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Rudy Loewe on trans women in feminism, the role of art, and gender terminology

Rudy Loewe is a London-born illustrator who’s currently working on an MA in Visual Communication in Stockholm. Their celebrated illustrations and prints explore the nuances of queer experience and the ways it interacts with experiences such as race, disability and class. We caught up with Rudy in between workshops and lectures to chat about their work on Processions and approach to art in general.

Processions [P]: Can you tell us about the focus of your work?

Rudy Loewe [RL]: Most of my work is drawing-based or print-based and I try to focus on social issues and different kinds of histories that maybe don’t get given enough prominence in mainstream narratives. I also focus on finding different ways to use storytelling. On my Masters, for example, I’m making a comic about black histories and migration, and trying to disentangle complex subjects and find different ways to make them more accessible. I’m also working with topics like queerness and gender, sexuality in general and feminism… trying to find important topics and find ways to break them down a little bit.


The other side of what I do is education-based. So, running workshops and things like this, which I also find to be really important in terms of trying to find different ways to be embedded in a community and thinking about how I actually share my work.

When I first studied illustration on my bachelors degree it was a very commercial environment, and I became very disillusioned because I wasn’t interested in making images for banks or things like this. So I realised that I needed to try to find a way to work that reflected my beliefs, and I think that’s kind of how they evolved together.

P: What are your thoughts on the role of art and artists as a force for social change?

RL: I think that curators have an important responsibility to reflect on the times and also to try to stimulate dialogue and think about how the work we’re making can bring people into the conversation who maybe don’t have access to certain kinds of knowledge. It’s finding a way to make art pedagogical in some way, and to think about how to disseminate different kinds of knowledge.

The main thing for me is to make a resource that is useful for people, primarily people who are of that experience. So, I am a queer non-binary person and I have felt that there aren’t that many resources available about being non-binary, particularly if you fall outside of the stereotypical trans-essentialist representation. So, in my work I’ve tried to really break down my own experience, and some things that I think are important or critical in some way. I’m thinking particularly about what it’s like to be a queer person of colour or a queer black person. So, I’m more focused on making things for people who are within the community, than on creating starting resources for people who don’t have any experience of that thing whatsoever.

P: Is there an obvious inter-generational divide in terms of approaches to gender?

RL: It can sometimes be tricky because of the different ways people communicate. Younger generations have a lot of conversations online, for example, on tumblr and so on. Which means the conversation grows in different ways. But there are older non-binary people, even if it’s not a term they would use. It’s just that the language changes. This is also true within black and POC [people of colour] queer communities. The language has changed, from the focus being on black LGBT to people using QTPOC, which stands for Queer and Trans People of Color. So it’s not necessarily that we are having completely different conversations but I think that as language evolves with the times, that can create a bit of a barrier. But I think it’s about how we bridge language barriers and also how we bridge where those conversations are happening. So it’s really important on an inter-generational level that we are having those conversations in person and not just in our little bubbles, whether that be online or somewhere else. 

P: How has terminology been important for your own identity as non-binary?

RL: Maybe ten years ago the word that people used more was ‘gender-queer’. So the first thing that I came across was being ‘gender-queer’, and that was something I thought I could identify with. And then, I can’t really remember when exactly, but at some point that kind of shifted to being more focused on ‘non-binary’, and there was something I liked about that. It seemed very open and very unspecific. I think it really sums up what it is, which is being out of the gender binary.

P: Tell us about the work you’ve been doing for Processions

RL: When I first heard about the Processions project, I was glad to hear that it was inclusive of trans women and non-binary people. I think that it’s really important moving forwards that, within feminism, people understand why it’s important that trans women are included. The struggle that trans women have to go through is embedded in misogyny, so it’s really important that there’s a place for trans women in this conversation. 

It was Womankind Worldwide who chose the message that’s going to be on the Processions banner that we’ve been working on. It’s ‘Women’s Movement: A Force for Change’, which was the slogan that they had, and so when I had my workshop with them our discussion was around how we could meet in the middle because my focus is on these known figures who represent a particular kind of identity, whereas they work a lot with women who are not necessarily known for the work that they do but who are doing really important work. So our conversation was around how we meet in the middle of that, without just focusing on famous people. So it’s going to be interesting how that comes together. 

P: What are your hopes for the future in regards to gender and social and political change?

RL: People talk about the trans tipping point, this idea that trans people are more visible now than we’ve ever been before. But that visibility doesn’t necessarily amount to more safety or to better lives. The issue has had more visibility but that doesn’t necessarily mean conversations are changing, and the system that we live in is unfortunately just as violent for trans people as it has ever been. That’s why it’s so important that trans women are included in the conversation, and have a space.


What is super important is for people to realise that we’re all fighting for the same thing, even if we experience different sides of the same problem. Austerity, especially in the UK, has got worse and worse and peoples lives have become harder and harder. So, it’s recognising the fact that the cuts that affect single mothers are part of the same problem that affect working class POC communities and the way that transfeminine people are treated. I think that people need to realise that it’s not about seeing each other as the problem but seeing the bigger system that we live in as the problem, and seeing how we can actually work together across those differences. 

I think that sometimes people think that young people aren’t that involved in politics. But actually a lot of young people are having these kinds of conversations, and when I come across some of these conversations I feel really hopeful that young people are having these discussions and also learning a lot from each other.

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