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This is for being Black, and simply asking to live.
This is for Black women, silenced, “too loud” to laugh.
This is for Black trans women, who risk so much to love.

From left to right:
Riah Milton
Dominique Rem’mie Fells
Muhlaysia Booker
Islan Nettles
Amber Monroe
Penny Proud

It didn’t take long to find six trans women to paint for this. I was already thinking about art to create for an upcoming Works/San José show, a memorial exhibition for black lives lost, when I heard the news about the first two here. The others are a mix of recent names. There are so many. Only eight states reject the “trans panic” defense for murderers.

I was reflecting on how many ridiculously innocuous things triggered panic of people that murdered, and how low a bar it is just to ask to live. That’s when this phrase popped into my mind. This phrase which has launched a thousand home goods. This phrase which is “feel good”, and something that seems so simple. So obviously reassuring. So inoffensive, you barely think about it.

And yet..?

Each part fits so cleanly with the particularly fraught intersection of black trans female identity. I’m going to hear a quiet “I want to…” before each of these when I see this phrase. That’s something to write on your throw pillow.

This is a watercolor painting. I sketched it out on cold-press watercolor paper twice; the linework was too sketchy at first, and the hands were particularly tricky to figure out. I used a mix of watercolor pencils and watercolors-from-tiny-tubes to get these colors. This is the first time I’ve outlined using this color (a raw umber) and I’m pretty pleased with the result.