In wake of the recent incident at the University of Missouri and the many racial acts of violence that took place throughout the U.S. this year, the question of how to protect minorities from violence has become central to life in modern American society. Trans woman, scholar and artist Micha Cárdenas presented an innovative solution to these issues in her lecture, “Trans Latinx Futures: Trans of Color Poetics in Media,” on Nov. 12.
Cárdenas, an assistant professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, is involved with a number of projects focused on overcoming the difficulties and prejudices minorities face on a daily basis. One of her more radical solutions, formulated during the Black Lives Matter protests that occurred last year, called for a bullet proof line of clothing to ensure safety for African Americans involved with protest movements.
In addition to her work with African Americans, Cardenas focuses on trans women and specifically trans women of color.
According to Cardenas, trans women are depicted as people without a future. In order to change the way they are viewed by society, trans women need increased visibility.
With increased visibility, however, comes increased violence, as seen with celebrity Lavern Cox. In the month that followed Cox’s highly publicized interview with Time Magazine, four trans women were murdered in the U.S.
Cardenas opened her lecture by presenting a virtual game she’d created, in which the life of a trans woman of color was portrayed as that of an immigrant in a post-apocalyptic world. The game consisted of a series of choices, each leading to a specific scenario.
Although the graphics were too reminiscent of science fiction to be considered realistic, the game was meant to reflect the decisions and struggles trans women face – decisions and struggles that would not even occur to the non-trans population. The game also detailed the stresses trans women experience when leaving their house and described the fear of their physical bodies they feel in public situations.
The game is only one of Cardenas’ artistic endeavors. One of her most recent undertakings is an app that seeks to guide illegal immigrants crossing the treacherous desert border between the U.S. and Mexico to sources of water.
Although she had hoped her app would be interpreted as purely humanitarian in nature, the political aspects of Cardenas’ creation raised fears of a potential threat to national security and garnered attention from the FBI. Opponents claim it could be used by gangs, terrorists or other criminals to gain access into the country.
Cardenas integrated more artistic components – such as segments of spoken poetry – into the app in response to these criticisms. According to an article by NBCS San Diego, Cardenas and her fellow app developers hope to work with immigrant rights advocates and religious groups to distribute phones containing the app throughout Mexico sometime next year.
With her creativity, boldness and compassion, Cárdenas serves as an inspiration for students, trans and cisgender alike, here at Puget Sound.