, 2015 in Elze, Germany. "What fascinates me is the immunity. The ‘being-me’. You are encapsulated. Like in a cocoon. They don’t see you. They don’t see your mimic, if you laugh or if you cry. The unknown behind it. This anonymity."- Female Masker Katrina, 46, transsexual woman"In latex I am courageous. I like the provocation when going out in public as a rubberdoll. You don’t see latex on every street corner, in the eyes of most people you are perverted or abnormal. That makes me think ‘I show you that there is something else’. "- Female Masker Katrina, 46, transsexual woman
MUNICH, GERMANY - AUGUST 04, 2015: Portrait of female masker and transsexual woman 'Bear Girl', 39, in her kitchen, August 04, 2015 in Munich, Germany. "My biggest dream is to be a beautiful woman. I am not a topmodel and don't have an ideal physique, but the illusion is almost perfect. It is like being in another world, like a drug. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I have no passion other than that. For me it is a way of living out a deeper part of myself. "- Female Masker Leyla alias Bear Girl, 39, transsexual woman
MUNICH, GERMANY - AUGUST 04, 2015: Portrait of female masker and transsexual woman Leyla alias 'Bear Girl', 39, while she is taking a walk, August 04, 2015 in Munich, Germany. "My biggest dream is to be a beautiful woman. I am not a topmodel and don't have an ideal physique, but the illusion is almost perfect. It is like being in another world, like a drug. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I have no passion other than that. For me it is a way of living out a deeper part of myself. "- Female Masker Leyla alias Bear Girl, 39, transsexual woman
ELZE, GERMANY - AUGUST 20, 2015: Female masker and transexual woman Katrina, 46, dressed as a rubberdoll, August 20, 2015 in Elze, Germany."What fascinates me is the immunity. The ‘being-me’. You are encapsulated. Like in a cocoon. They don’t see you. They don’t see your mimic, if you laugh or if you cry. The unknown behind it. This anonymity.""My fetish started with me wearing household gloves when I was eleven years old. I continuously bought new ones, these very tight ones. Being inside them was a phenomenal feeling for me. Then there was the fact that I pulled everything over my head at that age. I am not entirely sure how this came about, I really like masks but how could you buy anything if you barely have pocket money. I then got the idea with my pyjamas whose arms and legs I turned inside out with the result that I wore four layers of fabric over my head. Later I secretly took my mother’s tights...Maybe I wanted to hide. Maybe I already felt that I was not in the right body. The idea that 'my real me is not there' fascinated me. This is how I built my own small world."- Female Masker Katrina, 46, transsexual woman
BRAUNSCHWEIG, GERMANY - JUNE 20, 2016: Portrait of female masker Andre, 30, alias 'Lisa Kirschbaum', in his bedroom , June 20, 2016 in Braunschweig, Germany. Being a heterosexual man, Andre transforms into his alter ego at least once a week to live out his female side and sexuality. Developed from his fantasies and projections, Lisa embodies the woman of his dreams. Especially wedding dresses with large puff sleeves fascinate him as they engender a femininity that barely any other piece of clothing is able to achieve. "Looking back, I find that almost all of my proclivites are based in my childhood. My weakness for latex for instance began at the age of three, when I loved wearing rubberboots, tight snowsuits and especially latex gloves. I also used to have two bridal barbie-dolls, which disappeared for reasons I don’t know. For a while I also aspired to be a girl and to wear bows in my hair. With 25 years of age I took all my courage to finally buy my first catsuit for women. I have been working on my perfection ever since and invested in my dream outfit. I especially love US wedding dresses from the 1980s with large puff sleeves. Regardless of which colour or material, if they are from latex, leather or satin, they engender a high level of femininity unlike any other piece of clothing.- Female masker Andre, 30 alias Lisa Kirschbaum, heterosexual man
AUGSBURG, GERMANY - AUGUST 05, 2015: Portrait of female masker Christian alias 'Chrissie Seams', double the age of his alter ego, in his living-room, August 05, 2015 in Augsburg, Germany. Female masking presents an outlet for him, as a heterosexual and cisgender male, to live out his female side and latex fetish. On his right stand a variety of masks that he uses for experimenting with airbrushing and other alteration techniques in order to individualise the look of his alter ego. "Since my childhood I have been fascinated by latex, which very soon merged with my aspirations to look as sexy as a woman. I remember the first time I had the wish to slip into a woman’s skin was at the age of 14 when I saw a model wearing sexy lingerie in a Penthouse magazine. I imagined slipping into her skin, like slipping into a surface made from latex.I love the feeling of being encapsulated and the sensitization from head to toe when wearing latex. At the same time I endeavor aesthetics. Visually, I only like latex on women, hence I don’t gain anything from my fetish if not dressed as a woman myself. Many times I wondered if there was a Chrissie if it wasn’t for my passion for latex."- Female masker Christian alias Chrissie Seams, heterosexual man, double the age of his alter ego
AUGSBURG, GERMANY - AUGUST 05, 2015: Portrait of female masker Manu alias 'Mina', 34, August 05, 2015 in Augsburg, Germany. Female masking presents an outlet for him, as a heterosexual and cisgender male, to live out his female side and latex fetish.'Giving up my manlihood by dressing as a rubberdoll exemplifies 'his bow to the beauty of femininity'.- Female Masker Manu, 34, alias Mina, heterosexual man
BRAUNSCHWEIG, GERMANY - JUNE 20, 2016: Portrait of female masker Andre, 30, alias 'Lisa Kirschbaum', in his room , June 20, 2016 in Braunschweig, Germany. Being a heterosexual man, Andre transforms into his alter ego at least once a week to live out his female side and sexuality. Developed from his fantasies and projections, Lisa embodies the woman of his dreams. Especially wedding dresses and latex clothes with large puff sleeves fascinate him, engendering a high level of femininity. „Lisa developed from my fantasies and projections, as I imagine the woman of my dreams to be. All of this I incorporated into my outfits.“ - Female masker Andre, 30 alias Lisa Kirschbaum, heterosexual man"Looking back, I find that almost all of my proclivites are based in my childhood. My weakness for latex for instance began at the age of three, when I loved wearing rubberboots, tight snowsuits and especially latex gloves. I also used to have two bridal barbie-dolls, which disappeared for reasons I don’t know. For a while I also aspired to be a girl and to wear bows in my hair. With 25 years of age I took all my courage to finally buy my first catsuit for women. I have been working on my perfection ever since and invested in my dream outfit. I love US wedding dresses from the 1980s with large puff sleeves. Regardless of which colour or material, if they are from latex, leather or satin, they engender a high level of femininity unlike any other piece of clothing.- Female masker Andre, 30 alias Lisa Kirschbaum, heterosexual man
GÖPPINGEN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 21, 2016: Female maskers Manu alias Mina (R ) and Christian alias Chrissie Seams (L), pose for a portrait on February 21, 2016 in Göppingen, Germany.
HANNOVER, GERMANY - AUGUST 22, 2015: Female masker Chris, 49, dressed as his alter ego Cecilia Mc Arthur, August 22, 2015 in Hannover, Germany. Being a cisgender man, he has six female alter egos and four male ones, each with their own characteristics and life-stories, which he lives out through photo shoots. Cecilia currently enjoys lying in the moorland."My passion for female masking arose from my weakness for lycra. 1981, when I was 15 years old, aerobics came into fashion and I was jealous of girls being able to wear much more chic clothes than boys could. When finally skintight sportsuits for men were introduced, I got one as a present for my 16th birthday and have been wearing them since. The masks came in addition six years ago and serve as a field for experimentation. Wearing the mask, I don’t feel like a different person, that only takes effect when I look at the photos that I take of these. I then see the fictional characters I create, reflecting a counterpart of myself, a desired partner or something that I lack but wish for."- Chris, 49, heterosexual, alias Romy von Dornfelder
Female masker Manu, 34, alias Mina, poses for a portrait in his home. "Giving up my manlihood by dressing as a rubberdoll exemplifies 'my bow to the beauty of femininity'. Göpping
... VIEW MORE

