When my friend Diana and I first met up to discuss collaborating on a benefit for Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald, we were filled with bitterness and rage. Diana had already started to campaign to raise money for CeCe, specifically wanting to get a chunk of money for her living expenses upon release. I loved a lot about that idea, particularly Diana’s life-affirming, positive remarks that she hoped there would be enough money raised that CeCe could just throw herself a big party when she got out, and not have to work for a while, and get massages every day. The list grew longer and we smiled as we thought of all the rest and joy CeCe deserves.
But when we started talking about the text of the poster, our anger resurfaced. We so wanted to curse all of the oppression that is responsible for CeCe’s situation. We wanted to condemn individuals working within the racist, cis-sexist criminal justice system and the institution itself, which is rigged to cage the poor and other undesirables. We wanted to attack the combination of administrative, legislative, and cultural forces that restrict the life chances of transpeople, particularly people of color, and punish or criminalize their survival. Yet we could not articulate that rage into a poster-sized message. Nor did we like the idea of that poster hanging on the walls of folks who probably do not need more anger and vitriol in their lives.
Diana wrote an amazing song for her band about the Trans Day of Remembrance, voicing her disillusionment and frustration at the despairing tone of the day, as well as at the futility of prayer. She is not the only person I have heard express their desire for a trans holiday that is more like a celebration.
For myself and many of my loved ones, striking a balance between the trauma of victimization and the triumph of survivorship is an ongoing struggle–in day to day life and in our activism.
Weighing all of this, we flipped our approach in crafting a message for the print to one of positivity and rejoicing, in the same spirit of that party for CeCe that Diana had imagined.
And we came up with:
CECE IS A HERO.
we celebrate your survival
we praise your strength
we struggle with you
The bottom border of the poster contains three symbols: a crossed-out swastika asserting our resistance to fascism (both in the particularities of CeCe’s case and at large), the symbol for trans liberation, and a heart.
- Beck Levy email@example.com