T-Town Transgender Neighbors



A PORTRAIT EXHIBIT

~ Presented By ~


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COMMENTS

As the T-Town Neighbors exhibit has traveled around the area it has drawn rave reviews. Overwhelmingly the comments are positive, with just a few dissenters in the mix. Below is a sampling of the responses the exhibit has generated.



"I was incredibly pleased to be able to attend a preview showing the T-Town exhibit. The pictures are beautiful and the written narrative along with each picture helped me understand a bit better about the struggles and joys faced by all those going through a gender transition. This exhibit is the exact thing we need to help gain more understanding, acceptance and support of our brothers and sisters in the gender community."
-- Washington State Representative Laurie Jinkins,
Vice Chair, Health Care & Wellness Committee

"INCREDIBLY PLEASING to see this in my dad's workplace!" (a transgender child)

"Honesty is always best! Thanks for showing."

"Glad this exhibit is here."

"I absolutely love this. It is projects like these - prominently displayed in our public places - that make me a proud Washingtonian."

"Very powerful exhibit. Should come to DSHS, too."

"Thank you to all the contributors for sharing their stories. I'm very pround of you."

"I'm always glad and impressed by LNI's Pride Month display."

"I'm glad I stopped to read these stories of transgender neighbors. I learned a good deal about the challenges and empowerment of these people. I'm grateful they were willing to offer their stories."

"Thank you so much for sharing these pictures of our neighbors."

"FANTASTIC! I love that this is giving these people a voice and to prove that they are invisible."

"Thanks for sharing your stories. The portraits are great, too."

"Thank you so much for sharing your stories so others can understand and learn."

"Jesus Loves You!!! I love this display."

"This is a beautiful display. Reading the stories helped me understand transgender people better. I'm so glad you put this up."

"I love diversity! I love this agency. Nice job, LNI."

"I feel so much warmth and love from this exhibit as a pansexual trans man. I learned that I am never alone, and this has made my day! Thank you so incredibly much!"

"One of the most visually stimulating and beautiful pieces I've ever seen! Very well balanced with both transmen & transwomen. Good Job!!"

"I love the warmth I felt as I read all their stories. So lovely to see more of us out there. You have done a lovely job creating this site, thank you for allowing me to visit."

"A socially responsible project. Hopefully it will lead to less violence and discrimination. Well done."

"Incredibly eye-opening and very sad at the same time. Very glad I got to see."

"Beautiful photographs & important stories. I am glad these people are sharing their experiences with us!"

"Very impressed that the Library would put up such a wonderful exhibit."

"Yo! do more like this!"

"Glad they are accepting how they are, hope the society could allow more of there happen!"

"Sad."

"Sad? No, No - joyful. A generation ago this could never have happened."

"It's nice to see this community getting the support it deserves."

"Beautifully done!"

"Thank you!"

"Awesome."

"I felt less alone. I'm 48 and been actively transitioning for 2 years. Its a blessing and it's......lonely. This exhibit was connecting...thanks."

"It was so hard to read of the level of rejection many of the trans-people faced, but their smiles and their ability to find hope and love on the other side of prejudice was so warming. Thank you for your bravery and for taking the time to produce it."

"Terrific and thoughtful exhibit!"

"Unfortunate that so many people are driven so close to suicide- here's to a brighter future where the 8% of people that identify as something other than straight can come out without living in fear. Beautiful exhibit, we have a long way to go, but UPS is leading the way in spreading compassion."

"This is one of, if not the best exhibits I have seen!"

"Very interesting and informative. Thank you and thank to all of the brave trans-gender people for showing."

"This is such a moving show. Thank you!"

"I'm still angry, and guilty what I am. Until the day I no longer feel like I was born to be punished as a TG, I will continue to hide and hurt."

"Thank you for creating this beautiful and amazing presentation. It has been thoughtfully put together and very respectful of each person. Way to go Library!"

"Thanks for envisioning this project and carrying it through. It make the world safer for all of us."

"Thank you for creating this beautiful and amazing presentation. It has been thoughtfully put together and very respectful of each person. Way to go Library!"

"Thank you for creating this beautiful and amazing presentation. It has been thoughtfully put together and very respectful of each person. Way to go Library!"

