Just how much more than a thousand words can a picture be worth?
Well, how about visibility, affirmation and empowerment?
A new multimedia project is providing all that and more by shining a much-needed light on trans and gender non-conforming Ohioans.
The Transgender Spotlight series amplifies the vibrancy and joy of trans voices during a particularly complex and draining time for our trans siblings.
This partnership between the ACLU of Ohio, Equality Ohio, and TransOhio has yielded the second iteration of this series, albeit during a markedly different climate than when it first debuted four years ago.
“The first series was in 2017 and was more of an offensive move to push the Ohio Fairness Act into passing,” said Micah Mitchell, Policy Fellow at the ACLU of Ohio. “With all of the current attacks against the trans community here in Ohio and across the nation, this spotlight is more of a defensive move, though no less important.”
The Transgender Spotlight series shares the unique stories of 18 individuals, featuring photos by Mitchell and fellow Columbus-area photographer, Emma Parker. Each participant will be highlighted over the next three months as new content is rolled out, including a six-part video series that gives even more voice to the participants.
“We really prioritized making this group as diverse as possible,” Mitchell explained. “That is critical right now and is often forgotten in these campaigns.”
For Eric Coleman, the decision to participate in the project was an opportunity the Columbus resident couldn’t pass up. He knew the series would bring visibility, not just to the wider world, but also to the participants themselves.
“My participating was also for that little kid in me that didn’t get the opportunity to express himself in the full totality of who he knew himself to be,” said Coleman. “That’s why I say in the video, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you who you are.’ That’s the only thing we get to carry with us in this world. It’s the only thing that we have that is solidly ours.”
Across the country, a slate of anti-trans legislation has made it to the top of the agenda in dozens of state legislatures. In 2022 alone, states have introduced more than 200 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, targeting various aspects of LGBTQ+ life, including athletics, school curriculum, and essential healthcare.
Here in Ohio, the Republican supermajority is currently considering bills to ban gender-affirming care, force teachers to out trans youth to their parents, ban trans youth from playing sports, and write trans identity out of school curricula.
The very red map of Ohio that emerged from the 2022 midterm election painted a bleak picture of the road ahead for trans equality.
“I think about that red and all the places I might have to drive through in Ohio,” said Coleman. “Will I be respected there? Will I be cared for? Will I be treated like a human? These are the things I have to think about.”
Given Ohio’s struggle to move towards full LGBTQ+ equality, advocates say projects like the Transgender Spotlight are even more important.
For trans youth, these videos and images can be no less than life-saving.
“A project like this tells trans youth in those red areas, ‘Hey, there are people like you. We have made it past youth.’” Mitchell said. “We have survived. We’re still fighting. And we want youth to know that – even in the midst of feeling like everyone is out to get them – they are seen.” 🔥
- Check out the Transgender Spotlight series by visiting their website.