Portrait project features trans women killed in hate crimes.
We love the internet, obviously. We also love when we are on the internet and stumble on something beautiful. We came across Ms. Molly Steadman, she is a cis gendered queer gem, and we want you to know about her! Molly Steadman is a queer artist with a BFA in photography from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). She currently lives in Baltimore with her boyfriend, Jack, and their cat, Tiny, and is working as a social media specialist and aspiring graphic designer.
Molly created a lovely tribute to fallen Trans women who were killed in hate crimes. It is a touching art project and we wanted to chat with Molly and learn more about her!
Qu: Molly, you are a photographer and designer, have these always been your passion?
MS: I’ve been interested in photography for a really long time but have only recently begun exploring my interest in graphic design, although it’s something that has had a presence in my life for a long time- I’m a super visual person and have always thought about everything in terms of aesthetics, long before I even knew what that meant.
Qu: How did you get started?
MS: My parents are both architects and my dad is also a painter, so creativity was encouraged from a really young age. I went to MICA’s summer precollege program & decided from there that I wanted to go to MICA, and during my time there (2008-2012) I grew enormously as an artist and really focused on what I really wanted to do.
Qu: What are other creative avenues do you travel?
MS: As much as I’d like to be musically gifted, I am pretty much just a visual person, but I draw and paint as well as photograph and design.
Qu: We came across an art project of yours where you showcased drawn portraits of trans women who were killed as a result of a hate crime, what inspired you choose this project?
MS: My Women project started off as a class project during my last semester at MICA. Most queer people are aware of the epidemic of murders & violence against trans women- it happens a lot, almost exclusively to trans women of color. My goal in making the project, in addition to just making a memorial to honor the women, was to make a physical representation of each woman and present them all in a grid, so viewers would be confronted by the sheer number of people this has happened to.
Qu: How has this project been received?
MS: My project received a lot of attention, mostly from the Tumblr community, and the feedback I got was pretty black-and-white. Some people felt that I should not have created this project because I am a white cis woman and will never know or experience what it’s like to be a trans woman of color- and thus, this is not something I can make work about. Plenty of other people loved and appreciated it and were glad to see a memorial of those who have been lost. I was asked to present it at the My Queer Testimony exhibition at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in Manhattan this past summer and it was well-received there. Personally, I feel that since I have not made any monetary gain from this project, and since I am not speaking for any of the women depicted, just representing them, my project is acceptable even though I am white and cis, but as with anything, the politics of it are open to interpretation.
Qu: Have any of the families of the deceased seen your tribute?
MS: Not to my knowledge, although I would really like to hear their opinions if they were ever to come across it.
Qu: Why do you think transphobia is so rampant, not only in the straight community but within the LGBTQ community as well?
MS: Transphobia is rampant because lots of people hate what they don’t understand, and because everyone wants to believe that their struggle is the biggest struggle. Most of the issues that people who fall under the “LGB” categories are faced with are not ones that apply to trans people, and vice versa. For that reason, I am not a fan of the phrase “LGBTQ community”, because more often than not, cis gays and trans people don’t really function together as a community.
Qu: Have you seen any other artists you feel are approaching violence against trans women?
MS: Honestly (and unfortunately), not really. My experience at MICA was extremely cis/het-centric and queer and trans issues were virtually never discussed in any of my classes.
Qu: How did you come to get involved with Gender EDGE?
MS: Leah B, the person who created Gender EDGE, is in a rad band called Ex by V. that my boyfriend’s band plays shows with a lot. I attended my first gender EDGE show about a year ago and listened to amazing music & readings from trans and queer people. Leah’s energy and dedication is extremely inspiring; she is a force of nature. I am now involved in flyer & poster design for gender EDGE events.
Qu: Have you seen or experienced homophobia/transphobia first hand?
MS: My experiences as a white, femme queer woman are extremely privileged, especially since I am in a relationship with a man. Walking down the street, though we are both queer, we are read as a straight couple. However, I have seen plenty of transphobia directed at people who are very important to me, even from people within the “LGBT community” who I considered friends.
Qu: There’s a huge problem with the long tradition of gay cis culture celebrating the power of cis gendered women of color in entertainment (Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, etc) What do you suppose is the disconnect when it comes to showing the same “respect” towards trans* women of color?
MS: Trans women of color’s voices and presences are generally erased and ignored by cis queers and straight people, most likely for the same reason why they’re persecuted and murdered: ignorance. Because TWOC’s voices are silenced, it is ridiculous how many people simply have no idea what it means to be trans. People just have no idea what’s going on unless they’re explicitly paying attention. The media completely ignores trans people, for the most part.
Qu: What is your hope for this project?
MS: I plan to continue with this project; there have been several more murders of trans women since I completed the 20 portraits I currently have, and I want to continue to memorialize them, with the hope that people seeing this project will bring some more awareness to the issue and maybe take a very tiny step toward ending the murders?
Qu: Can you share any future projects in the works?
MS: Right now I am just trying to get a decent graphic design portfolio together. I’m in that post-college-graduation funk that most 20-somethings I know are also in: my college degree isn’t being super helpful in finding me a decent job in my field, unfortunately. I am also periodically working on posters and flyers for gender EDGE and different design projects for various queer bands.
We want to thank Molly for taking the time to chat with The Qu! It is true that our trans brothers and sisters are living in a marginalized world, and we want to help be there to propel their voices! If you are or know trans people doing awesome things please contact email@example.com and share with us!