Yesterday, NYC-based trans icon Juliana Huxtable posted to Facebook an image of a wheat-paste sign she discovered outside her apartment (See above). “This is disgusting and makes me feel like I used to when I had men regularly trying to attack me,” she wrote. “…So sad that it’s by a so-called ‘artist/activist/man of color, as well.”
Created by artist Hunt Rodriguez, the image features two figures—a male and trans woman—standing side-by-side with the statement, “If You See Something, Say Something,” plastered underneath. Traditionally seen in the context of Homeland Security, the phrase is typically used as part of a public awareness campaign for indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime. When positioned beneath Rodriguez’s depiction of a trans woman, his intentions therefore seemed to advocate for a witch hunt against the local trans community. Closer examination, however, suggests otherwise.
A small, easily overlooked detail, the sign also features a few dainty hearts fluttering above the male figure, which Rodriguez claimed on Huxtable’s Instagram to represent his personal love for trans women. “Do you see the [heart?]” He asked in her comments section. “If you see something you like, say something. Believe me I am all love; I am deeply sad and broken-[hearted]. I am sorry, but people are not looking closely at the boy showing love.”
Huxtable eventually thanked Rodriguez for clarifying his intent, but still acknowledged how his positive message was overshadowed by the “ambiguous, potentially humorous, mocking and genital-obsessed nature of the photo.” His depiction of a trans woman, she said, recalls pornographic images of “shemales” and “chicks with dicks,” which “erases the complexity of women as people.” She inquired why the male figure’s genitals were hidden, asking Rodriguez if we are to assume the visibility of his genitalia as “less important.”
With violence against trans women on-the-rise, this public, wide-reaching imagery could certainly pose a threat. And while Rodriguez’s intentions were made clear after further detailed explanation, his misguided poster at first glance still seems to promote trans brutality, and that’s a major problem.