Gender identity is an essential part of a person’s livelihood. Recently, its expression and recognition has been subject to intensely violent scrutiny under the Trump administration; on October 21st, 2018, the New York Times released an article outlining the administration’s intentions to redefine gender to a biological standard that considers only genitalia and not self-identification. This dark situation emphasizes how cisgender people like me benefit from inherent privilege.  In the face of rampant transphobia, it is essential that us cisgender people use our privilege to oppose the administration and best support the transgender community.

Film student Mace Manzare shared their thoughts with me on how cisgender people can support the transgender community: “Honestly it’s hard to pick one thing…I think if cisgender people took us seriously and actually cared to make room for us at the table…just genuinely supported us for who we are as human beings and not what the label stereotype says we are.” Genuine care and respect are the keys to facilitating basic methods of support for the transgender community. There are several ways to build from this and provide help without harm, and actions that can be done at an individual level.

Calling your representatives is a tiny action that helps on a tremendous scale. It can be daunting to do so, but resources like CallYourRep.co will tell you exactly which representative to call and provide a script to help guide the conversation. To pass legislation that protects transgender people, all of us must act by reaching out on all levels, ranging from federal to local. In addition, donating to causes and campaigns for transgender people in need is invaluable. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project is an incredible charity to consider, and GoFundMe hosts thousands of campaigns in need of assistance, like Scholarships for Trans Youth and A Move for Maddie. Our monetary support is an easily accessible form of help we can provide. On a personal level, it’s important to reach out to your transgender friends in tangible ways to show that you are here in a time of dire need.

Often, we feel powerless when terrifying legislation is passed. The transgender community needs the most protection from the dark intentions of the Trump administration. To bring about change, we must provide our support in every possible form we can use our privilege to access.

--

Photography by Aaron Cohen


Women have always been inventors within their crafts. Over centuries, we’ve developed and grown from the resources we had and made them something special. As I made paintings from a young age to a more professional direction at Pratt, I was drawn to the work of women artists before me and the imagery created out of our history.

Folk art and paintings built from myth have fascinated me, and there’s a certain symbolism to the images wrought from the feminine works of these genres. Julie Heffernan has been an idol of mine in this department of art making for several years. Recently I’ve been exploring my own narrative through the symbolism of Slavic folklore and the American South, in a manner that draws from similar ideas that Heffernan expresses. As a contemporary painter, she works with self-portraits and historic symbolism in surreal narrative styles with vivid and saturated tones.

I had the incredible opportunity to be critiqued by Heffernan for my Senior Survey. It was a surreal experience to admire someone from afar, then encounter them as a mentor in a critique setting. Her work with the feminine realm and how it allows women to interact with their surreal surroundings is something that inspires my own approach and made it even more special to hear her take on my work face-to-face.

The critique began with an exploration of language. A painter develops their personal language through symbols and techniques within a painting. I use a wide range of symbols depicted with flat color like old houses, witch-like women, and hissing snakes. Heffernan took her time looking over them before she emphasized the importance of a symbol and its representations. She was particularly drawn to the repeated image of a black pond that appears within my paintings and pushed me to delve deeper into that representation.

Two of my paintings use oversized embroidery hoops to frame a section of the painting while allowing the rest to hang beneath it. Heffernan was interested by the idea of the body proportion shape of the hoop and explained to me its connection to a priestly church vestment. This connection, which had never appeared to me before, seemed to want even more embellishment and adornment than my paintings previously held. It inspired me to reach for more intricate fabrics and more pattern heavy painted areas like the intricate details of the garments she alluded to.

After my critique, I felt driven to make something clearer, stronger, and lavish with adornment. Heffernan pushed to expand my patterns and symbols until they overwhelm the paintings, then step back and allow them to breathe. While most critiques provide a burst of inspiration, this one felt particularly moving to me; an artist I respected gave me their professional opinion, suggestions, and interests, and that propelled me to work harder for what I desire. In the grander scheme of working as a woman artist, Heffernan’s critique was even more special to me, and represented a future that held promise.

