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Inclusion and equality for all, are among our core values at HOME. To celebrate Transgender Awareness Week 2021 and to coincide with our current exhibition Human Measure – the debut UK solo show by transgender visual artist Cassils, we wanted to celebrate the visibility of pioneering transgender and gender non-conforming artists and creatives working today.
Transgender Awareness Week, 13 – 19 Nov, is a week when transgender people and their allies take action to bring attention to the community by educating the public about who transgender people are and sharing stories and experiences. The international initiative also advocates around the issues of prejudice, discrimination, and violence that affect the transgender community.
We asked some of our friends, curators and writers to share, in their own words, three transgender or gender non-conforming artists, creatives or individuals who have inspired them in life, art or their profession.
Libro Levi Bridgeman (they/them) is a writer, editor and lecturer working in theatre, film, prose and radio.
With an MA in Creative Writing from UEA, they now teach Creative Writing themselves at Kingston and Imperial Universities and in various UK prisons. They run hotpencil press with Serge Nicholson and have produced two verbatim theatre texts with them, There Is No Word For It and The Butch Monologues. Libro also writes for theatre and radio.
Here they recommend people who have helped them formulate ideas around language, narrative style, aesthetics and bravery.
1. Ivan Coyote (they/them)
Ivan Coyote is a Canadian spoken word performer, award-winning writer, and LGBT advocate.
They helped and inspired me to formulate ideas around language, humour, detail, butch/femme desire. They helped me think about pathways to document the butch-femme dynamic and the butch experience in their 2009 collection Persistence – All Ways Butch And Femme (2009) and Butch Road Map (2012). “I first became something I had no name for, in solitude… and only later discovered the word for what I was, and realized there were others like me. So now, I am writing myself down. Sketching directions. So that I can be found, or followed.” – Ivan Coyote.
2. Jenni Olsen (she/her)
Jenni Olson is an acclaimed nonfiction filmmaker, writer, film curator, historian and collector based in San Francisco.
I am currently developing screenplays. I found Jenni Olsen inspiring and influential around narrative style, journalistic essay-type bravery, a blend of film meta referential narrative and quiet affecting tone. She has just been recognised with the prestigious Teddy Award. The Royal Road.” A lyrical essay film contemplating butch lesbian desire, Junipero Serra and the Spanish colonization of California, Hitchcock’s Vertigo and so much more.” Her Oxford Handbook of Queer Cinema is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2021. In 2020, she was named to the Out Magazine Out 100 list. She also campaigned to have a barrier erected on the Golden Gate Bridge to prevent suicides.
3. Whisky Chow (she/her)
Whiskey Chow is a London-based performance artist and Chinese drag king.
I don’t really work with images so I am always taken and impressed by those artists that do. I am blown away by Whisky Chow their aesthetic, ideas, bravery, poetry, intersectionality (one to watch) From M.A.C.H.O. situates a symbolic conversation between female/queer masculinity and a fetishized man-like figure, creating an absurd companionship. In the piece, Artist Whiskey Chow reveals a “failed” masculinity on gendered, sexed, raced and marginalized bodies to problematize hierarchies of masculinities in western capitalist society. Find out more about Whiskey Chow’s work by visiting her Whiskey Chow’s website.
Campbell X (He/Him) is a transgender writer/director.
Campbell X directed the award-winning queer urban romantic comedy feature film STUD LIFE named in the Guardian as one of the 10 most important Black UK films in the last 40 years.
Here he shares the work of actors, writers/directors and artist collectives who push boundaries, celebrate trans stories and reclaim spaces for trans representation. Follow Campbell X on Instagram here.
4. Felix Mufti (he/him)
Felix Mufti is an actor, writer and trans activist. His work is dark and honest, free of the “burden of representation”, always pushing the boundaries of what we have come to expect from traditionally excluded voices. There is understandably pressure to present a smoothed out version of our trans lives for fear of societal transphobia, yet Felix inspires us to celebrate all our trans stories – ugly AND beautiful. Discover more about Felix’s work on Twitter and Instagram.