"This is the best exhibit I have seen in the library; it is educational, respectful and so necessary! There is so much negative judgment and misunderstanding around the issue that something like this could literally serve someone's life. Thank you!"

"Hello. I am Sharon Z. My portrait is on display with T-Town! My story is true. From suicide to savior. And an all-engaging story with Good News!"

"I look forward to the day when coming out/transitioning does not require any bravery because it is accepted and supported universally. In the meantime, I appreciate and respect each of you for your honesty and bravery."

"This is acutally the BEST exhibit that the library has EVER had. Thank you!!"

"Thank you for doing this. It is so important to the Queer Community to build VISIBILITY! And this is such a beautiful example! Love it! Woohoo!! Go T-Town!"

"This exhibit is a wonderful representation of Tacoma and its transgender community. I'm proud to learn that the intersection between the two is so vibrant!"

"I really enjoyed the T-town discussion panel. It was enlightening and eye opening to hear personal stories of trans individuals in Tacoma, their journeys, struggles and spirituality. Trans people have been quieted for such a large part of history, and I think the amount of wisdom and knowledge their transitions and life experience is so valuable to human beauty and diversity, and livelihood. Thank God for T-Town!"

"I learned that no matter what you come out as, the process is still hard. I, personally, am a pansexual lesbian, and it takes time to dig deep enough and figure out the feelings that you couldn't discuss with anyone else. I found this exhibit inspiring."

"OMG… this is sooo Beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. This work shows so much love and appreciation. I celebrate you and love you as my brothers and sisters. Thank you for the Courage to be Yourselves in all your Beauty."

"This is amazing, I'm incredibly thankful for everyone who shared their stories, and I have nothing but the utmost respect."

"My heart goes out for the struggle that transgendered people go through."

"The South Sound has a great trans community. This exhibit is truly wonderful and very insightful. I really hope more is to come in the future."

"I think the most beautiful people on this earth are transgendered, bi, gay, lesbian, etc. They live their life completely fearless of who they are inside because they truly know themselves. To gain such confidence is to gain the greatest power to change the world. Thank you for all of your stories."

"I thank you for your hard work, and I thank each person willing to share their story. It seems through ostracism by others and deep searching within, these people have found something very special in their lives. I applaud them."

"I really want to work to empower and spread the word about transgender-ism in the South Sound. I believe we have a very unique culture down here that should be celebrated."

"These individuals are to be commended for having the courage to come out. Some may have taken longer than they would have liked but by doing so they can serve as an inspiration for others who may be struggling within and help them to take steps earlier. We are all a part of this journey called life."

"I have friends who are transgender. This helped me understand them better."

"I am continually wowed at the strength of the trans community. It is a strength to be proud of and to cultivate. I am an ally who would love to learn more about the amazing people who make up the trans community, their experiences and their stories. This exhibit was very thought-provoking. Thank you all for sharing!"

"Good way to spread awareness. Keep up the much needed work."

"The personal stories are like that Roberta Flack song: Killing Me Softly With His Song. Thank-you for sharing. Peace."

"Thanks for the exhibit. I think more discussion and exposure for this topic is positive for communities."

"Beautiful and inspiring photos and stories. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and lives. You're a vital part of our Tacoma community."

"Being gay, I understand having to live in a world in which you are very different. I'm happy being male, and I'm expanding my understanding of the world by listening to people who need to be more than what their bodies allow. I'm learning that just the body fails to completely define a person."

"I was so moved and inspired by these stories. So many conflicting feelings and so much loss but so much joy in the acceptance of who you all are. I could almost feel the sense of freedom in being able to embrace that."

"Thank you for this exhibit. It is important to have people's stories like this out and available. How else can we eradicate ignorance and foster understanding and acceptance? Beautiful exhibit and a great source of learning for all."

"I appreciate the truthfulness & strength required to compile this exhibit. I look forward to knowing my transgender neighbors more."

"Thank you for the amazing learning opportunity."

"The South Sound has a great trans community. This exhibit is truly wonderful and very insightful. I really hope more is to come in the future."

