Australian artists Spence Messih and Archie Barry have compiled a free resource titled Clear Expectations: Guidelines for Institutions, Galleries, and Curators Working with Trans, Non-Binary, and Gender Diverse Artists, to help arts and culture organizations better understand best practices around working with gender variant artists.
The introduction to the resource, which includes definitions, terminology, and organizational support responsibilities, reads:
“Visibility and representation is not always an inherently positive and beneficial experience for those being represented and should not be assumed as such. Being ‘represented’ often comes at a large personal cost where artistic exposure does not equal actual resources or access to influence, nor does it make the lives of trans, non-binary and gender diverse artists easier. Visibility often means having to respond on someone else’s terms, speak only about one’s gender identity and provide evidence of, and defend, one’s own existence.
“For trans, non-binary and gender diverse artists, representation can lead to various issues including the commodification of personal identity, the tokenisation of work, having the complexity of one’s practice be reduced to a gender-centric reading and witnessing the erasure of gender diversity in broader gendered contexts. Other challenges include being excluded from dialogue, being misgendered in a public domain and having artwork censored.
“Experiencing harm from the bureaucracy of institutional decision-making is a common experience for trans, non-binary and gender diverse people, even in the Australian arts sector. Institutions, galleries and curators often fail to respect and affirm the gender identities of trans, non-binary and gender diverse people — this is particularly alarming as institutions often engage with this community of people to represent their gender identities. Through lack of considered care and education, institutions, galleries and curators can commodify and profit off the representation of trans identities, bodies and experiences. In doing so, they perpetuate a hateful history of trans erasure, tokenisation and disempowerment. Acknowledging the power that institutions, galleries and curators hold, it is crucial that minority groups are treated with informed and nuanced care and respect. This is a responsibility that institutions, galleries and curators must accept.
“This resource aims to provide institutions, galleries and curators with tools and strategies for working with and supporting trans, non-binary and gender diverse people.”