Corinna Kern
1 of 11

Inside the Lives of Female Maskers

Dec 02, 2016

Being comfortable in your own skin is difficult enough. But what if expressing yourself requires you to alter your identity? German photographer Corinna Kern spent several months in Germany capturing the lives of various "female maskers" – predominately heterosexual men who wear a latex mask and bodysuit resembling a woman to embrace their femininity.

Her first real encounter with a female masker occurred by coincidence while walking the streets of Germany. Curious, the photographer soon discovered female maskers have a thriving online community that remains taboo to the public. "It's not very big," Kern tells TIME. "So many people are quite far away from each other so it's not really that you find people meeting up regularly."

Female Maskers isn't exactly a new phenomenon. Kerry, an American female masker living in Seattle began a business dedicated to making realistic female masks in 1996. A 2014 British documentary called Secrets of the Living Dolls followed the lives of males who go through the motions of being a masker at the risk of being ostracized by society and their loved ones. While the documentary introduced the subculture to mainstream audiences, Kern mentions some she talked to were hesitant to participate in her project because the documentary portrayed them as "freaks," something she kept in mind when photographing her subjects. "I think it's a natural thing for me not to capture them in a freakish way," she says. "It's just something that goes along with my photography, my style of photography because I'm very open minded. As I go along I'm learning about their backgrounds and their motivations."

One of her subjects, Chris, 49, has 10 aliases (six female and four male), three which Kern displays in her photographs. Some of his aliases include: Romy von Dornfelder, a blonde shown in the woods and at home; Cecilia McArthur, a brunette who poses in the grass and is also shown in workout attire; and Nicole van Diesten, who is covered from head to toe. Another veteran in the German female masking scene, Christian, whose alias is Chrissie Seams, loves to play up with her looks with dresses, accessories though her most distinguishing feature is her long, wavy black hair. While Christian enjoys being a female masker due to his latex fetish, Chris fondness for female masking goes beyond his love for lycra. "Wearing the mask, I don’t feel like a different person," he tells Kern. "That only takes effect when I look at the photos that I take of these. I then see the fictional characters I create, reflecting a counterpart of myself, a desired partner or something that I lack but wish for."

When it came to being out in public, the range of emotions were mixed. Christian, dressed as Chrissie Seams, enjoyed being out in public where most onlookers were curious and looked on in admiration. Others only felt comfortable dressing up at home, and even then, they remain trapped in their own skin. "It's so much part of their identity sometimes," Kern says. "It becomes so much a part of them they have an urge to tell it. But then at the same time, they don't want to be rejected."

Corinna Kern is a German photographer based in Israel.

Bianca Silva is a writer and contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter.

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.