"I think the most beautiful people on this earth are transgendered, bi, gay, lesbian, etc. They live their life completely fearless of who they are inside because they truly know themselves. To gain such confidence is to gain the greatest power to change the world. Thank you for all of your stories."

"OMG...This is sooo Beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. This work shows so much love and appreciation. I celebrate you and love you as my brothers and sisters. Thank you for the Courage to be Yourselves in all you Beauty."

"Just how much I miss living in a community that has a active and OUT Trans family. Moving to Tacoma soon with the desire to reconnect with the LGBTQ community in general. I did meet Ethan earlier this year and the conversation helped me to realize that living as a senior OUT transwoman in North Central Washington was not the way I wanted to spend my remaining years. The feeling was very much like starting my transition 23 years ago when I decided I could no longer live as a male. Oh Yes, filtered sunlight energizes me espically in a diverse urban enviroment."

"Thank you to all the individuals who bravely chose to share their stories!"

"My heart goes out for the struggle that transgendered people go through."

"I absolutely LOVE it!"

"The photography was very moving! And, like I see in so many of my peers, having gone through transition makes us stronger. Thank you all for sharing with everyone."

"I am continually wowed at the strength of the trans community. It is a strength to be proud of and to cultivate. I am an ally who would love to learn more about the amazing people who make up the trans community, their experiences and their stories. This exhibit was very thought-provoking. Thank you all for sharing! "

"Thank you for being you! Facing our anima/animus is the hardest thing one can ever do but we can never be complete without it -- so implied Carl Jung."

"This is amazing, I'm incredibly thankful for everyone who shared their stories, and I have nothing but the utmost respect."

"I really want to work to empower and spread the word about transgender-ism in the South Sound. I believe we have a very unique culture down here that should be celebrated."

"These individuals are to be commended for having the courage to come out. Some may have taken longer than they would have liked but by doing so they can serve as inspiration for others who may be struggling within and help them to take steps earlier. We are all a part of this journey called life."

"I like the idea. It's truly great."

"Beautiful pictures, beautiful stories, beautiful people."

I appreciate all of you sharing your stories and experiences - thank you for being open and honest about the journeys you've been on. Kudos!

"I have friends who are transgender. This helped me understand them better."

"I learned that no matter what you come out as, the process is still hard. I, personally, am a pansexual lesbian, and it takes time to dig deep enough and figure out the feelings that you couldn't discuss with anyone else. I found this exhibit inspiring."

"Good way to spread awareness. Keep up the much needed work."

"Very offensive. I'm tired of it being put in my face all the time."

The amazing photographs and different locals around Tacoma caught my eye. The photos are great!

As a woman's and gender studies major at PLU I want to learn, experience, and advocate for all beings!

"Sharon Z's story proves that faith is never an excuse for cruelty. Bless all of you brave people on the wall."

"This is a gift to all of us to explore growing in confronting personal stereotypes and connecting to our communities."

"Really enjoyed all the pics and stories."

"Take them down."

"Thank you for representing trans folk and all the great outreach."

"Really enjoyed the pics and stories."

"Thanks for the exhibit! I think more exposure and discussion for this topic is positive for communities."

"Right on!"

"LOVE"

"Fantastic exhibit. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us."

"It makes me happy to see people being who they are. If only everyone had such courage."

"Inspiring stories and beautiful art combine to create the opportunity to learn more about our neighbors. Thank you."

"Put the historic pictures back up."

"Thank you for your courage and wisdom. I learned so much."

"I support the Transgender Alliance. Death to the Horde!"

"I am a straight ally and am inspired by this presentation. End the hate!"

"Stupid liberals."

"Thanks for coming, and keep up the good work."

"This is an excellent firsthand expression of what it is to be all kinds of transgender. I found it to be very insightful, although brief. I AM proud to personally know most of these people, and be part of the community. This effort is a great example of community outreach."

"I was quite moved by the stories and courage of the people portrayed in the exhibit."

"God bless you all."

"Where is the wall for the proud heterosexuals?"

"This art project is about transgenders, not homosexuals. Their sexual orientation has nothing to do with it. Your comment is not relevant."

"People living their lives happy and fulfilled. How is that ugly?"

"Thank you for sharing your stories and teaching us to be better."

