Queer & Trans Artists of Color : Stories of Some of Our Lives
Interviews by Nia King
Co-edited by Jessica Glennon-Zukoff & Terra Mikalson
I first was introduced to the work of Nia King by my queer studies professor, Dr. Qwo-Li Driskill. Nia King is artist of many trades based in Oakland, California. She creates fabulous comics & zines, is the mind behind the hilarious short film about roommate hunting as a queer person of color, and is a published writer. But probably the role that has most drawn me to Nia King’s work is her role as a QTPOC art historian.
As Aurora Levins Morales says, “one of the first things a colonizing power or repressive regime does is attack the sense of history of those they wish to dominate” (The Historian as Curandera). This is why storytelling and preservation is such a crucial site of resistance. Through conducting interviews and then compiling them into the following book, Nia King is not only lifting up the work of QTPOC artists, but is preserving their stories as artists, people, and revolutionaries.
As a queer artist of color, Nia King, began the pursuit of documenting QTPOC artist stories in order to understand the strategies, challenges, and triumphs that artists like herself have faced in an attempt to “make it” in the art world. The result is a beautiful book that not only provides tactics for financially surviving as an artist, but also thriving as a queer and/or trans person of color in society that continually tries to control, contain, and erase QTPOC work and bodies . As Toi Scott points out in the foreword, ” gathering and sharing our stories – expressing our voices through art – is and always has been necessary for queer and trans people of color’s survival,” (pg. i).
The art of the interviewees in King’s book function not only as flourishing sites of resistance, but also as artifacts of preservation. As Lovemme Corazon vulnerably reveals,
“in the last year, there have been a lot of trans women of color who have been murdered and brutalized, and I know nothing about them besides what’s been reported on them. I wanted to write this book to give everyone a background on who I am, to let them know that being a trans woman of color is a dangerous thing to be in the United States. I thought ‘If I was ever murdered or if anything ever happened to me, I would want someone to know my story.’ I wanted to preserve my story. It was kind of just that I’m scared you know? I just want to be remembered , I guess. I don’t want my experience to be a secret,” (pg. 71).
It is the beginning of march. We are less than a quarter into the new year and already six trans women have been murdered in the United States for just being themselves. SIX. Corazon is right. I know nothing of these women’s stories. What they thought about on a day-to-day basis, what their dreams were, what was important to them. I wish I did. Art, even if it is not intentionally a memoir, like Corazon’s Book Truama Queen, still functions the way that a memoir does. Art reveals someone’s soul; their story. As June Jordan says, “you cannot write lies, and write good poetry,” but I would challenge that statement and say you cannot create lies and create good art. In a world were queer and trans people of color face extreme barriers, violence, and police brutality systematically, I believe to create art is an incredibly brave and revolutionary thing. It is a tangible testament, I AM HERE, I AM IMPORTANT, I AM ALIVE. LISTEN TO ME. And that is what makes this book (and all the art created by the contained artists) inherently political. It is political because they are creating visibility, depth, and truth in society that functions at their erasure. As Toi Scott says at the end the foreword, “For queer and trans people of color, art isn’t a frivolous upper-class entertainment. Our writing, performances, and visual art are in keeping with the tradition of our predecessors who used stories to share knowledge, heal trauma, and envision liberation,” (pg. iv).
The most important thing we can do to make sure that this work exists, and continues to exist, is to invest in its creation; support the work, and thus the lives of QTPOC artists. As Virgie Tovar says in her interview,
“When we don’t pay artists, we sentence ourselves to a life where there won’t be art by people of color, by queers, by women, and we know that it’s a struggle and critique and understanding and resilience that creates fantastic art. When the people who are experiencing those things aren’t creating work, we lose things as a culture. We lose things as a species.
I want to see art that fucking rocks my world. I want to see art that makes me cry. I want to see art that makes me think. I know who’s making that art and they’re not getting paid That means they’re not going to be able to continue to make that shit, and that’s not a life I want to be apart of. Paying artists ends up being this reinvestment in a future I want to see,” (pg. 151).
So do yourself the immense favor. Buy this book. Hell, by multiple copies and send them to friends, families, community members, and the likes because not only will this book introduce you to some INCREDIBLE artists, but this book itself in an incredible work of art. Honor it.
If you want to see a tiny glimpse of some of the work, of some of the artist in the book you can view the prezi I made to present on it during class below.
Prezi (some of my favorite quotes and few of the included artists)
You can find more of Nia’s Work including podcasts of the interviews here.
Side note: QTPOC stands for queer and trans people of color and “QTPOC is pronounced ‘QT’ like ‘cutie’ and ‘POC’ as in Tupac, ” (pg. i)