“From Thick Skin to Femme Armour” is a multi-year, multimedia research project that honours and visibilizes the resistance and resilience of trans women and femmes of colour. Drawing from a variety of sources including queer and trans histories, lived experiences and inter-generational community engagement, this series interrogates the tension that subsists between, at once, the hyper-visibility and the erasure of the racialized trans feminine body in public spaces of the “modern” western nation.
The figure of the “femme armour” is used throughout the project as a literal, figurative, aesthetic and political trope to signify the resilience of trans women and femmes of colour. Trans women and femmes of colour have historically existed at the margins of post-colonial societies, and their lives and contributions have systematically been erased from archives and movements; trans women of colour are disproportionately unemployed, denied housing and health-care, incarcerated and murdered: the average life span of a trans woman of colour in North-America is 35. When you exist as gender non-conforming and racialized (particularly if you are Black), you inherently represent a threat to the foundations of hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy and nationalism. The configuration of the femme armour honours the strength and resilience of trans women and femmes who continue to exist and to resist, like warriors, against all odds.
Each piece in the series is characterized by an aesthetics of layering: an interplay of inter-texturality and inter-textuality to explore the tension between the invisibility and hyper-visibility of the racialized transgender body in public spaces. On the one hand, gender non-conforming racialized bodies are erased from the public sphere; on the other hand, when made visible, they are made hyper-visible through fetishization, harassment and threats, verbal and physical violence. Navigating public spaces as a trans femme of colour requires more than thick skin: it demands a femme armour. It is in the liminal space where racialized skin and femme armour touch that this project postures itself: through the inter-play of layers, textures and inter-disciplinarity.
The series is composed of:
5 multi-media textile-based installations (“femme armours”)
a video installation
a photography series
The femme armours are 3-D installations that also function as costumes/garments.