"I greatly appreciate all of you and what I learned. Proud to be an ally."

"This is a great snapshot of these individuals - it helps to make this experience real."

"Thanks for your words of wisdom. Go allies."

"Be kind to others and true to yourself are the messages I see coming through this exhibit. I want to thank all the participants for a wonderful presentation, and for sharing those most intimate details of their lives."

"The pictures are beautiful, the stories insightful and inspiring. Thank You!"

"This ia a gift to all of us to explore growing in confronting personal stereotypes and connecting to our communties."

"Good people are what matter in this life. Kudos to all you brave people for sharing and teaching."

"Beautiful pictures."

"The stories behind the pictures are what makes them beautiful, inspiring and courageous."

"This exhibit helps me realize I am not alone....... I live in Sweden, small country with tight acceptance!"

"Being gay, I understand having to live in a world in which you are very different. I'm happy being male, and I'm expanding my understanding of the world by listening to people who need to be more than what their bodies allow. I'm learning that just the body fails to completely define a person."

"The personal stories are like that Roberta Flack song: Killing Me Softly With His Song. Thank-you for sharing Peace."

"I thank you for your hard work and I thank each person willing to share their story. It seems through ostracism by others and deep searching within, these people have found something very special in their lives. I applaud them."

"Beautiful and inspiring photos and stories. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and lives. You're a vital part of our Tacoma community."

"Fantastic exhibit! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. "

"Right on!"

"Thanks for the exhibit. I think more exposure and discussion for this topic is positive for communities."

"This exhibit is racist and erases the bodies, narratives and lives of trans people of color. Shame on you for creating this mess. This does not reflect our community and we will not stand for it."

"This display is a complete and utter disgrace to the transgender community as a whole. It is incredible to me that this display, whether implicitly or explicitly, erases brown and black bodies. The display also defines gender in an entirely biological essentialist way and perpetuates incorrect knowledge about transgender individuals. I have worked in transgender rights, education, advocacy, and legal work for three to four years and almost all of this is work that I would be ashamed to produce. It is literally unfathomable to me that you could not include even one token black trans person at the very bare minimum. It is almost statistically incredible that you had the ability to include few to NO black or brown trans people. As a transgender person of color living and working and fighting for visibility right here in Tacoma, I cannot believe that such a huge oversight has been made. It is completely and entirely offensive to me both personally, and professionally. So much of the information set forth in this is completely outdated by most standards and it is as if no one who is nonbinary or any trans youth had anything to do with the production of this. Almost all of the language used is problematic language I have been working to undo with groups of people learning to be better allies to trans and nonbinary people. I almost cannot believe that any of the organizations on this project are contemporary organizations working with transgender community members. I guess I might have a different expectation coming from a different city, but clearly trans organizers and educators are on a higher level in other cities. I was almost speechless when I was sent this project via a friend. I am actually beyond "disappointed" and more enraged and confused at how a coalition of "gender" or "transgender" organizations could put on such a cissexist, gender essentialist, and racist display for the consumption of cis people. I literally cannot even believe you're calling this some kind of "biological phenomenon." Also so much of this display is literally incorrect. Joan of Arc was NOT a trans person despite her adamant cross-gender dress. It is a well known academic fact that neither queer nor transgender identities should be projected through historical contexts because there was never a conception of a true queer OR transgender identity. You are literally projecting a trans identity on to this historical figure who just cross-dressed for varying reasons. There is no understanding of historical context. You can't just displace people in time like that. Aside from the fact that cross-dressing is literally not the same as being transgender which you would know if you didn't have such a weird essentialist idea of what transgender identity is. I just also literally don't even know why you WOULD choose Joan of Arc even if she WAS transgender. She literally still would not be the most famous transgender person in history. I have respect for each of these individuals' identities and stories but I have zero, no I have negative respect for this project. Not only is it essentialist and disgusting in the way that gender identity and trans identity is displayed, but it is also completely erasing of the fact that black and brown transgender people exist and face much more discrimination and hardship at the intersections of their identities. Not to mention that this project was just done poorly. Overall, I would call of the immediate disposal of this project and an apology. It is shameful for your organizations to even put this forth as something that you are proud to have your names and logos on. If I was organizing or working at an organization that thought this was good work, I would almost definitely walk out the door and quit."

