Collaborative art piece memorializes transgender people

By Ashley Dwy

DeKALB — “Trans people deserve respect, whether a person understands or not.”

“You can be trans and embrace your ethnic and racial heritage.”

“I will support trans people by using their pronouns and unlearning the harmful behavior of making assumptions based on appearance or name.”

These are just some of the messages left by students on the leaves and rocks for the Transgender Week of Remembrance’s collaborative art piece resembling a tree.

Students are able to stop by the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at any time from now until Nov. 22 to contribute to this collaborative art piece, a tree with paper leaves and rocks at the bottom of its vase. Students wrote notes on a paper leaf and attach it to the tree, or write a note on a rock and drop it in the vase.

The collaborative art project this year is intended to give space to process some of the hardships transgender people face, so that people can write or draw messages of support and resilience in response to these challenging topics and feelings, Pen Novus, student organizer, said.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed annually on Nov. 20. This day honors the memory of transgender people who lost their lives due to hate crimes, according to the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center’s informational sheet.

For anyone who may know someone who lost their life due to a hate crime, the project’s goal is to provide comfort and space for those to say what they need to, Novus said.

“I think a lot of the time when we talk about Trans Day or Trans Remembrance, it’s for a very sad reason,” Ariel Owens, assistant director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, said. “Often, we’re memorializing people who have been hurt or murdered due to violence against trans people. So, I think the reason this project is so important is because it’s this beautiful piece of art that you look at; the leaves are filled with positive messages and affirmations and support.”

This project is centered around the collaboration of everyone, primarily those who are transgender, but also for those who are cisgender allies.

“Oftentimes, marginalized groups can feel like they have no one,” Trevon Smith, president of media club, said. “This collaborative art piece shows that we can come together and support one another.”

By writing affirmations and support on a leaf or on a rock for this project, students can demonstrate allyship, Owens said.

“When there’s so much negativity, it can be easy to dwell,” Owen said. “As an ally, when we can bring more support and joy and reminders that we see people and we value them, I think we should take those opportunities.”

Although this event is for both trans allies and trans people, it’s important for non-trans people to give trans people the space they need this week, Smith said.

“It’s good to make sure that we’re centering around trans people and that we don’t take up any space as supporters of trans people,” Smith said. “We need to give trans people their space and time this week.”