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Imagine Otherwise: André Pérez on Transgender Oral History & the Power of Storytelling for Trans People of Color
How can trans people of color own their own stories? What’s the right balance between depicting the systemic violence a community faces and representing the joy, pleasure, hope, and love that community produces?
In this episode of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach chats with guest André Pérez about his approach to multimedia projects, why he focuses on work that empowers marginalized communities, and how storytelling helps us imagine otherwise.
We invite you to check out the podcast, as well as our show notes and highlights below.
Guest: André Pérez
André is a mixed race oral historian, educator, filmmaker, and community organizer whose work centers collaborative storytelling with marginalized communities. He founded the Transgender Oral History Project in 2007, and created a traveling multimedia historical exhibit in 2009. As the Director of I Live for Trans Education, André spearheaded development of a grassroots multimedia curriculum. Since 2013, André has recorded over 500 interviews as part of StoryCorps, broadcasting 50 segments on NPR and WBEZ. In the Summer of 2016, André premiered Been T/Here, a docu web series which features trans people of color talking about love and relationships on Open TV, the platform founded by Aymar Jean Christian, who we had on the podcast in Episode 3. André works at the Trans Lifeline as the Director of Communications and Marketing. André is currently Directing of America in Transition, a documentary web series and community engagement campaign looking at social justice from the perspective of trans people from marginalized communities.
We chatted about:
- The importance of trans people of color owning their own stories (05:00)
- Creating policies that are inclusive of race and class (08:30)
- The responsible creation of culture (12:00)
- Empowering marginalized communities (15:00)
- Imagining Otherwise (20:00)
- On popular media: “Popular media shapes how people outside of our community see us, understand us, relate to us. That’s a huge amount of power, and in the trans community, it’s compounded by the fact that there are so few of us.” (06:17)
- On inclusiveness: “If we miss this opportunity, if we allow only white trans people to be speaking in this moment, that means we’re going to leave behind a lot of people. The people who need to benefit and have policies that really change the systemic racism and transphobia in our community.” (08:48)
- On the responsible creation of culture: “My understanding of power shapes every aspect of how I see the world in general, and how I think about my work in particular. If we’re creating culture, whether it’s fictional or nonfictional, and we’re not challenging ourselves to be critical about power, then we’re just going to fall into tropes and stereotypes and archetypes.” (12:00)
- On the empowerment of marginalized communities: “A lot of my work is trying to lift up the knowledge and experiences of people who are assumed to not have something valuable to say. I think those people in some ways have the most valuable things to say because they’ve had the least access to platforms in order to share.” (15:50)
- On imagining otherwise: “I want a world that is just for everyone. It makes me sad to see short-sighted activists who only care about their community and can’t have the space the emotional space the intellectual space to imagine a world where there are many different kinds of people who get to be free.” (20:50)
More from André Pérez:
- Andre’s website
- Trans Oral History Project
- America in Transition
- Been T/Here on Open TV
- Andre on Twitter
Projects and people discussed:
- Lesbian Herstory Archives
- Sylvia Rivera
- Tiommi Luckett
- Black and Sexy TV
- Imagine Otherwise interview with Aymar Jean Christian, episode 3
About Imagine Otherwise:
Imagine Otherwise is a podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice, and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining and creating more just worlds. Check out full podcast episodes and show notes at ideasonfire.net/episodes. Imagine Otherwise is produced by Ideas on Fire, an academic editing and consulting agency helping progressive, interdisciplinary scholars write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds.
If you liked this episode, check out:
- Imagine Otherwise episode 31: Felami Burgess describes how she became a media producer to increase queer, trans, and women of color media representation, as well as her producing work on Black Card
- Imagine Otherwise episode 3: Aymar Jean Christian discusses OpenTV—his media company empowering queer, trans, and cis-women and artists of color to produce and distribute indie series for artists by artists
- Imagine Otherwise episode 22: Wazhmah Osman opens up about her process of making her film Postcards from Tora Bora, a documentary exploring her return to her childhood home of Kabul, Afghanistan nearly 20 years after her family fled Cold War violence.
- Imagine Otherwise episode 18: Minal Hajratwala shares how transnational migration shaped her writing process for her epic memoir Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages to Five Continents.