Star: My art—because of my subject positon—is inherently political.

Like, as a Black trans
woman making art, it’s like a political statement to even be producing art in the ways that I
produce it. I think especially because there… like the art world is very binary in a lot of senses
and very white and not very trans-inclusive. So I think almost anything I create could be seen
through a political lens just because of who I am.
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Nia: "Could be seen through a political lens" and "is political" though are kind of different,
right?
Star: Yes, it’s true.
Nia: Do you think it’s possible for a multiply marginalized person to make apolitical art?
Star: Like to make art that’s not political?
Nia: Yeah.
Star: I guess. I think it’s true. I think it’s like we can look at like… some people. I’m trying to
think of—
Nia: Are you trying to think of names right now?
Star: Yeah, I was like, "Am I going to name names? Um, no." But we can like view folks… I'm
trying to think. I don’t know if I feel like all of the stuff that I do personally is political. But, I
guess if there’s people who are like "my art is not political," and they're a Black trans woman,
then who am I to say that their art is political if they're saying that it’s not? But, I personally
think that if you're a Black trans woman and you're creating art and showing your art places
like… just because it’s not usually done, I feel like it is a political statement that you're doing
that. Like, you decided to do art right? Versus like...dying. Because I think that would be the
most apolitical thing to do, is just to do—
Nia: Is to die?!
Star: Yeah, because they're killing us. And so I think—
Nia: But death is so political, I think.
Star: I feel like in this world it’s like we're set up to die. As Black trans women it’s setup that
we're going to be killed or we're going to be forced into engaging in stuff that is going to get us
killed. So I would say like my resistance, my strongest thing of resistance, is to be alive and I
think that’s something that Miss Major says, you know, "I'm still fucking here!" And like we're
living and we're thriving and that is the biggest "fuck you" that we can do. And so I guess like

just deciding I'm just going to let go from this world and I'm not going to fight back would be my
idea of not being political.
Nia: Huh. That’s so interesting. [laughter]
Star: Yeah. I have until 35 years old, apparently. That’s the statistic of a trans women of color
living, is to be 35 years old before we pass [on], and so I think, it’s like I have to…I personally
am choosing to fight back and to survive.
Nia: Yeah, this is kind of a tangent but have you ever read the book Revolutionary Suicide by
Huey Newton?
Star: No.
Nia: Okay, because he talks about suicide sort of similarly, I feel like, to how you're describing
it, as like giving up. He describes revolutionary suicide and—I can't remember what the other
one is called; maybe reactionary suicide? It’s sort of like apolitical suicide, which is like
basically to let “them” win by dying, versus revolutionary suicide, which is to die for a cause
essentially. It made me think of that when you were talking because you're talking about living as
resistance, right? And dying as like being apolitical. [laughter]
Star: Well, it’s like not a choice also. I mean I'm not saying killing yourself is… Like I know
people who have killed themselves and I think that’s something that’s like really iffy in queer
community sometimes, like stopping people from doing it versus letting people have autonomy
over their life, which I'm not making a statement on that either way. I'm just talking about me
personally, and as like a Black trans woman, I think it's like really like important that we survive.
And like a lot of the stuff, like the art that I create, is actually reminders to myself that I'm
choosing to live and I'm choosing to survive. And I'm choosing to like continue to fight back in
the face of adversity. That’s why I create and I think a lot of those things is like just to remind
myself of that.
Nia: Like to have proof that you're here?
Star: Yeah.
Nia: So you touched on this a little bit already, but what political issues does your art deal with?
Star: I had an artistic residency at this place called SAFEHouse Arts in San Francisco, and the
art piece I did I titled it "4". And it was these 4 vignettes of dance, theater, and performance art,
and then music that I composed. And each scene was a different emotion that I associated with
discovering queer identity and coming to realization of queer identity. And those were anxiety,
anger, shame, and freedom. The interesting thing about that is I've done a workshop talking about
it, and the workshop is titled “Trauma Through Performance.” It’s about how we turn our
traumatic experience into artistic pieces. Wait, I forgot the question.