REPLY TO THE TWO COMMENTS ABOVE: Get a grip. Come out of your eggheaded cocoon and figure out who your friends are. Learn more about how this project came to be before you start throwing around very serious accusations. We tried hard to find trans people of color to be included. We found no takers in our community. And that's certainly understandable. MOST of the members of GASS did not want to out themselves in this very public way, and trans persons of color often have an even more difficult and dangerous situations at home than do white trans people. So we were left with the proposition of either dropping the project, or proceeding with the few brave souls (out of over 100 GASS members) who were willing to put themselves out there for this exhibit. We chose to push forward with this important project. We never claim that this gallery is representative of the entire South Sound trans community, only that "These are some of your neighbors. There are many more out there. Get to know them." A lack of people of color participating in any particular endeavor does NOT make it racist. We have "erased the identities" of no trans people. Your snarky comments are beyond any semblance of reason. While you are learning about what is racist and what is not, you might also study a little biology and figure out how gender identity is either part of biology or it is a lifestyle choice, as the conservatives maintain (and you seem to concur). As to Joan of Arc, do you really believe that trans people didn't exist until the modern age? We are not "displacing her in time," we are simply recognizing the facticity of her personhood, which was loudly proclaiming her Gender Liberty! Sorry, there is no such "well known academic fact" that she was not transgender. Indeed, she displayed every sign of being what we, today, would call being transgender... it doesn't matter what they called it in her day (possesed by demons was one favorite). And if she was NOT the most famous trans person in history, who might that be, pray tell? Caitlin Jenner? So, since you are a trans person of color, we will certainly expect you to walk your talk and be sure to volunteer to be included in the next round of "T-Town Neighbors." Or, let's see you do something so much better (from your perspective, of course). Until then, you would be well advised to not be so quick to harshly condemn something someone else worked hard to create, that thousands of people have responded to positively, and to devalue both the important personal stories that are presented, as well as the philosophy of Gender Liberty, which apparently you don't seem to understand. Meanwhile, this is an Art Project, as well as sociological and political activism. The fact that it deeply messed with your minds shows that the goal of any true art has been accomplished! -- Editor

"GASS friends: calling people harmed by the whiteness of the exhibit names doesn't help. While the erasure (unintentional or not, their lives aren't included in the exhibit and therefore invisible, much like the almost complete erasure of POC in TAM's Art/AIDS/America exhibit) of TPOC depicts a miss on the part of the creators, and a flaw in what could be a vitally important piece of social art, rather than reacting with scorn to being called out maybe you should check yourself, explore why TPOC might not have chosen to be involved with this project, and explore the role of whiteness and white privilege in our GLBTQ+ communities. When I've attended GASS related events, it's been a very, very white group. Yet most of the Trans* folks I know in the south sound are people of color. Rather than reacting with name-calling, defensiveness, and classic white fragility, why don't you try reflecting on what's missing from the exhibit, who is missing from your group, and then try to begin conversation. "Egghead coccoon" is at best a fourth grade insult, and in a country fully marked by white power and racism to throw insults at TPOC for claiming their voice in the face of the exhibit's erasure/absence/lack/whatever word works for you to hear it/etc. only serves to reify the racist systems in which we all swim. Please, grow up."

