Take five common questions asked on identity applications and reframe them to be open-ended. A Seattle-based artist invites participants to define themselves with complexity and imagination in the Passport Series.
Instead of checking off a box for sex or gender, how would you define your gender identity or expression? Fill in the blank; use only one line. I am Carina del Rosario ’91, and this is how I approached an arts project in Seattle that I call the Passport Series. I asked that question in particular, because the original idea for this project came out of a documentary and digital storytelling project I was doing with transgender folks. At the same time there was a big push for the DREAM Act.
I came to the arts through storytelling and journalism: editor of The Santa Clara, then work at a community newspaper focused on Asian Pacifc American issues in Seattle. I found myself turning more and more to art to communicate—and to teaching. I now call myself a cultural worker and a teaching artist.
In the Passport Series, I take the five most common questions that are asked on identity applications, and I reframe them. Working with transgender people, I learned that many did not have identity documents that matched how they live their lives; they are always at risk of discrimination when, for example, they come to a doctor’s office and they are called “John” but they are very much presenting as a female. Documentation tends to separate us rather than allow us to express ourselves in our holistic, complex ways.
I set up temporary passport offices where I invited people to fill out my reimagined passport application. I found younger contributors asking, “Why do we even have these categories?”
The experience of completing the passport makes the lesson clear: This is how the U.S. government conferred rights on some people and denied them for others. For example, if you were going to mark “Asian,” you either were not going to be allowed into this country before 1965, or you couldn’t own property or marry a white person.
I have always loved photography matched with the written word. Because I was in the communication department at SCU, I was grounded in the social justice aspects of communication, the power of journalism to educate and to shine a light on things that are either misunderstood or ignored.
Read the original story that Carina del Rosario ’91 wrote for the College of Arts and Sciences.