--

Artwork by Mallory Pearson


For the past fifty-three years, The Poetry Project has been holding readings in Saint Marks Church on 131 East 10th Street. The schedule varies, but the general rhythm goes: Emerging Poets on Mondays, Established Poets on Wednesdays, and Mixed-Genre Poets on Friday. They also host open mics. Past poets include Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, William S. Burroughs,  John Ashberry, Audre Lorde, Diane di Prima. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Eileen Myles, and Ishmael Reed. The atmosphere remains decisively low-key. Entrance is through the back door of the church. A card table with books of poetry for sale also stocks free zines. Admission is eight dollars, or five for Pratt students. Stick around to help put away the folding chairs for a chance to chat with regulars, many of whom have been attending readings for decades.  

Afterward, you may find yourself hungrily wandering the Bowery. Do not despair. Otto’s Tacos, on 141 Second Avenue, is open until midnight. The street tacos ($3.75 each) are lovingly charred, the portions of Guacamole are generous, and the Masa fries, served with a smoky chipotle mayo-type dip, are exactly what you’ll need after having your mind renovated by some avant-garde verse.

Pro Tip: Napkins. Unless you’d like to christen Clair Donato’s chapbook with taco drippings.

-

Photo by Aaron Cohen

In rural Nepal, women are banished to a secluded shed as they are considered polluted while menstruating. This has led to deaths due to poor sanitation and lack of care during a time when women are especially vulnerable. In Sub-Saharan Africa, some girls are forced to use rags, cotton balls, or even sawdust to stem their flow. But we’re different here in the U.S.A., right? Not really.

Unlike most European countries, and even Kenya, which falls into the category of a developing country, menstruation in America is expensive. 43 states still uphold the tampon tax—a luxury tax placed on menstrual products that indicate that they are not a necessity, unlike food, some drugs, and (in some states) even men’s razors. Programs such as SNAP (also known as ‘food stamps’), and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) help provide food for low-income people; yet, there is nothing for menstruation. Like most developing countries, there is limited sexual education in the U.S. Only 22 states require sexual education to be part of the curriculum, and only 13 require that information to be ‘medically accurate’; most are also required to send a letter home to inform parents what is going to be taught, giving parents the option to pull their children from “the talk.”   

Although not as visible as in other parts of the world, the United States still promotes the shame associated with periods. When artist Rupi Kaur posted a picture of her period-stained sweatpants, Instagram deleted it twice. The very fact that ads still abstain from using actual blood, or even red liquid, in commercials depicting a period is bad enough.

The rhetoric in the White House forebodes the menstrual future. Even before he was elected, Trump referred to periods as something that made women inferior to men and used it as an excuse to not take women seriously. His response to Megyn Kelly’s question regarding his treatment of women was that she had “blood coming out of her wherever.” A similar attitude is reflected throughout his party. “Valid, scientifically-proven” concerns as to why Hillary Clinton should not be elected president cited PMS mood swings, and when it was pointed out that Clinton was a tad too old for that, the new excuse became menopause. While unsuccessful, the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) included the ability for insurance providers to categorize period irregularities as a pre-existing condition. “Period irregularities” span a broad category, ranging from having an unusually heavy flow to painful cramps that would require medication—under such vague terms insurers could take advantage of even minor conditions.

However, recent years have seen our country shedding some of its period-shame. Although controversial, movements such as free-bleeding (the act of not wearing menstrual products while on one’s period) have caught on with women who can afford menstrual products, making their act a choice, whatever their motivation. Tampon Rallies, such as the one held in UC Berkeley in April 2017, have also come into the mainstream with the creation of Menstrual Hygiene Day. Some politicians have taken these movements to heart, with New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, making it mandatory for menstrual products to be provided in all public-school bathrooms grades six to twelve as of April 2018. Bills such as the ones from Democratic Representative of New York Grace Meng—the first to make periods more affordable by placing some of the cost on employers, the second to disclose the ingredients in menstrual products—have also been introduced into the House.   

In short: remain aware. Don’t expect America to be on the cutting edge of everything, and know that even as an individual you can make a change. Take part in rallies, and become a leader in movements you care about, whether related to menstrual health or not.  Back an organization such as Planned Parenthood and donate menstrual products to homeless shelters. Call your representatives and voice your opinions. The world is progressing, but only because activists are pushing it forward.

-

Graphic by Janie Peacock


FEATUREDthoughtscommunitybulletincomics
thoughts
see all
see all
community
see all
bulletin
comics
see all