Well you hit the nail on the head when you say that GASS meetings are a "very, very white group." No doubt about that. They question is: Why? Blacks make up nearly 8 percent of Pierce County's population, and Latinos are another 10 percent or so (still only a total of around 17%, so your claim that most of the trans people you know are people of color speaks to your insulation from exposure to the much wider local trans community). From these numbers, we should have better representation at the county's leading trans group (easily found on Google) from our black and brown sisters, brothers and allies who are truly interested in making friends, building bridges, and working together for common cause. As you know if you have been to a GASS meeting, we are a very, very welcoming group. We would love to have more black and brown attendees, whether trans or ally. In the main, they don't show up (we do have a few irregular attendees). So it was no huge surprise when, likewise, we got no positive response from the black or brown trans community (though I believe Lukas is of mixed Latino heritage) for our open invitation to any trans person to be included this exhibit. However, unlike the previous two complainers who obviously did not know these facts, YOU are aware of them, and STILL choose to spit upon this exhibit which is simply an effort to help trans people - ALL trans people. So what you are saying is that we have an open, loving invitation for black and brown people to join our important GASS efforts; they don't choose to participate, ergo we are racist. Sweet logic! Sorry, but that understanding is in error. This exhibit in no way resembles the TAM exhibit, which had every opportunity to include a wider diversity, but purposefully chose not to. Our situation was the reverse, we sought wider participation but did not receive it. NO ONE WAS "ERASED" OR "HARMED" by the "whiteness" of this exhibit, except those who harm themselves by their own "name-calling, defensiveness and fragility," to use your terms. I would add also, they are harmed perhaps even more so by their shallow sense of self... anyone who thinks of themselves as primarily defined by their skin color rather than their deeper humanity and inclusion in different and wider struggles against unfairness and violence of many sorts is already deformed and weak (not to mention falling into the very same fallacy of which they accuse their oppressors). So follow your own advice, and "grow up." To turn upon and bite your sister trans activists for your own community's declining to join the project is not only wrong but self-defeating. We are both oppressed minorities (though we trans-folk would LOVE to have the civil rights and social acceptance of black folks!), and should be comrades in arms, celebrating our differences but focusing on our shared humanity, coming together in solidarity against a common foe: injustice and inequality. But here is a small cadre of confused, well-meaning but ultra sensitive and aggressive individuals, unknowing and/or uncaring of the real facts of this story, unknowing and/or uncaring of the heart and soul of the people behind this project, selfishly obsessed (it's all about ME and MINE!), deflecting their time and energy from opposing true injustice and oppession, and instead attacking their own kin in this particular struggle. Fracturing our community from the inside... that's a strategy for losers, but oh, so lovely for the oppressors! -- Editor

