If you drive too fast down Frankford Avenue in Fishtown, you may think a paint factory exploded. But slow down and you’ll see the city’s first mural by, for, and about the transgender and gender-nonconforming community.
The mural, “We Are Universal,” was created by Kah Yangni in partnership with Morris Home, a residential recovery center serving transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals.
“They had a really clear idea of what they wanted,” said Yangni. “I picked the words I thought were the most powerful and also got down to the meat of what they were trying to say, and something I knew that other trans people, or queer people, or allies could see and be like, ‘Oh, I get this, and it applies.’”
The mural details a quotation that reads, “we’re trans, we’re survivors, we are joyful, we feel rage, we are universal” in conjunction with pastel depictions of two residents from Morris Home. (The quote came out of a workshop with people from Morris Home.)
The two residents, Taz and Jordan, were selected with the intent of conveying two emotions often experienced within the trans community. “I felt like the picture of Jordan on the far-right kind of captured the happiness piece,” Yangni said. “And then on the left is Taz. He’s more of an activist person. I was like, I’ll have Taz on the left and Jordan on the right, and that will capture the feeling of both sides of the spectrum and the quote.”
Every detail of the mural was strategically planned to convey the intended message and feeling.
Yangni chose the color palette to ensure the mural could not be ignored, while also creating a welcoming feeling upon viewing.
“It has to be eye-catching,” Yangni said. “It has to be warm. And the colors together have to be comforting…those pastels that are like childhood colors, I feel like they’re like a hug from a mom or something, they’re very cozy… I think those colors, in my mind, make me feel really held…They felt right.”