“Art can speak for itself, if you let it.”
Growing up, most trans people that I saw on TV or in movies were jokes—freaks that the rest of the world got to gawk at and laugh at. That has begun to change over the years. We are in an age when trans people are being recognized as full, complete human beings. But we’re still just being added as a subtotal to someone else’s conversation by placing BIPOC TGNC folks in roles that were traditionally created for cis-het white folks. We see it everywhere: Mary Jane in Spider-Man, as played by Zendaya, and MJ Rodriguez in Little Shop of Horrors—but these are still roles that did not and do not completely embody the full spectrum of what it means to be a Black TGNC person. We are taking up the small spaces the industry is willing to give us in order to make money off of our backs and continue to receive their ongoing accolades. We need to see stories created for us and by us in order to actually feel a part of this industry right now. Retroactively putting us in their stories feels like a strategic move—one that does not center or uplift the Black/brown/trans artists being placed into these roles.
Do you think this “small step” is enough?
Artist’s bio: My name is Wriply Marie Bennet (she/her/hers/queen/goddess/sister/my liege). I’m a proud self-taught illustrator, activist/organizer, born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember. As an artist, my work expresses the perseverance, power, strength, resilience, grace, and beauty of Black trans women, femmes, and other queer/trans people of color, and sheds light on my community crying out for recognition and justice. My art has been used in numerous social justice flyers, fundraisers, online gallery shows, and citywide campaigns, and made its film debut in Major!, a documentary at the 2015 San Francisco Transgender Film Festival. My work has also been used in the documentary The Whistle and a docuseries featured on the SyFy network’s Looking for Leia. My art continues to capture the imagination and endless potential of my community, while encouraging our younger generation to dream.
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