In late 2016 I won a GAP grant from Artist Trust to complete the portrait series below: "Trans American History". Each of these ten acrylic on canvas portraits honors a notable American trans (transgender or non-binary) figure. Featured are activists who tirelessly worked for the social justice and basic civil rights of trans persons or those who tragic death spurred and has come to symbolize important trans activist movements.
(Read the rest of the Artist Statement for this portrait series.)
All portraits were completed in 2017. They are all 12" x 16", acrylic on canvas.
Marsha P. Johnson
August 24, 1945 – July 6, 1992
Marsha P. Johnson was a pioneering activist and advocate for trans issues in America, especially pertaining to young homeless trans women and queer street kids in New York City. Several accounts place Johnson as one of the first to fight back during the riots at The Stonewall Inn in 1969, the event that launched a nationwide LGBTQ activism movement. Johnson's impact and legacy is today felt throughout the world.
July 2, 1951 – February 9, 2002
Sylvia Rivera was an American activist of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan dissent, and a lifelong champion for LGBTQ rights in New York City. Rivera focused her activism especially on the poor, young, and underprivileged - those she felt had too often been abandoned as the LGBTQ rights movement increasingly attempted to assimilate into the “mainstream” over the course of her lifetime.
Riki Wilchins is an American activist, writer, and transgender leader whose work was vital in including the struggle for transgender rights in the larger LGBTQ movement. Wilchins founded the first national transgender advocacy group, The Gender Public Advocacy Coalition in 1995, and is now the Executive Director of TrueChild, an organization which produces "gender transformative" materials which consider the harmful effect of gender norms and inequities, especially pertaining to at-risk youth and other marginalized groups.
September 1, 1949 – November 15, 2014
Leslie Feinberg was an American author, speaker, transgender activist, political organizer, and advocate for workers, minorities, and the poor. Feinberg's 1993 novel, “Stone Butch Blues,” won the 1994 American Library Association Gay & Lesbian Book Award and a Lambda Literary Award, and has since been translated into several languages.
born March 15, 1948
Kate Bornstein is an American author, gender theorist, public speaker, performance artist, playwright, and “artist in service to activism.” Bornstein's hugely influential written work includes 1995's “Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us,” which skillfully intermingles autobiography, gender theory, and dramatic writing.
30 November 1963 - 28 November 1998
Rita Hester was an African-American trans woman who was murdered in a brutal transphobic knife attack in 1998. Her death was the event that inspired the creation of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual event which memorializes the disproportionately large number of trans people who are murdered every year. The Day of Remembrance spread quickly throughout the United States and is now observed all around the world every November 20th.
December 12, 1972 – December 31, 1993
Brandon Teena was an American trans man whose 1993 assault and murder inspired increased public awareness of hate crimes and trans issues. The local Sheriff and county were later successfully sued for wrongful death due to a negligent systematic failure to prevent the murder. Teena the subject of the 1999 Academy Award-winning biopic, Boys Don't Cry.
born May 26, 1989
CeCe McDonald is a trans activist who was convicted of manslaughter in 2012, after acting in self defense against a transphobic and racist attack. She was subsequently wrongly housed in a male prison, despite obvious safety concerns. Her case has helped shine a light on the need for criminal justice and prison reform.
born May 29, 1972
Laverne Cox is best known for portraying Sophia Burset on the popular Netflix prison drama Orange is the New Black. As arguably the most well-known openly trans actress in the world she makes regular film and television appearances. She also maintains a busy schedule as a speaker and advocate for trans and other social justice issues.
born September 29, 1959
Mara Kiesling is the founder and Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, one of the country's leading trans-focused activist groups. As a trans woman who is an experienced activist working towards trans equality, Kiesling has interacted with the media on numerous occasions, often as the public face of the NCTE.