"Dear Artists and Participants in the T Town Neighbors Project, I am a nonbinary-identified, disabled person of color. GASS helped to save my partner's life, and has been welcoming to me at the few meetings I've been able to attend. I think the T-Town Neighbors exhibit is beautiful and important, and the controversy over it saddens me. That said, I think that some elements of the exhibit, and particularly the response to critique, may unintentionally alienate some people who come from backgrounds like my own. My exposure to GASS has been limited to a few meetings, but very positive overall. I do not claim to be deeply involved, and I do not want to overstep any boundaries. I simply desire that the beautiful, daring T-Town Neighbors project should not be negatively impacted by the controversy over inclusion, so I decided to reach out to you. What I have to say is complex and may be painful to hear; please bear with me, and understand that it comes from a place of the utmost respect. First, I feel that the language used by some of the critics of the exhibit has been reprehensible. These folks disregard the artists' and promoters' honest intentions, ignore the merits of the work, and stoop to personal attacks. They've called for the outright censorship of a piece they disagree with, rather than engaging in productive debate of offering collaboration. That is absolutely wrong. However, I see something troubling in the artists' and promoters' responses, as well. In the longest critical letter posted on this site, the writer claimed to be a trans person of color, and I believe them. I imagined the following hypothetical scenario: A young person of color, say, a black, gender non-conforming student, hears about a trans-positive exhibit on display at their university library. They are excited to see it, hoping to find some message that will help them feel included and accepted. When they reach the exhibit, they do not see a face like theirs. They've been seeing faces like theirs in the news, in reports of brutal attacks, in reports of murders. They know that people of color are more likely to be victimized. They know that, as a person of color, they are particularly at risk. They know that, by living entirely outside the binary, they forfeit their chance at the relative safety of passing. They bring this knowledge with them to the UWT library-this knowledge isn't something they choose to carry, but there it is, an ugly, inescapable knowledge imposed by the world they live in. This person stands in front of T-Town Neighbors, and looks, and reads. In the exhibit before them, curly hair is missing. Dark skin is missing. Much of the biographical text articulates a more or less binary-conforming narrative. Of course, all the identities included in the project are valid and beautiful; these brave people who've participated deserve celebration. Still, not much here allows our hypothetical student to feel included. Did the makers of the exhibit harm this young person intentionally? Certainly not. Did the makers of the exhibit take any action to harm this person? No. In fact, it is the murderers, the bigots, the complacent and the hateful and the ignorant and cruel who bear the blame; they harm this young person by shaping the world. Hate is to blame. Art is not at fault, not even a little bit. However, I think there are other important questions, beyond issues of blame: Has this exhibit done this young person harm? I can speak from experience; I can tell you how deeply it hurts to hope for inclusion as you enter a supposedly positive space, only to feel pushed out when you find you are not represented as a non-binary person, as a person of color, as a disabled person. It brings despair. I'll say that again, because this is the heart of the matter: it brings despair. Yes, the exhibit _has_ harmed this person, albeit without any intention, without any wrongdoing on the part of the artist. The most vital questions of all: Can the harm be healed? Yes, probably. Who can heal the harm? The makers of the exhibit can heal it, the promoters can heal it, GASS can heal it, even though they are not at fault. How can they heal it? By ignoring the heated language and seeing through to the desperate need for inclusion that lies at the heart of their critics' plea. The makers and promoters of the art can heal the harm by actively, patiently learning from critique, by being the bigger person even when the critics are not civil. The makers can heal the harm, even though the harm done is systemic and therefore unintentional, and even though the critics also did harm in their excessive reaction. A sincere apology and a commitment to working toward greater inclusivity would in no way compromise either the art-makers or the art. Rather, these actions might make space for reconciliation and dialogue, albeit probably at the expense of the artists' pride. It can be painful to apologize when no harm was intended, but to do otherwise is, in fact, to silence those people who (aggressively and ungraciously, but nonetheless sincerely) raised their voices. To end the conversation at a mutually defensive stalemate would be to silence not only those few outspoken critics, but also many other TPOC and non-binary/gender-non-conforming individuals who may have felt similarly excluded. Many of us don't speak up; for survival's sake, we have learned to keep quiet. I understand that you sought to include people of color among the project's portraits. It is not surprising to me that most declined, given the brutal climate in the broader culture; this is absolutely not your fault as artists and promoters of art. Still, to be perfectly honest, it troubles me that no mention of the issue was made in the exhibit. Might it have been possible to include a blank portrait or question mark, and to describe the difficulty the artists had in finding people of color who felt safe to participate? Was there not some way to include some discussion of the impossibility, for many trans people of color, of achieving safety and visibility sufficient that they _could_ participate? This omission, while no doubt innocent in intention, does give an impression of some degree of complacency, an acceptance of the status quo regarding TPOC visibility. While I do not doubt your positive intentions, I can certainly see why some viewers of the exhibit would take issue with the execution of the piece as presented. I wish the critics had approached the issues in civil terms, but they chose not to. In any case, it now falls to the artists to rise above the troubling level of the current discourse. Sometimes we need to apologize for harm done, even if we were not primarily at fault. Sometimes we should swallow our pride and seek to make amends, if doing so will make the world better for the people who most need it. Sometimes this requires superhuman humility and generosity, but if it could be done in this case, I think it could do tremendous good. I believe in your mission, your intentions, and the T-Town Neighbors project. However, the artists' responses posted on the project website, had they been my only exposure to GASS's mission, would have made me feel profoundly unwelcome. I have to say that a real sense of alienation was, at least for me, the overall effect of the limited POC visibility in the project and the angry, dismissive tone of the replies to critique. As an artist myself, I understand the profound sting when a heartfelt piece has unintended effects, and I sympathize with Irielle D and Annie R; it must have been a very bitter pill to swallow, and I'm sorry you had to go through that. I absolutely condemn the language used by the overly aggressive critics, and I understand why you'd be angry in response. With all that said, as a trans person of color and a supporter of GASS and the T-Town Neighbors project, I encourage all involved to rethink your approach to this ongoing problem. Even though you do not intend harm, and even though your critics are behaving unreasonably, I fear that if you continue on your current course you will alienate people like me. I wish each of you all the best, both personally and with the project. Thank you for your attention and patience. I respect whatever course you choose, and I stand in full support of your intentions.

