"One of the things that helped me be a better ally to other communities is to believe people. Generally you don’t need evidence to trust if a whole community is saying something. If a whole community is saying we experience this or if a whole community is saying this hurts us. Trust that they know and trust that their experience is authentic."
"Do what works for you. Give yourself permission. I had so many people tell me what real art was or what is right or wrong. There would be times where I did something that would work for me and I would be like, but I cant do that, that’s not correct. Actually it works for me. Let yourself use processes that help."
Drew Riley is an artist and activist who through her transition to fully discovering and revealing herself found an opportunity to help others do the same. With her Gender Portraits project she paints, interviews, and shares the stories of trans, intersex, and gender non conforming people. We get a glimpse of their lived experience, their essence, and their lives outside just talking about gender and the oppressive societal norms we all have to deal with in big and small ways. If we are open to taking in these powerful portraits and stories no doubt we can all in some way relate.
In the interview we go in depth to explore three self portraits she has created that each represent her journey, challenges, and breakthroughs on the road to embodying and realizing her authentic self. Drew’s skill at creating such realistic and expertly rendered portraits came from her strict classical training and many years as a full time concept artist in the gaming industry. That industry supported her but she could not completely be herself and make the type of artwork she truly desired. Leaving that world to pursue her art and activism full time she lost some security but found a huge weight was lifted off of her shoulders.
As the executive director of Gender Unbound, Drew is furthering her mission to help trans and intersex artists. The Gender Unbound Art Fest, which happens in September, showcases the artistic talents of this community and allows attendees to interact with and support these multifaceted and valuable people in an affirming way. It is a sponsored nonprofit project of Austin Creative Alliance.
What important work Drew is doing. I’ve discovered for myself over the last year how fulfilling it is to be of service and focus on others. It’s even more important when it comes to people who are often marginalized for not confining themselves to societal norms. How can we be more inclusive and open and respecting of others and give them the space and security to exist and explore their authentic selves. Aren’t we all doing that? Don’t we all deserve the benefit of the doubt that we are doing our best with what we have. Have a listen and please support Drew's effort's to make difference in these peoples lives.
Some of the subjects we discuss:
We can relate
Video game track
Leaving game industry
Choosing a better life
Getting laid off
Leap of faith
Non-profit and art
Letting go/being yourself
Male privilege/feeling safe
Love or heroics
Gender Unbound Festival
Winter Art Market
How to support!
Adolescence by Drew Riley
Exploration by Drew Riley
Prudence by Drew Riley
Gender Unbound Winter Art Market
December 15th, 1 – 6 pm, at Austin Creative Alliance
81 San Marcos St., Austin, TX 78702
Feel good about supporting trans and intersex artists this holiday season. Shop visual art, jewelry, apparel, and more by local trans and intersex creators. Get uniquely crafted gifts for your friends and loved ones, gender pride gifts for the trans or intersex person in your life, or something beautiful and extraordinary for yourself.
This is a free event with complimentary drinks to keep up your cheer. All ages welcome. Must be 21+ to consume alcohol. Find the Winter Art Market in the courtyard (gate access on San Marcos St.). Street parking is available, but not everywhere. Pay attention to signs!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Intro music generously provided by Stan Killian