Trans activists honored in Clarion Alley mural

Pub date October 24, 2012
SectionPixel Vision

It was important to Tanya Wischerath that the crowds who came to last weekend’s Clarion Alley Block Party got to see the latest addition to its collection of murals. The new piece is a stirring tribute to transwomen activists, done in jewel tones on a background of night sky and stained glass. “I was told nine days before the street fair [that I got the wall], and I was adamant that I would have something finished by then,” the artist said in an email. We’re glad — it’s lovely. 

Wischerath’s deities, clad in robes and golden halos, are comprised of steller tranladies from California’s past and present. They are: 

Mia Tu Mutch: Youth activist and panelist in the Guardian’s “SF Feminism Today” discussion that took place this summer. Tu Mutch is chair of the Housing LGBTQ and TAY committee of the San Francisco Youth Commission, and is a program assistant at Lavender Youth Recreation Information Center (LYRIC).  

Alexis Rivera: Actively fought HIV/AIDS — which affects one in three transwomen in San Francisco. Was the staff community advocate for the Transgender Law Center, and helped found LA’s Female-to-Male Alliance. Rivera died this year. 

Janetta Louise-Johnson: Works on recidivism in trans communities of color through her job at the Transgender Gender Varient Intersexed Justice Project. 

Tamara Ching: Award-winning “God Mother of Polk” well-known for her consultant work on transgender and commercial sex worker concerns.

“Painting this was humbling in all respects, and the work these women are doing and have been doing for a long time is bigger than one mural,” Wischerath told the Guardian in an email interview. The mural focuses on activists who are close to the Bay Area community for a more immediate feel, and was inspired by the fierce queens in Paris is Burning, a 1990 documentary of ball culture in New York. 

Here’s the dedication that Wischerath inscribed on the wall, along with bios of each of the women portrayed: 

The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot occurred in August 1966 in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. This incident was one of the first recorded transgender riots in United States history, preceding the more famous 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. Although San Francisco continues to lead in the struggle for equal rights for the LGBTQI community, trans women are often left behind and in the fight for visibility. This mural is a dedication to the work of just a few trans activists out of many who have tirelessly committed themselves to paving the way for a more just, accepting, and righteous San Francisco.

Unfortunately, the work had already been tagged by the time we headed over this morning to take photos of it — but given the nature of Clarion’s infamous taggers, perhaps the community-sourced creativity should be viewed as an initiation ritual. Let the battle for upkeep begin!