Thanks for your support, and the idea to incorporate a blank portrait as a stand-in for trans people of color until we have our first actual volunteer is brilliant! That blank portrait could stand for not just the black and brown faces, but the teenagers, children, elder seniors, Muslim, disabled and more overtly queer trans people who also suffer from their own, unique forms of discrimination, danger and lack of power, but are not specifically featured in the exhibit. As we have done from the project's inception, we encourage ANY local trans persons to step forward and share their stories to make this exhibit more complete, as much for their own benefit as for those others who may feel disappointed by its lack of racial diversity. Only by participating and working together can we ever hope to present projects such as this that more accurately reflect our truly diverse community and its multiplicity of issues. Standing aloof and watching from the sidelines defeats communication and communion, increasing the likelihood of us not fully understanding your concerns, and setting up the self-fulfilling prophecy of YOU not being represented in such projects. As to apologies, we certainly extend our regret to anyone who felt that they were left out of the exhibit; such was certainly not our intent. Our intent is to help ALL trans people EVERYWHERE. -- Editor

"Beautiful exhibit. Let's not make this all about race."

"Thumbs up!"

"Love it! Beautiful pictures and stories."

"These people's stories are incredible. Very encouraging. What a great exhibit!"

"My daughter told me there is a transgender child in her 4th grade class. I was so proud and impressed with the support the kids are giving her. Awesome to see the acceptance of the next generation."

"We are not all the same for a reason. When we passed the gay marriage law we also passed a law that made it okay for transgender and other disorders to be viewed as acceptable. Differences in gender should be applauded and moving toward a genderless society is NOT OKAY. "

"To be born one way and then want to be classified another way used to be called a 'DISORDER.' Now our society rationalizes and seeks to normalize all behaviors. To born with a disorder in no way minimizes an individual's rights, values or self-worth. However, disorders and behaviors different from the normal should not be promoted as the norm. Differences in sex should be EMBRACED not ERASED."

To the two commentors above. First we are accused of trying to erase race, and now gender. Well, we are stirring up conversation, so that's good. But transgender people coming out is "erasing" gender?" Wow, we are surely powerful, aren't we? The precise opposite is usually the case with most transgender people. Most trangender people emphatically embrace the differences and are not in any way interested in erasing them. They celebrate the genders, and only want to be able to BE the gender they feel they should regardless of what their biological sex markers may be. The last thing they want is a "genderless" society. Many fully accept the gender duality, and wish to participate in it. There are also many trans people to whom gender is anything but a duality; it is a rainbow, and they wish to interact with the world from their own, colorful blend of masculine and feminine energy and perceptions. And there are a few transgender people for whom gender is not that important, and should not override all of the other aspects of our personhood (after all, we have 23 sets of chromosomes, only one of which is devoted to sexual biology). Each of these different ways of being trans should be allowed and respected. All of this is Gender Liberty, and (just like gay marriage) in no way truly affects cisgender people (other than providing a far more interesting cultural tapestry while lessening the overall angst in the world). And YES anyone standing against transgender people and calling this a disorder (a claim now discredited by both medical and psychological professionals, as well as law) IS minimizing an individual's rights, values and self-worth. Meanwhile, the notion that behavior that is "different from the normal" should not be viewed as "acceptable" is a very dangerous belief system, a slippery slope to rote conformity, intolerance and oppression. If that philosophy had been followed we would still live in a society of slaves, extreme prejudice, misogyny and violence, ruled by kings. -- Editor

"What strong, beautiful, proud people!"

"We are changing the Norms!"

"Great artwork. Truly captures their beauty. The stories are a great addition to the art pieces."

"It would be more impactful with suicde and assault statistics. Trans is beautiful!"

"We celebate that more diversified communited have emerged since this project was created over six years ago."

"History unfolds before us as contention and striving for equality with inclusivity becomes forthcoming and apparent."

"You are beautiful. Your pain is legitimate and your perspectives must be falidated. Raise your voice, chlalenge your oppression and share your stories with this community. I, for one, will listen. "

"When you see the additional 2nd rainbow emerge in our NW skies, consider that gender diversity and variances are transcendent among the spectrum of humanity."

ENTER THE EXHIBIT