Black transgender individuals are one of the most vulnerable populations in the United States, but even at a time of heightened awareness of systemic racism and violence, their voices are often sidelined. Groups like the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition (BTAC) — the only national organization led by Black trans and gender nonconforming people addressing the inequities faced by the community — are in urgent need of support.
Now through June 17, New York gallery Gordon Robichaux is donating the proceeds from sales of six silkscreened bandanas to BTAC. The brilliantly-hued, 22-by-22-inch bandanas were co-published with Post Present Medium and feature designs by gallery artists and collaborators Leilah Babirye, Matt Connors, Otis Houston Jr., Elisabeth Kley, Matt Paweski, and Tabboo!. At $30 each, they also offer an affordable but meaningful opportunity to aid in BTAC’s efforts.
Jacob Robichaux, who co-founded the gallery along with Sam Gordon, said the bandana project evolved out of the pandemic and the immediate need for face coverings. Artist and musician Dean Spunt, whose record label Post Present Medium had just released a vinyl album with one of the gallery’s artists, Otis Houston Jr., had access to his family’s silkscreen shop in LA. The collaborators quickly came together to produce the first batch.
“The bandanas exceeded our expectations — they’re like works of art for the face, pocket, or wall,” Robichaux told Hyperallergic. “In speaking with the artists we realized it’s the perfect opportunity to create a fundraiser to raise money for the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition (BTAC). We’ve invited 12 more artists to create designs, which we’ll be releasing throughout the summer.”
Established in 2011, BTAC’s mission is to “help improve the Black trans human experience.” With affiliate state chapters nationwide, the organization battles transphobia in health, employment, housing, and education. Trans people face pervasive inequities and discrimination in these and other areas of life, particularly since there is no comprehensive non-discrimination law that includes gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
The fundraiser is in resonance with the Black Lives Matter movement at the heart of ongoing demonstrations against anti-Black racism and police brutality. Among the memorialized names of those who have been killed at the hands of police or vigilantes, such as George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, are those of transgender people who have been erased and often misgendered: Tony McDade, a Black transgender man shot and killed by police in Tallahassee; Iyanna Dior, a transgender woman who was beaten by a mob at a convenience store in St. Paul; and countless others.
It is also a response to the global health crisis unleashed by coronavirus, which has disproportionately affected people of color. Trans people, already suffering from poor access to health care and chronic unemployment, will be devastated by both limited job options and increased stigma within the medical system. Since the onset of the pandemic, BTAC has convened a volunteer team, distributed free care packages with personal protective and preventive equipment, and launched a COVID-19 Community Response Grant Program to help ease the burdens that weigh heavily on Black trans people.
Gordon Robichaux and Post Present Medium’s initiative will directly support these and other efforts by the organization. The bandanas can be purchased on Post Present Medium’s website (direct donations to BTAC can be made here.)