TS Candii, a Black transgender woman and founder of a non-profit called Black Trans Nation, is calling on the city to give the green light for plans to create a “Black Trans Lives Matter” street mural in front of the historic Stonewall Inn.
In January, State Assemblymembers Dan Quart of Manhattan and Catalina Cruz of Queens joined out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan in issuing a letter of support to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Manhattan borough commissioner, Ed Pincar. In the letter, lawmakers described the mural as a tool to recognize the transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary community.
“Though their contributions have often been erased, transgender women of color played a pivotal role in the Stonewall rebellion and the advancement of LGBTQ rights,” the politicians penned in the letter. “Despite the strides made, TGNC individuals remain at the margins facing down stigmatization, discrimination, and violence.”
Several months after sending the letter, TS Candii said DOT officials have yet to respond, though it is not the first time the group has petitioned for the mural. Last year, the DOT also denied the project for reasons that are not clear.
“They don’t support our humanity,” TS Candii said. “They hear us, they see us, but they are doing nothing for us. They are just sitting on their hands.”
Among others supporting the effort to create the mural include Strategic Transgender Alliance for Radical Reform (STARR), which has long advocated for a mural of this kind.
The DOT did not respond to Gay City News’ request for comment for this story, but after this story was published, the agency said it is “unable to comment further on this matter due to active litigation related to private entities seeking to paint murals.”
TS Candii believes the project’s delay reflects a much broader dismissal of transgender New Yorkers.
“Mentally, it’s draining,” she said. “Black Lives Matter had not only one mural; they had two, three all around the city, and we’re fighting for this one?”
She added, “Black trans lives matter, and to them, our lives don’t matter.”
Last summer, Gothamist recorded a total of eight “Black Lives Matter” murals in New York City. Black Trans Nation’s art project is inspired by the iconic “Black Lives Matter” street art in Manhattan’s Foley Square.
The mural, which would depict Trans Flags and Rainbows Flags, is meant to honor advocates’ most recent wins. TS Candii was one of the lead organizers behind the state’s repeal of a loitering law known as a ban on “Walking While Trans,” a policy that police officers used to disproportionately target transgender women of color. That legislation also seals all prior convictions and records under the statute.
The petition for the mural coincides with growing anti-trans legislation across the US in states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee, where governors have recently signed bills banning transgender and some non-binary athletes from school sports. Efforts to restrict healthcare for trans youth are also well underway in states such as Arkansas, which banned gender-affirming medical care for trans youth after overriding Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto.
“As violence has escalated, transgender rights have been under vicious attack by the Trump administration, in federal courts, and state legislatures across the country,” the politicians wrote in a letter. “We have an opportunity to build on the progress New York City and the state have made protecting the rights of TGNC people by celebrating their rich history at Stonewall and lifting up their advocacy work.”
Quart said the mural would help push back against transphobia throughout the nation.
“As transgender youth is under attack in State Legislatures across the country and the trans community at large continues to experience disproportionate levels of violence and discrimination, New York City has an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to advancing the health, safety, and rights of transgender people,” Quart said in a written statement to Gay City News. “Our state took an important step toward addressing police harassment and violence against transgender women of color when it repealed the Walking While Trans ban earlier this year. While the creation of a Black Trans Lives Matter mural would not signify the end of progress, it would communicate our promise to do more and to do better. I strongly urge the NYC Department of Transportation to support Black Trans Nation’s proposal to bring greater visibility and awareness to the issues facing the transgender community.”
Like Quart, Hoylman said the mural would send an affirming message to trans people of color at a time when several states are doing just the opposite.
Kurt Kelly and Stacy Lentz, the owners of Stonewall Inn, also back the project.
“We aren’t aware of the exact plans of the mural, but we completely support anything that brings awareness to the struggles of the Black trans community,” the owners said in a written statement to Gay City News. “They are the most marginalized and forgotten members of the LGBTQ community and deserve to be supported and celebrated.”
So far, Black Trans Nation has invested $5,000 of funding for the project from their art therapy initiative for sex workers, “Blow Job is a Job.” According to Black Trans Nation, hundreds of community members have signed on in support of the mural.
The organization would like to unveil the mural during Pride Month, but for now, it appears the city isn’t budging.
“It’s a painting on the street that will peel like the rest of us do, peel away and disappear,” TS Candii said. “I don’t get it.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a response from the DOT and to mention the advocacy of STARR in the effort to install a mural.
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