I’m Katja Tetzlaff, pronounced kaat-jya tehtz-lahf, a second-generation German queer Southerner; my pronouns are they/them. I cut my own hair and poke my own tattoos to live as a reminder that everything is a work in progress, most especially myself. Before drawing genitals for a living, I completed a BS in Molecular Biology with minors in Chemistry and Studio Art before finishing an MS in Biomedical Visualization (Medical Illustration.) While medical illustration has historically promoted a narrow representation of the human form, one area of medical imagery that notably lacks diversity pertains to sex and gender. This became incredibly clear when I tried to find data about how medical transitioning would affect the health of my now-husband and could only find a handful of medical texts with few images and some anecdotal information from trans folks themselves. This got me looking deeper and through my research, I also learned more about and became an advocate for intersex people and all who fall outside of the gender/sex binary who have long been exploited or erased from medical education. My graduate research sought to fill a gap in lack of medical illustrations for transgender, non-binary, and intersex health education, specifically visuals depicting the physical changes resulting from gender-affirming hormones and surgery. My work has since expanded into illustrating all kinds of human diversity related to gender, sex, and sexuality, particularly people who fall outside the White, male “standard human.”
About the work
As a U.S.-based freelance medical illustrator, I strive to make health education materials more representative of and for all kinds of people. Health is for everyone, and everyone deserves to see themselves represented. My work specifically seeks to increase representations of all gendered bodies and sex anatomy, most especially the diversity among transgender and intersex people. I also provide professional consultation to and collaborate with a range of educators (Sex Ed, public health, medical/health sciences, continuing medical education, etc.) and organizations to make their curriculum, educational materials, or publication a more diverse depiction of the real world.
I typically utilize simple line illustrations common in medical education that allow the work to be specific enough for accuracy but general enough not be a specimen. Given the sensitive nature of genitals, this approach allows the images to be educational, but not explicit. All successful medical illustrations balance scientific and artistic needs but illustrations related to diverse representations of gender, sex, and sexuality have other considerations that benefit from a professional and a member of the LGBTQAI+ community.
I also create and present fully-illustrated lectures for human sexuality and health sciences classes as well as hospital units. In addition to teaching an undergraduate course, I have been invited to high schools, colleges, hospitals, professional conferences, nonprofits, and the occasional living room to speak on a variety of related topics including: gender-affirming medicine, trans health, intersex health, bioethics and the law, inclusive Sex Ed, history of transgender and intersex medicine, and normativity in healthcare imagery.
About working with me
What I do is for everybody and every body.
Plenty of stock photos exist showing idealized, and inaccurate, genitalia. These images are almost always copies of copies from outdated references that are generally White and tend not to show complete anatomy. Inadequate medical illustrations not only depict a small minority of the population, they do not include any of the vastness of normal variations across the spectrum, depicting only a glamorized hyperfeminine and hypermasculine binary. However, most medical/health and sex education require illustrations with specific and accurate anatomy for the right visual narrative, with stock photos often not meeting the appropriate needs. That’s why it’s beneficial to hire a professional medical illustrator and/or pay for rights to use their work.