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TCG Launches Funding Program for Trans Women of Color

The new initiative will give unrestricted funds to 5 trans women of color in the performing arts and theatre.

NEW YORK CITY: Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theatre and the publisher of American Theatre, has announced the launch of the Funds for the Dolls: Elevating Trans Women of Color in the Performing Arts and Theatre. In its pilot round, Funds for the Dolls will award grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 to at least five trans women of color (TWOC) in the performing arts and theatre and “uplift their joy, artistry, audacity, and tenacity,” according to a statement. Funds for the Dolls will invest in TWOC looking to develop their artistry further and who have a commitment to their craft. The Fund is being led internally by TCG board members Merrique Jenson and Qween Jean, with Monica Beverly Hillz (activist, model and All Star from RuPaul’s Drag Race) as ambassador. The unrestricted funds can be used for anything, including a performing arts project, essential needs such as shelter, or the recipient’s gender-affirming care.

“The Funds for Dolls will support and uplift our sisters, especially those who have used survival sex work and other forms of hustle to establish their performance art or break into the theatre world,” said Merrique Jenson, vice chair of TCG’s board, founder and executive director of Transformations, and director of SocialScope Productions, in a statement. “The Fund For Dolls knows that a community showcase is theatre, a communal ritual is theatre, performance art is theatre, a drag show is theatre, and sex work is theatre. Trans women of color have been leading the way with their artistry for generations, and this is just the beginning of TCG honoring and supporting that work.”

Qween Jean, Merrique Jenson, and Monica Beverly Hillz at the TCG gala in March. (Photo by Catalin Media)

“I was honored to be asked by Merrique and Qween Jean to serve as an ambassador for Funds for the Dolls,” said Monica Bevery Hillz in a statement. “Merrique and Qween Jean have been creating spaces of belonging for trans women of color, place where we can love ourselves and reach our full potential. I know the Funds for the Dolls will have a similar impact, because when the girls get the support we deserve, there’s nothing we can’t do.”

“TCG’s mission is to lead for a just and thriving theatre ecology, and that means centering those most impacted by systemic oppression,” said Karena Fiorenza, interim chief executive officer, TCG, in a statement. “While Funds for the Dolls acknowledges the reality of that oppression, we’re focused on uplifting trans joy, abundance, and artistry, and backing that commitment with financial resources. That means putting money in the pockets of TWOC and trusting they know best how to use it. We’re deeply grateful for the leadership of and partnership with Merrique and Qween Jean in building this program, and honored to have Monica serving as the program’s ambassador.”

This program aims to uplift BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) trans women in the U.S. theatre and recognize their work to create a better, more equitable theatrical landscape. In addition to the unrestricted funds, TCG will provide national visibility across their communications channels, including this magazine.

The application process for Funds for the Dolls will unfold over the following timeline:

  • Fri., June 14, 4-5 p.m. ET: Info session (register here)
  • Tues., June 25-Fri., Jun 28, 3-6 p.m. ET: Ask the Dolls (one-on-one office hours) (register here)
  • Fri., July 5, 11:59 p.m. ET: Application deadline
  • Mon., Aug. 5: Applicant notification
  • Mon., Aug. 12-Tues., Aug. 13: Final interviews

Funds for the Dolls is intended to honor the many cultural contributions of trans women of color and to support them in whatever they need to thrive while also pushing back against the record levels of hostile legislation and systemic violence they face. While there are some funding sources for trans artists, there are very few grants specific for trans women, let alone trans women of color, in U.S. theatre. Funders and donors interested in supporting the growth of Funds for the Dolls should contact Danika Tablante, TCG’s Institutional Philanthropy Manager, at dtablamnte@tcg.org.

In alignment with their mission to support the leadership development and capacity building for trans women of color, Transformations—a trans-led Midwest- and Ozark-based organization—is a proud strategic partner in this new initiative. Many of the women leading Transformations have deep connections to performing arts, storytelling, media & entertainment, and sex worker rights advocacy. Learn more here: https://transformationskc.org/ 

Funds for the Dolls is part of TCG’s commitment, made in their 2020 strategic plan, to center BIPOC theatre artists, organizations, and communities, with specific attention to LGBTQI+ and disability identities within these communities. Over the past few years, that commitment has been operationalized across TCG’s programs and services, including “Trans Voices Lead the Way,” a dedicated issue of American Theatre; roundtables with transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) theatre workers; advocacy to end anti-trans legislation; and convening sessions created with and for TGNC people. This commitment will continue to expand programmatically going forward.

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