Starting out as a capsule collection of 10 T-shirts by trans creatives from London’s tight knit community, Balance was launched to support, platform and fundraise for trans causes.
With designs by Zorawar Waraich, Rene Matic, Naeem Davis, Nadine Artois, Lewis G. Burton, ZMARAKS, Blk Moody Boi, Mika, Marlock, El Josef it was an all star lineup. But true allyship means more than trans T-shirts; it’s about stepping back and listening. So we put it to the community: how do you want to use the Everpress platform?
The result? Mya Mehmi’s very own show, Tea Time with Mya. Anarchic, intimate and kaleidoscopic in scope, it sees Mya sit down with pillars of the trans community to chat about everything under the sun. You can check out all episodes, and plenty more interviews and insights too, here.
Artist, DJ and community builder Mya Mehmi (she/her) is a true multi-hyphenate. Deeply “passionate about championing queer and trans talent of the Global Majority,” as co-producer of cult club night Pxssy Palace, she’s been instrumental in making London nightlife more progressive. She’s very much a DJ in her own right too, with music championed on Radio 1, 1xtra and BBC Asian Network, a monthly radio show on Foundation FM, and new music dropping later this year too. Here she gives us her thoughts on community, allyship, and her very own show Tea Time With Mya.
What does community mean to you?
Community to me means holding space for each other to be authentic, heal and thrive. For marginalised groups it also means stepping in and supporting each other when those in power often neglect and let us down.
What does true allyship look like?
Allyship to me looks like a willingness to be uncomfortable, honest with yourself and to give up your own privileges for the sake of equality.
Why did you want to host Tea Time with Mya?
I wanted to do Tea Time With Mya as I think we need more platforms where trans people can talk about their experiences in a joyful, fun and light way. Our identities are inherently educational and political, therefore sometimes all we need to inspire change is a camera, good vibes and hot tea!
How To Support The Trans Community
INTRODUCING: MYA MEHMI'S CHAT SHOW
TEA TIME WITH MYA MEHMI: EPISODE 02
LOOKING BACK ON SEVEN YEARS OF INFERNO WITH LEWIS BURTON
For the anniversary of cult London club night INFERNO, founder Lewis Burton opened up their photo archive and spoke about everything from the need for club spaces to be given cultural status, to the meaning of community, to the future of the night. Read the interview here.
A true multi-hyphenate, DJ, performance artist, curator and activist Lewis G Burton created a tee fitting for their hybrid approach and community spirit. A portrait of Lewis, shot by Yasmine Akim, accompanies a poem by Lewis in celebration of non-conformity: “There really is no such thing as perfection, but I am my perfect right here as I am.”
We Have Always Been Here
“I’ve been thinking a lot about our trans ancestors and elders and how invisible they might seem at times, especially to those only seeing themselves reflected through social media now or the recent commodification of queerness,” said interdisciplinary artist and curator Naeem Dxvis. “I wanted this T-shirt to stand as a reminder, particularly to black and brown folk, that we existed long before this fight for recognition and will continue to exist long after.”
No Straight Vibes
“The truth is, some bad vibes are essential.” California-born, London-based, non-binary Punjabi artist Zorawar brings a queer approach to the ubiquitous slogan T-shirt. Both a play on the mediocrity of “no bad vibes”, and a rejection of cis heteronormative ‘vibes’, we’d expect nothing less from an artist who constantly challenges constructs of what is valuable and beautiful.
In Between It All
Artist and writer Rene Matić weaves together themes of post-blackness, glitch feminism and subcultural theory to make work that exists “in/between”. Fittingly named then, their T-shirt uses music movements like Northern soul, Ska and 2-Tone to reimagine the intimacies between West Indian and white working-class culture in Britain.
PROTECT TRANS RIGHTS
Interdisciplinary audiovisual artist, DJ and poet ZMARAKS deals in complexity, so their hallucinatory Protect Trans Rights T-shirt came as no surprise. “A heart manifesting its true desire and expression can look like a chaotic entanglement of limbs,” they explained. “Transcending the body or just sitting idle with all its complexity in acceptance.”
WE ARE OWED
Self-taught illustrator Blkmoodyboi has always centered Black and Brown trans people in their art, with a practice that’s as much about taking up space for trans creative industries as it is about bringing joy to QTIBIPOC. Their tee channels this spirit, a serene, idyllic illustration coupled with a defiant message for trans creatives: “Trans BIPOCS are owed the damn world.”
For Balance black non binary digital artist Mika created ALT GAL: POC COMIC, a character inspired by rave culture, and club kid scenes in particular. Ethereal and otherworldly, we think of her as the future as imagined by Mika.
A mashup of image and text, Marlock’s bold, playful bold tee is reminiscent of Vivienne Westwood’s T-shirt days. The multidisciplinary artist from Venezuela is inspired by ideas of femininity and masculinity, nightlife culture, and guerrilla advertising, and this reads loud and clear in Sex Symbol.
Finding community, and honouring those who have paved the way, is often a vital part of trans creative identity. Artist and astrologer El Josef created their T-shirt in this spirit, “depicting the beauty and ethereal essence”of trans-femme model and artist and Elie Che who tragically died in late 2020, while only 22 years old.
Support and allyship can take many different forms. It definitely doesn’t start and end with money, but donations and financial support are a tangible way to take meaningful action. The saying ‘put your money where your mouth is’ exists for a reason. All the proceeds from the Balance collection will go back to the community, both through donations to Human Dignity Trust, OUTandPROUD and through Go Fund Me pages of individuals who are surviving and transitioning. So shopping from Balance means supporting the trans community.
But, support means more than T-shirts. So we’ve put together a list of resources for education and donations:
Curator: Mya Mehmi
Commissioner: Marisa Thomas
Culture Curator: Rudi Minto De Wijs
Brand Manager: Gaia De Siena
Photographer (Balance): Bernice Mulenga
Art Director (Balance): Kumbirai Makumbe
Creative Director / Director: Whitney Conti
Director Of Photography (Tea Time with Mya): Morgan Spencer
Producer (Tea Time with Mya): Sophie Cantopher
Art Director (Tea Time with Mya): Elise Rose
Film Editor (Tea Time with Mya): Saraphina Mattis
Grade (Tea Time with Mya): Paul Akinrinlola
Shot at: Method Studios
Balance designs by: Lewis G. Burton, Zorawar Waraich, Rene Matic, Naeem Davis, Nadine Artois, ZMARAKS, Blk Moody Boi, Mika and Marlock, El Josef.
Tea Time with Mya guests: Lady Shaka and June Bellebono