‘Artivist’ Maude Stephany on importance of art to Pride community, artwork installation at Caledonia library

‘Artivist’ Maude Stephany on importance of art to Pride community, artwork installation at Caledonia library
CALEDONIA—Some examples of artwork created by participants in TransArtivistProject’s ‘Queer Future’ art project, which will be on display at the Caledonia library in celebration of Pride month. —Photo coutesy of Maude Stephany.

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

CALEDONIA—Art from the TransArtivistProject is now on display at the Caledonia library for the month of June. 

Artist and project creator Maude Stephany explained they want to create a space were Two Spirit (TS) and trans-spectrum individuals can come together.

“Community is a huge thing for folks who are on the trans spectrum,” said Stephany. “There’s transphobia even in the rest of the queer community, and trans folks have difficulty finding community where we can just be ourselves.”

With TransArtivistProject, Stephany hopes the project gives participants a safe space to tell their stories. 

Stephany describes themselves as gender fluid. They have been married to their partner Katrina for 20 years, and the couple has a son together. 

Stephany spoke on the struggles that the Pride community in Ontario continues to face.

“Many people who are part of the ‘alphabet soup’ community still experience a great deal of violence … against them every day. June isn’t like an amnesty period – it’s a time for us to be able to celebrate that we’re still here,” they said. 

Stephany added, “Because, honestly, queer folk (but especially Two Spirit, racialized, and transgender people) are most likely to be bullied, wrongfully dismissed from work, unable to find work, unable to find and keep a stable home, unable to afford basic necessities, most likely to be incarcerated, to be abused, and to be murdered.”

They continued, “According to a recent study, more than 70% of trans individuals have considered suicide due to the constant barrage of hate…. We want everyone to be able to thrive, flourish, and be a part of our community.”

Stephany said that coming to terms with their identity has taken a lifetime, and that their wife Katrina, who was assigned male at birth, faced a similarly difficult journey. Recently, both Katrina and the couple’s son received gender-affirming surgery.

Stephany explained of their son’s journey: “Over the course of over eight years he expressed his being lesbian, bi, asexual, agender, and most recently came out as a guy. That’s when he started taking testosterone and started his medical transition.”

Stephany touched a little on the installation to be displayed at the Caledonia library, which they are calling the ‘Queer Futurism Program’. 

Participants from the community were given a five-inch round disc and tasked with creating an artistic vision of “what a queer-friendly future looks like in our community.”

Submissions from the event will be joined in the display with a selection of already-existing artwork from previous TransArtivistProjects.

“We’re hoping that, by making art in a community setting, around a central theme, we can bring people together to create a more vibrant community, not just during Pride month, but all year-round,” said Stephany.

Stephany says there are many steps needed to support the queer community year-round, from standing up to people who say anti-gay or anti-trans slurs, to ensuring health care practitioners follow people’s pronouns, to implementing age-appropriate sex education that acknowledges queer sexuality, and more.

They added, “It’s important that everyone takes the time to make sure that they’re re-examining their old beliefs and prejudices about 2S and LGBTQQIA+ individuals and challenge themselves to see differently.” 

TransArtivistProject is a not-for-profit organization. 

Those interested in learning more can visit the website online at TransArtivistProject.org. Donations can be made by email to 

transartivistproject@gmail.com.

Go see the locally created artwork for yourself this June at the Caledonia library.