Fatima Jamal on “When The Image Speaks Back” : Spectrum Volume II

For Black transfemmes, placelessness is a key to their navigation of space. I theorize this contradictory state of being as a transliminality, as the Black transfemme is always visible but on the brink of vanishing, observable but never fully recognized as requiring substantive care

— Nathan Alexander Moore, Ph.D., Trans Liminality: Black Transfemmes and the Limit of Visibility Politics

When I walked onto the set to shoot the ‘We Belong To Something Beautiful’ Sephora ad campaign 3 years ago, I did not anticipate my face being seen in 400 hundred plus stores across the United States and U.S. territories. Neither did I anticipate my face being plastered onto New York City subways when walking onto the set of an Airbnb pride campaign. I begin here, with the self, about the self, to spell out (and spill) the intensity of feeling and grief I bear regarding my own experiences with mainstream media visibility and representation. In every instance, there was always something left to be desired. It was never enough, especially with work designated to one month a year. Especially while being extracted from more than cared for. 

I’m left to wonder if the image speaks back and my own self-recovery. What becomes, what emerges, and what is enunciated, is the gospel. 

“But do you ever stop to consider the pain that I am feeling?” she speaks. “Do you?” “I am a grieving thing. I need surrender! I need a healing for my soul like the song sings. Here is a portrait of pain. A wailing woman. I need room to stretch my hands and scream the cry of a baby at birth. Call me crazy or whatever you must but know that the burden ain’t ever mine to carry. Here I lay mine. I am blessed! I need an altar to kneel. My restoration is always, foremost, critical. I need a place to be honest in confession. Keep me honest lord, I pray. This is muscle that builds strength. I need strength. You don’t just look at a flower and capture for a second, its beauty, to freeze in time. You water it! I need water. The ground with which I have my being is deep-rooted. I need soil rich with nutrients and seed that fosters in me a new thing. I need change. I need light. I need darkness. I need sound and vibrations that encourage movement. This is only the beginning of a litany of life-saving events I must encounter and bear witness to. I believe this must be sustained and that this is a house worth “keeping,” the Funeral Diva ends.

This issue of Spectrum—released 2 years after its last publication amidst a global health crisis of multiple pandemics and extreme duress—begs that we imagine life otherwise; that we forever affirm and understand that a trans lens, a trans embodiment, a trans politic, a trans love, a trans rage, a trans blues, a trans reckoning, can (and will) only free us all. You see, everybody wants to go to heaven but not everyone wants to be free. The voices you will encounter in this special collection of interviews, essays, theory, and criticism make up a chorus of freedom fighters I trust and believe to usher us forward. May our lamps stay trimmed and burning.

“Toot, Boot, Shoot”: Critiquing Trans and Non-Binary Characters in Entertainment

“Toot, Boot, Shoot”: Critiquing Trans and Non-Binary Characters in Entertainment

What Is A Woman?

What Is A Woman?

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