What better way to portray the beauty and strength of trans women and trans feminine people than to create an actual artistic exhibition? So thought 21-year-old artist Catherine Tyler Graffam when she decided to undertake a series of portraits that highlighted close friends and other individuals who were using crowdfunding platforms to “make it through dire financial situations, fund their transitions, or help make their projects a reality.”
In a survey on issues that affect the transgender community by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, respondents were nearly four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000, compared to the general population, and were unemployed at nearly twice the rate of the general population, often due to stigma and discrimination. “I didn’t feel that just painting trans women was doing enough,” Graffam said in an e-mail. “I see it to be unethical to profit off the image and stories of others. I also had seen so many of my friends and other trans women on the Internet have crowdsourcing campaigns go massively unfunded.” So Graffam began a portrait series that will directly benefit the people portrayed.
Graffam’s subjects include Rebecca Reyfuse, who is raising money for Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS), and Venus Thomas Hinyard, a DC-based artist, advocate, and performer who is raising money for rent and other necessities as she searches for work and returns to school. Venus is also working on her first book of poetry, which she intends to self-publish. The funding campaigns of other subjects are not currently open to the public.
Graffam, who has had exhibitions throughout New Hampshire and in Montreal, intends to exhibit the portraits at a gallery in March 2016. A portion of the proceeds from artwork sold will go to the trans women and trans feminine people whom the works depict. Graffam is a student at the New Hampshire Institute of Art; her artwork can be seen at catherinegraffam.com.
Image: Marley and Me (it is what it is) by Catherine Graffam