Visions of Her:
Gallery Exhibition at the Broad
I am honored to have three of my pieces from IdentityRVA on display at The Broad!
JULY 25TH, 2019 6:00-8:00PM
209 N. FOUSHEE STREET, FLOOR 3, RICHMOND, VA 23220
To see the entire IdentityRVA collection, click the button below.
Dr. Tiffany Jana
Dr. Tiffany Jana (who is gender neutral prefers they/them pronouns) grew up in Europe and other cultures which provided them with a broader view of the world than afforded most people. They were often the only African-American student in their classroom, both overseas and in the states. But it wasn’t until they were attending Virginia Union University—a historically African American University—that they experienced their professor’s assumption that they would excel.
In hindsight, Dr. Jana realized that throughout much of their academic career, their teachers believed they would be one of the lowest performing students. They also realized that they took great delight in proving them wrong. Their experiences informed their profession—they navigate the world building bridges across differences through their work in cultural diversity.
Smart, eloquent, and strongly opinionated (and unafraid to speak up), Dr. Jana describes themself as creative, visionary and overly optimistic. They struggled to be clear about their gender identity until recently; lives with depression and is comfortable with who they are. “I have had an extraordinarily positive experience as an African American person. I believe God made me beautifully and wonderfully and God doesn’t make mistakes.“
At the age of 63, Keri Abrams has only been out as a transgender woman for about 8 years. From the time she was 3 years old, she knew that while she was male-bodied, her soul, brain, and feelings were female-oriented. She always coveted the lacy anklets and the ballet flats that the “other girls” had and loved going to a friend’s house where they would play “sisters.” Keri married four different women hoping to find the one woman who could “fix” her. As she says, “There’s a fix for this, but it’s not marrying a woman.”
Keri’s life was so confusing and frustrating that she was intentionally rude and nasty to the people in her life so they wouldn’t get close enough to know her. She thought about transitioning in the ’80s but at the time she was involved with a group of motorcycle enthusiasts. Instinct told her that she would not survive coming out to this particular group of friends.
In late 2009 her fourth marriage was over, and she was so depressed she thought of killing herself. The only thing that stopped her was the idea that no one would take care of her dog. That defining moment changed her life, starting her on the journey to becoming the woman she is today.
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Sylvia DeVoss’ story is one of loss, depression, attempted suicide and coming to terms with the idea of being gay. Growing up in a religious home she never thought that being gay – or happy – was an option for her, that is was only an option for others. As she says, “when you’re a kid, you believe everything the adults tell you.” So, as expected, she set herself on the “traditional” path of getting married, having 2.5 kids and a home with the white picket fence. Her self-worth hit rock bottom. She jokes that she was “such a loser I couldn’t even kill myself. But the truth is, it wasn’t in the plan for me to die at that time.”
After recognizing the truth in a friend’s statement: “you know you’re just gay, right?” she began to find herself. A defining moment for Sylvia was when she and a friend headed to Standing Rock to stand with the natives in their fight around water rights. “The white people were cussing at us.” She drove by fields where the police were pointing their weapons at them and for Sylvia, it didn’t feel like this could be America. Once in a prayer circle with a Palestinian, a Muslim, and a nun, the nun was sprayed in the face with mace by someone in a uniform. The experience changed her entire perception of her place in this world and helped her on her journey to self-acceptance.