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Funds for the Dolls: Uplifting Trans Women of Color in Arts

Theatre Communications Group (TCG) launches Funds for the Dolls, awarding grants to trans women of color in the performing arts. The program, led by Merrique Jenson and Qween Jean, aims to uplift and support TWOC, providing unrestricted funds for artistic projects or essential needs.

In an inspiring move, the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theatre, has launched a transformative initiative aimed at uplifting and empowering trans women of color (TWOC) in the performing arts. The new program, aptly named Funds for the Dolls, is set to award grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 to at least five TWOC in its pilot round. This groundbreaking initiative seeks to recognize and elevate the joy, artistry, audacity, and tenacity of TWOC, who have long been trailblazers in the performing arts and theatre.

Empowering TWOC Through Financial Support

Funds for the Dolls is a trailblazing program designed to invest in TWOC who are committed to their craft and looking to develop their artistry further. The program is led internally by TCG trustee Merrique Jenson, with support from trustee Qween Jean. Additionally, activist, model, and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Star Monica Beverly Hillz serves as the program’s ambassador, bringing her visibility and influence to the cause.

The grants offered by Funds for the Dolls are unrestricted, meaning recipients can use them for any purpose, whether it be a performing arts project, essential needs like shelter, or gender-affirming care. This flexibility acknowledges the multifaceted needs of TWOC and empowers them to make decisions that best support their individual circumstances.

A Vision of Inclusivity and Joy

Merrique Jenson, vice chair of TCG’s board and a prominent advocate for trans women of color, emphasized the program’s mission to honor and support the artistic contributions of TWOC. “The Funds for Dolls will support and uplift our sisters, especially those who have used survival sex work and other forms of hustle, to invest in their performance art or break into the theatre world,” Jenson said. “Trans women of color have been leading the way with their artistry for generations, and this is just the beginning of TCG honoring and supporting that work.”

Monica Beverly Hillz echoed this sentiment, expressing her pride in serving as an ambassador for the program. “Merrique and Qween Jean have been creating spaces of belonging for trans women of color, places where we can love ourselves and reach our full potential. I know the Funds for the Dolls will have a similar impact because when the girls get the support we deserve, there’s nothing we can’t do.”

Karena Fiorenza, TCG’s interim chief executive officer, highlighted the organization’s commitment to fostering a just and thriving theatre ecology. “Funds for the Dolls acknowledges the reality of oppression faced by TWOC, but we’re focused on uplifting trans joy, abundance, and artistry, and backing that commitment with financial resources,” Fiorenza said. “That means putting money in the pockets of TWOC and trusting they know best how to use it.”

This program is part of TCG’s broader mission to center BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) theatre artists, organizations, and communities, with specific attention to LGBTQI+ and disability identities. Over the past few years, TCG has operationalized this commitment through various programs and services, including dedicated issues of American Theatre magazine, roundtables with transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) theatre workers, advocacy to end anti-trans legislation, and convening sessions created with and for TGNC people.

Application and Timeline

The application process for Funds for the Dolls unfolds over the following timeline:

  • Thursday, June 6: Application launch
  • Friday, June 14, 4 – 5pm ET: Info session (register here)
  • Tuesday, June 25 – Friday, June 28, 3 – 6pm ET: Ask the Dolls (one-on-one office hours) (register here)
  • Friday, July 5, 11:59pm ET: Application deadline
  • Monday, August 5: Applicant notification
  • Monday, August 12 – Tuesday, August 13, 2024: Final interviews

The program aims to honor the many cultural contributions of TWOC and support them in whatever they need to thrive while also pushing back against the systemic violence and hostile legislation they face.

Strategic Partnerships and Broader Impact

Transformations, a trans-led Midwest and Ozark-based organization, is a proud strategic partner in this new initiative. Many of the women leading Transformations have deep connections to performing arts, storytelling, media and entertainment, and sex worker rights advocacy. This partnership underscores the interconnectedness of artistic expression and social justice, further enriching the program’s impact.

Funders and donors interested in supporting the growth of Funds for the Dolls are encouraged to contact Danika Tablante, TCG’s Institutional Philanthropy Manager, at dtablamnte@tcg.org.

A Legacy of Advocacy and Artistic Excellence

Merrique Jenson, the driving force behind this initiative, is a transgender, queer, second-generation multiracial woman of color with a rich background in harm reduction and anti-violence advocacy. As the founder and executive director of Transformations, she has been a critical voice in creating safe spaces for trans individuals, particularly those of color, experiencing trauma and living on the streets.

Qween Jean, a New York City-based costume designer and advocate for marginalized communities, particularly Black trans people, brings her extensive experience and passion for advocacy to the program. Her work with Black Trans Liberation and her commitment to preserving and supporting Black trans people make her an invaluable partner in this initiative.

Monica Beverly Hillz, a pioneer in the entertainment industry and a committed activist, adds her voice and visibility to the program, ensuring that the experiences and needs of TWOC are front and center.

Funds for the Dolls is a call to action for the theatre community and beyond. It is an invitation to recognize and celebrate the artistry and resilience of TWOC, to provide them with the resources they need to thrive, and to create a more equitable and inclusive theatrical landscape.

For more information and to apply, visit Funds for the Dolls. This is a unique opportunity to support and uplift the voices of trans women of color in the performing arts and theater and to ensure that their contributions are recognized and celebrated.

Transvitae Staff
Transvitae Staffhttps://transvitae.com
Staff Members of Transvitae here to assist you on your journey, wherever it leads you.
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