5. Max Disgrace (He/Him)
Max is a powerful filmmaking voice, a writer/director who has managed to place queer eroticism for People of Colour centre frame. His work explores taboo desires that often get left out of stories about LGBTQ sexualities. He tackles dangerous corners where we are supposed to experience shame and makes them ravishingly beautiful. Max’s work allows us to explore all our bodies and physical senses without judgement. Learn more about Max Disgrace on Twitter or Instagram or visit his website here.
6. United Trans Creatives
United Trans Creatives is a collective of artists based in Kingston Jamaica founded by Emani Alotta Vagina Edwards and co-founded by Kyym Kode. The artists use fashion as activism, inserting themselves in areas in Kingston, reclaiming spaces where queer people are not traditionally welcome. As someone whose mother is Jamaican and being of Black Caribbean descent, I find it empowering to see trans femmes and non-binary Black people from the Caribbean taking up innovative creative spaces.
It’s also inspiring when artists work collectively for one vision, a radical subversion of authorship. Their powerful artistic interventions show that Black trans people belong everywhere. Follow United Trans Creatives on Instagram. (Images: Right, Emani Alotta Punani Edwards. Left, Kyym Savage).
Zorian Clayton (he/him) is a prints curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, specialising in posters and queer art history.
Zorian shares three gender non-conforming creatives and allies who have transcended gender, celebrate transmasculinity and document how transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are portrayed in the media.
7. David Hoyle (he/him)
The first gender non-conforming person I remember seeing was David Hoyle on Channel 4 in 1998. From the depths of suburbia, it was proof that an alternative queer world even existed. Usually beginning a show with a special welcome to everyone clever enough to have transcended gender, I’ve been to dozens of his live performances since and every time is an electrifying experience. Nobody eviscerates hypocrisy, inequality, and the gender binary quite like David! Follow David Hoyle on Instagram.
An eight-year period of his avant-garde activism and art was published in a limited edition photobook entitled ‘Parallel Universe’ (2017) with photographer Holly Revell.
8. Holly Revell (she/her)
Holly Revell is an amazing ally who will be recognisable to regulars of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and Duckie nights as she can usually be found there documenting the LGBTIQ+ scene. We first met around 2011 when her ‘Dark Room’ experiential photo-booth project was set up in a squat I was living in on Shaftesbury Avenue. Her ongoing ‘People Like Us’ project celebrates transmasculine visibility and features some of the most exciting trans and non-binary writers, performers and diverse creatives in London today, such as Krishna Istha, Azara Meghie, Libro Levi Bridgeman, and Sabah Choudrey (pictured below).
Holly Revell’s archive is also at Bishopsgate, as are the Beaumont Society press clipping collection documenting how transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have been portrayed in printed news media since the 1960s plus the archives of Juliet Jacques, Paris Lees, Nicky Stones (1944-2017) and others. Thanks to public collections such as this, trans histories will be kept safe and accessible for many generations to come. Follow Holly Revell on Instagram or visit her website here.
9. Jason Barker
As a festival programmer, I had big shoes to fill following Jason Barker at BFI Flare. Like a ray of sunshine on stage, his enthusiasm and passion for trans and queer filmmaking has introduced so much amazing talent to so many people over the years. A wonderful writer/director himself, his 2018 autobiographical documentary ‘A Deal with the Universe’ is both moving and funny as it charts a 15-year period of trying to become a parent with his partner, eventually becoming pregnant himself.
I moved to London around 2012 just as the legendary Transfabulous festivals Jason co-produced with Serge Nicholson were finishing after six years of activity. With line-ups that read like a who’s who of trans and queer pioneers, Kate Bornstein, Jayne County, Del LaGrace Volcano, and Jack Halberstam were just a handful of names on the bill. The archives were donated to Bishopsgate Institute for posterity so you can explore this fabulous history further:
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