These Artists And Activists Are Empowering Trans Lives Through Art

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is observed on Nov. 20 each year to mourn those lost to acts of anti-transgender violence. Trans women of color are the most likely to face these kinds of violent attacks. Gwendolyn Ann Smith founded the very first TDoR in 1999 and the event has grown every year since with tributes and celebrations of trans lives. Transgender Awareness Week, Nov. 13-17, is a week-long celebration of trans lives birthed from TDoR. Forward Together, a non-profit social justice organization, is collaborating with trans and non-binary artists of color and trans justice organizations across the country, to create original artwork for Trans Day of Resilience.

The Trans Day of Resilience art project is an extension and reimagining of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Transgender Day of Resilience celebrated its fourth year highlighting trans artists and their community. It is an extension of the overall Trans Day of Remembrance by elevating trans and non-binary artists. Together the artists of color and trans-led organizations create artwork that both honors trans community members who have been killed and celebrates those who are still here. Jennicet Gutierrez, an activist for transgender rights and immigrant rights, says Transgender Day of Remembrance was a collaborative idea between Forward Together and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. She says it was suggested by organizers who want a way for people to visually understand the everyday lives of trans people in America.

“People are connecting with the messages these images and it has opened up many conversions.” Gutierrez said. “Art plays a key role in social justice and by doing this we feel we can uplift our trans communities.”

The artists are part of a nationwide network wanting to tell their stories and stories of their communities.

Artists from across the country created specific work that highlight the various people who make up the trans-community. Various non-profits sponsored each art piece and describe the story behind them. Gutierrez says that for many in the trans-community art is an escape and is a way to express their personal story through collective art.

“You can share these works and each people will interpret them in different ways, that’s the power of these pieces,” Gutierrez says. “Art has always been a key part of any social movement and this project we hope encourages those to take action.”

Violence against the trans community has risen steadily in recent years.

According to a report released by the Human Right Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group, more than 20 people have been killed so far this year due to anti-transgender violence. The organization has tracked 128 anti-transgender homicides in the U.S. since 2013.

Prerna Sampat, a spokesperson with Forward Together, says that too often we only highlight trans during times of grief and by having art events we can bring awareness to trans lives.

“At a time when depictions of trans folks often center around suffering and death, we want to celebrate the lives of trans, gender non-conforming and non-binary people in the most unifying way through art,” Sampat said. “Art is fundamental to all social movements because it reconnects us to our deepest values, to what we hold sacred, and to each other.”


READ: Check Out These 9 Trans Activists On Instagram As They Fight For Justice And Equality

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