What We Do
Gender Portraits puts on events that educate the general public on gender issues while validating and uplifting trans and intersex communities. Our largest event is the Gender Unbound Art Fest where we annually showcase visual artists, musicians, and performers who are trans and intersex. We also document gender diverse people in a series that pairs portraits of real people with their personal stories. We show the series in a variety of venues, using art as a gateway for education and advocacy. The series is also used in speaking engagements about sex and gender issues using Gender Portraits paintings and story excerpts to deepen the impact.
Gender Portraits mission is to advocate for transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming people through art.
Gender Portraits envisions world where people with bodies, gender identities, or expressions of gender that exist beyond society’s gender norms don’t feel stigma or marginalization.
Artist and Executive Director, Drew Riley, got the idea for Gender Portraits in 2013 while working on a self-portrait, "Adelescence," for an art contest. Riley was blown away by how emotional and validating it was to see her true self validated in fine art, and decided that she would begin painting other trans, intersex, and gender nonconforming people so that she could use her art to empower sex and gender minorities, spread their stories, and start complex conversations around gender. In the spring of 2014, Riley launched a successful Kickstarter campaign that funded the first release of the series consisting of 12 portraits and written stories in Jan of 2015. Since the initial series release, Riley continued to add new work to the series and show her work all over Texas, talking about gender issues as she goes. In March of 2016, Gender Portraits became a nonprofit sponsored project of the Austin Creative Alliance. As a result, Gender Portraits has been able to grow in new ways, including the creation of the Gender Unbound Art Fest and the inclusion of an amazingly dedicated and talented team of community volunteers. Gender Unbound is an annual festival (supported in part by the City of Austin Cultural Arts Department) that uplifts dozens of trans and intersex artists, musicians, performers, and filmmakers each year and showcases our communities around our talents instead of around controversy or tragedy. If you want to help support the series, you can do so on our Patreon Page.
Is It Transgender?
From the beginning, we decided to call this project "Gender Portraits," and not "Transgender Portraits." Transgender people are a part of gender diversity, but they are neither the beginning or end of the gender spectrum. Intersex people, drag performers, and cisgender people who present outside of gender norms, are all examples of people with diverse bodies or presentations, but who may not be trans. It is our belief that we can not have a sophisticated conversation about gender without looking at all aspects of gender. This belief extends to all internationalities of trans and intersex communities. Because not all trans and intersex people's struggles and experiences are the same. The series is still growing and is not yet a complete picture, so if you feel that you do not see yourself represented in this work, please submit to be painted or contact us to begin a dialogue. We are always eager for new subjects and will be happy to share your story.
If you have any questions about the Gender Portraits project that were not addressed, please contact me.