Transgender. Two Spirit. Non-binary. Gender non-conforming. Gender fluid. There are many terms and lived experiences of we who exist outside gender norms. Though these terms may be new to some, our existence is not new. We have always been here. In fact, all of the first nations communities indigenous to Madison, (Winnebago, Kiikaapoi, Oceti Sakowin, and Sauk) included and often revered people who existed beyond the gender binary as leaders.
In the last 20 years transgender rights have begun moving forward. And yet, we face threatening backlash by lawmakers who seek to remove our access to shelters, healthcare, safe workplaces, athletics, and even restrooms. Often the people who are most harmed by these systemic injustices are those who find themselves at the intersections of racism, sexism and transphobia. Black trans women in particular face extreme violence, making up more than 80% of those who are murdered each year just for existing in their truth.
In We Have Always Been Here the artist shares portraits of three sacred transgender and nonbinary leaders. Often overlooked, he knows transgender wisdom and experience is invaluable. His goal in sharing these three images is to amplify each of their messages. With their strong presence and message they actively work to create a better world every day. He hopes to give the viewer pause to contemplate the beauty and power in their presence and the infinite possibility in all of us, if we lived with their courageous integrity. The title of each piece includes the individual’s first name, location, and @ Instagram handle which the artist encourages people to follow in order to learn more about each person depicted.