Nia: It was which political issues your work engages with or how your work is political.
Star: So, identity politics was that one. And I was like "what where was I going with that?" And
also the idea of trauma, and how we as queer people of color can be traumatized by our own
families. We can be traumatized by the State. We are traumatized just like walking through life
and all these different ways. So I created this piece so that I could take this trauma and all of
these experiences that I've had and sort of pull them out of me and not have them live inside of
me anymore. And that was like something that I felt was really important to me was saying,
"Yes, I've experienced these things, but they're not taking control of me."
I know folks who are controlled by their trauma and who like… their trauma really dictates their
life. But for me as like a statement like, "No, I'm not going to let these things take over and like
diminish who I am and who I'm able to be walking through my day to day life." So, I'm creating
these art pieces that live outside of me, and they're talking about identity, and they're talking
about these really intense feelings that folks feel, and I'm creating these, and I'm putting these
here in this box, and they're here and I can always revisit them, and I can remember them, but
they're not like ruling my life.
Nia: Do you think it’s a choice whether or not to let trauma dictate your life?
Star: I think for some people… like for me I was able to choose like, "Okay, I'm not going to let
it dictate my life." But I think there's some folks who don’t have that opportunity and who are
never even able to think outside of that. Like, I know a lot of trans women who are survivalbased sex-workers who are traumatized on a daily basis but they don’t… They're like working so
hard to survive that they don't get a chance to process anything. They're not seeing therapists.
They're not going through any of these processes. Because literally, their lives are about
surviving from one day to the next day. And I think that’s like something about queer community
that I feel like it’s like a very privileged thing to be able to even talk about our trauma; to be able
to like have all these online communities where we can like feel like supported by other people
who are going through the same thing. And there are some of us who are in the same queer
people of color community who just really don't get that opportunity.
Nia: That’s a really good answer. So you moved here from Austin when you were 19. What
brought you to the Bay and where did you land when you first came here?
Star: So a little history of that. So I was 18 and I was in Austin and I had come out as trans to
my mom. I wasn't living with her at the time. She was like in a different state. But I was like
living with friends and renting a room in my friend’s house in Austin. So like right around my
19th birthday my friend was like "Okay like, you're going to be moving in a few months. I think
you should leave right now. Like I don't agree with you being trans. I think its gross I think it’s
weird. Like I’m not going to call you a new name. Like why would I call you a new name? I've
known you this long." You know how people sometimes feel like they have… I know other trans
people whose friends and family feel like they have this like ownership of you as this other
person which I think is so fucked up. Because it’s like I'm my own person you don't have an

ownership of me because you've known me for, "I’ve known you for 4 years or I've known you
for 15 years as this thing and now you're a new thing. I'm clinging to this old idea of you and I
own this old idea of you."
So I had this friend who was very much like that. And was like "No, I refuse. You will always be
this to me, and I want you to get out of my house because I think you being trans is gross." I was
like "Oh, mmkay.” So I had already been saving up money because I wanted to get my own
apartment. So I used that money and I just moved to San Francisco. I took a train ticket because I
didn't have my ID. I just had like my social security card and my birth certificate. I took the train
from Austin, Texas to San Francisco and I lived in a hostel for like a month. Then I moved in
with friends and I got a job canvassing. And this was all when I was 19 and I was just like "Okay
I'm going to do this. I'm going to live here" and—
Nia: Do you remember what year this was?
Star: 2011.
Nia: Oh, okay. That’s so recent. Okay. [laughter].
Star: Yeah, it’s 5 years ago now.
Nia: Yeah.
Star: Today is like the 23rd. So it was like the 15th of April. I remember the day. April 15th
2011.
Nia: Happy anniversary!
Star: Thank you. But it was like really interesting. Because I just moved here.
Nia: You took the train here.
Star: I took the train here. For the first like 7 or 8 months I was here everything was really good
and I was like working full-time. But then like right after 2012 started I experienced
homelessness. I lost one of my jobs and I feel like it was motivated because of being trans and
Black. I feel like I lost one of my canvassing jobs. And then I was like homeless and I had to stay
in a homeless shelter for 4 months. And then I got into like a transitional housing program. And
then I was in that program for 2 years, which was really nice, since I got to live in San Francisco;
which I think I probably would have never been able to stay in San Francisco if I hadn't had
gotten into the housing program in 2012.
Nia: Did you grow up in Austin?
Star: So I've lived all over these great states of America. I was born in Michigan. I've lived in
Florida and Oregon and Washington and California and Texas.

