Gender Exhibition @ Fumbally Exchange
This Summer, Express YOUR Gender hosted an exhibition at the Fumbally Exchange, in Dame Lane, Dublin 2. The goal was to make some of the exciting conversations about gender that are commonplace in transgender, feminist and academic communities, accessible to people who otherwise wouldn’t engage with the topic. It also served as a (very fun) launch party for Express YOUR Gender, a social enterprise set up by me (Rachel Moore) in 2014. I had spent a wonderfully inspiring Summer as a High Potential Start Up at Fumbally, meeting creative innovators and exploring where I could take xYg. I decided an exhibition/party would be a great end to my 3 month HPSU stint, although of course, like many, once I got a taste of what is was like to be a Fumballier, I couldn’t leave and am still here 2 days a week. I launched a short Fundit campaign to raise funds for the exhibition, raised €1,000, and then it was all systems go!
The plan was simple – take some really strong statements made by various gender warriors (well known and not well known), illustrate them with some eye catching graphic design, print them real big and put them up on the walls of the Fumbally Pop-up shop, a great street-level space in the city centre.
Each piece had a more detailed write-up to allow deeper exploration of ideas by visitors, if desired, without pressure to do so. I had also been doing some great work since earlier this year with two linguists, Jennifer Martyn and Sophia Pollaro, at University College Dublin, reviewing research about gendered communication. We’d been having some great conversations in the process, so why not invite others in?
I suppose ultimately, the goal of the exhibition can be summarised by the first piece, which was taken from a piece of writing by Sass Rogando Sasot, titled “Reclaiming the Wronged Body“. I wanted to help with changing people’s beliefs about gender, and about transgender people, even just a little bit.
In preparing for the exhibition, I had the idea of presenting some “trans vocab” – words like genderqueer and non-binary words like nibling. I thought it would be cool to present a list of definitions for people to learn, people who wouldn’t have heard of these ideas, let alone words, before. I felt that as a gender warrior, I had come to take for granted the knowledge and lexicon I had acquired through years of working with trans clients and engaging with the subject of gender. As a Speech & Language Therapist, I also have a passion for developing language and narrative skills. However, the more I worked on devising this list, the more I realised that words have very fluid and situationally variable meanings. For me to claim authority over the actual meaning of a word would not be appropriate.
So with the kind support of Kay Cairns, a journalist with a special interest in human rights, a presentation of simply words was created. People could just look at a word, wonder what it means, with no pressure to learn it and remember it. That can be overwhelming. Language learning can be really difficult and I wanted this exhibition to be accessible, not exclusionary. Visitors were encouraged to understand why language matters and to take home a new word to think about. The presentation also featured short 3 second videos submited by xYg supporters, posing the question, “How do you Identify?” How many people are asked to answer that, or even think about it?
A street level window of gender vocabulary, including non-binary familial and relational terminology, created by Helen McCormack, another Fumballier, was added to by visitors over the weekend. It was fun to see passers by stop and scratch their heads as they looked at words like genderfuck in bold letters on the window. Who knows, they may go home and hear that word again and not be perturbed by it. Their grandchild might announce that they are a demi-girl and they might think, ‘Oh, I’ve heard about that!’ Who knows?!
Gender neutral children’s books from Swedish author, Jesper Lundqvist, were on display on the coffee table in our gender liberating living room. I’m a firm believer in the power of conversation in bringing about social change, and the cosy living room proved a great spot for this to happen.
Most wonderfully, Sex & Gender Educator, Dr. Leslie Sherlock and her team of talented sculptors produced a centrepiece of fruity and beautifully diverse genitalia. All participants in Leslie’s workshop reported a great, empowering and enjoyable experience.
All of the graphic design was done by the wonderful Fumballier, Martyna Lebryk. Words were taken from writers and gender warriors like Sass Rogando Sasot (“I am not trapped in a wrong body”), Kris Nelson (“I like to imagine gender as a cosmos”), Jesper Lundqvist (“Monsterhund”), and Kate Bornstein (“Sex is fucking, gender is everything else”). Kay Cairns inspired the simple but powerful “It’s they” and linguist Jennifer Martyn provided content for an infographic outlining the changing bias in sociolinguistic research and “Vocal Fryyyyyyy: It’s like, totally, not a new thing”.
It was a great event, attended by more than 70 people from a variety of backgrounds. Massive thanks to the Fumbally Exchange for their support, including the many Fumballiers who rallied to help with furniture moving, picture hanging, projector setting-upping, and prosecco drinking. Thanks to the many pledgers who gave generously to the Fundit campaign. And, seriously, thanks to the team of runners who made it actually come to life on the day: Sophia, Philip, Clodagh, Aisling, Ben, Martin… I will remember others in the middle of the night and add them in accordingly!
If you or your organisation is interested in running a gender liberating exhibition or similar, maybe as part of diversity week at work, or in tandem with another awareness campaign or educational focus, please feel free to contact Rachel here.