Nia: Did you have a parent in the military?
Star: No, my mom just liked to move around.
Nia: Okay. [laughter]
Star: I always get that question and its always like “No, I think if my mom was in the military it
would have been different.” We probably wouldn’t have moved that much. There was a time
when we were moving like every 7 months.
Nia: Just because she liked to move?
Star: I think it was like jobs ending and wanting to do different jobs and she was sort of like
growing as a person. I think it’s interesting she had me when she was my age, 24. Which even
like the youngest of parents, but I think like she was still growing and whatever and so she really
started moving around a lot when she was like 30, after she had my little sister. And then we
were just coming along with her for all of that.
Nia: And why was she in a different state when you were in Austin?
Star: So, when I was 16 my mom had gotten married to this man and she moved to Ohio. At this
point I had already gone to… this was my third high school that I was going to and I was in
Austin and I was like, "I really don't want to go to a new school for my senior year of high
school. That just seems like hell." And also I was going to a fine arts academy. So I didn't really
want to leave the fine arts academy to go to a regular high school. So I was like, "Let me stay."
My uncle had moved down to Austin so I was like "Oh, let me stay with him so I can finish my
last year of high school. I'll stay with him," and so she said yes and she let me stay. And then like
my uncle is super problematic and I have my own trauma with him. But I was clinging to
whatever opportunity I could to just stay. I ended up staying with him but then like he became
really homophobic. Then I ended up just leaving his house like right before the end of the school
year and I stayed with like friends from the Unitarian Universalist Church in order to like—
Nia: Did you grow up UU?
Star: Yes.
Nia: Me too.
Star: Oh, LOL! [laughter]. Yep. My mom actually is the director of religious education at the
Unitarian Universalist Church of Corvallis, Oregon now.
Nia: Oh, shit! Corvallis! [laughter]

Star: Yeah.
Nia: I've been there.
Star: Yeah.
Nia: Yeah. It’s a crazy place. I don’t know. I was there on tour with Mangos with Chili. It was
really interesting to be there with a bunch of other queer and trans people of color and just the
looks we would get. [laughter]
Star: Yeah. It's like not the most like… There's not a lot of people of color. I feel like the thing is
there's a lot of queer people there or like people in like “alternative lifestyle community”. But I
feel like there's not a lot of people of color which is interesting.
I remember I was there and I was walking down the street and these boys… I was visiting my
mom maybe one Thanksgiving ago. Like not this last one but the one before. And I was walking
down the street and these people pulled their car over they were like, "Hey, girl. You're a Black
girl. We haven't seen like… Girl, what’s up?" And these boys got out of their car they were like,
"Hey, where are you going?" Because it’s like so uncommon to see—
Nia: Were they Black?
Star: Yeah, they were other Black guys. Yeah, no, oh god! No, and I was like, "Oh my god, this
is so funny." And they were like "Yeah, we go to school here." One guy was like Nigerian. He's
like, "Yeah, I just moved to this place. It feels so interesting. We haven't seen a lot of like Black
women in the city." And I'm like, "Oh, my god." Like this is accurate of Corvallis. I lived there
too. I went to high school there for one year. I still have friends, though, from Oregon. Oregon is
like a big part of my life. I lived in Oregon like 6 years of my life. And I also lived in Florida like
6 years of my life.
Nia: Which part?
Star: So in Florida I lived in… maybe it’s less than 6 years. A little bit less than 6 years; Like 4
or 5. I don't remember. But I lived in Jacksonville, Florida and the Tampa area which is like
Clearwater, Florida and in Central Florida in these little towns like Tavares and Leesburg, which
are south of Orlando; none of the good parts of Florida. I think my life would have been so
different if we lived in like Miami or like Fort Lauderdale.
Nia: Yeah. You came to the Bay because you thought it would be a good place to be queer?
Star: Mhm. Trans, and transition. While I was in Austin, I started going to see a therapist so I
could get a letter so I could start taking hormones when I was 18. I had my 19th birthday and
then I was told I needed to leave in two weeks. And I left in two weeks. I left on the 15th.
Nia: It really sucks that you got kicked out of your house.

Star: Yeah it was like really weird. It was super odd. And I was going to… I could have stayed
in Austin. I had money saved. Austin was cheaper even then than it is now. And I could have
stayed there, but I was going through this rigmarole of the trans medical-industrial complex or
whatever, of like having to have lots of therapy sessions so I could get hormones. And then like
having to be like there's only one doctor in the whole area that I could probably go to, to get
access. So it was just like really complicated. And so I had already looked up… I had actually
been looking up all these different things of like other places to move to possibly. And then when
she sort of like kicked me out it was almost like perfect, I feel. Because I think if I hadn’t have
come to San Francisco I wouldn't have the life that I have right now. Which I'm really enjoying
where I am right now. But it was easier to get hormones here.
I went to the Dimensions Youth Clinic and I was actually scared to go because I had already been
going through so many sessions of therapy. I think I was halfway through. I was like "Fuck, now
I'm going to have to start all over with a new therapist and it’s going to be like twelve more
weeks of therapy." But when I went to the clinic it was like, they had like a much easier process
for queer youth to get access to care. So I went two times to the clinic. I went once to like talk to
the doctor and meet and then talk about what I wanted. Then I went the second time for blood
work and then I had my hormone prescription. I was so surprised because I was used to how it
was in Texas and how I was going to have to really like straddle this medical system. It was
really great living in San Francisco when I did, because I got hormones and then 2 years later I
got surgery that was paid for by the city.
Nia: Oh, that’s awesome!
Star: So it was really awesome.
Nia: How were you able to find a job so fast when you got here? I feel like it’s so competitive
for jobs here.
Star: I think it’s like canvassing though. When you're canvassing for a nonprofit, like those third
party canvassing companies. And I was actually really good at it. Like I was super—
Nia: Some of those companies are kind of shady. [laughter]
Star: They are super shady, I feel. Because I mean I was getting paid. That’s the thing is you get
like a base wage then however much money you make, like you get people signed up for
monthly donations, however many monthlies you get, you get a percentage. I remember the best
day that I had. On one of my paychecks I was getting paid for like a shift I got paid like $20 an
hour from canvassing because I had made so many monthly subscribers that month. And I was
like, "This is like weird. How am I getting paid so much?"
I was getting paid bank and it was fine but I was spending my money so bad. I never had good
savings skills and at that time I was like really not good at saving. I ate out every day and I just

like was wasting my money. I wish I had saved it, because when I became homeless I had no
money saved. I was still living paycheck to paycheck. And then I was like trying to stay in SRO
hotels by the week, which is super expensive. It's like $200 a week, which is like a lot of money.
Nia: More than a hostel.
Star: Yeah. And then I was sharing a room with my friend. That’s how we were able to afford it.
We were each paying like a $100 a week, which was like much easier. But then at a certain point
that ended too. And so we both like went our separate ways and then I was like paying by myself
and then I lost my job and it was just—
Nia: What were you saying ended before the canvassing job?
Star: Oh, like me and my friend sharing a room.
Nia: Oh, okay.
Star: We stopped sharing a room.
Nia: Got it.
Star: And like it was right after… I don't remember if I lost my job and we stopped sharing a
room. But, I think it was we stopped sharing a room and then I was like "Oh, its fine okay." And
then I lost my job too and I was like, "Oh, crap. This sucks." And they fired me actually not for
my numbers, because I was like one of their top performers, actually. But they fired me for being
late to work. Which I thought was really odd because we show up on a site. We don't show up in
the office. So we have to ride the Muni to a meeting place. And so it's like a different place every
day. It was really weird to me that it was like you could be whatever late, and you'd have to like
sign this paperwork being like "I was late today." But it was like canvassing, and we were
meeting outside, and it’s like so odd. And so I'd known people that had been late all the time and
they'd never had it documented. But for some reason they always wanted to like have me sign the
paper that I was late or whatever.
So the day that I got fired I actually came into work early. And my boss, I think, was expecting
me to be late again because he was super like, "Oh! You're here!" And then gave me like, "I need
you to come to the office." And he's like, "I'm giving you this. This is your final check." And I
was like, "What?" I was super shocked and I was totally blindsided. I didn't get any kind of
warning. They just dismissed me.
After that I fell into a cycle of homelessness. And then I was survival-based sex-working so that I
could eat food and doing all kinds of things to survive. That's like how it is in the city for a lot of
people in San Francisco. And for a lot of trans women you have to find these alternative forms of
income in order to keep going, because it's just so difficult to live there. And now that I'm like 24
and I live in Oakland I'm like, "Fuck the city. I hate San Francisco. I never want to live there."

And I have these like really… I think it’s because of the times where I was like homeless and I
had to deal with all of this stuff that I really have grown cold to the city in this weird way.
Nia: That makes sense.