Traveling Exhibit Shares Transgender Stories

By | 2017-12-06T01:00:14+00:00 November 20th, 2014|Birmingham, Neighborhoods|

A museum-quality traveling exhibit on transgender experiences dubbed “Pioneering Voices: Portraits of Transgender People” has found a temporary home at Congregational Church of Birmingham this month. Through first-person accounts, interviews and positive images, the stories and pictures of transgender people are shared to challenge damaging myths and stereotypes. In light of the recent exclusions of “gender identity” from the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights act amendment, it’s more important than ever to help the Michigan community get a full understanding of those who identify as “T” in LGBT.
Consisting of 15 “ready-to-hang” framed photographs with accompanying text panels detailing the stories and interviews of those present in the exhibit, “Pioneering Voices” was created by Jack Pierson and Peggy Gillespie of Family Diversity Projects. Pierson, who took the photographs and interviewed the transgender individuals, was a Smith College intern who decided to create the exhibition. Gillespie, editor-in-chief of Family Diversity Projects, collaborated with Pierson.
“Pioneering Voices” presents a myriad of stories, celebrating a range of views, opinions and experiences. Used in schools, colleges, churches and community centers, the traveling exhibit has helped to foster safer environments for trans persons by nurturing empathy in students, teachers, staff members and other peers. So far, the exhibit has been hosted by thousands of venues worldwide.
Family Diversity Projects continues to foster inclusion, affirmation and, of course, diversity with its varying touring exhibits. Leslea Newman, author of “Heather Has Two Mommies,” notes, “When I first wrote ‘Heather Has Two Mommies,’ the first children’s book to portray a happy loving family of a little girl with two lesbian moms, I had no idea how many families my book would touch and support. In a similar way, Family Diversity Projects touches people young and old with their ground-breaking exhibitions and books. Like ‘Heather Has Two Mommies,’ their exhibits have both caused controversy and educated thousands of people about the moral equality of LGBT people and their families.
“These marvelous exhibits travel throughout the world to schools, colleges, libraries, community centers, houses of worship, workplaces, statehouses and conferences. Wherever they are displayed, the FDP exhibits help to reduce discrimination and bullying of all people who are perceived to be ‘different,’ leading to safer environments for LGBT children and adults. Simply put, the exhibits are unique tools in the fight to dismantle homophobia and transphobia.”
The exhibit, which runs until Nov. 30, had its opening reception and “grand welcome” on Sunday. Exhibition times are 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays, 5 to 8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 12 to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and by appointment on Thursdays and Saturdays.
The exhibit can be viewed in the Sanctuary of Congregational Church of Birmingham, 1000 Cranbrook Road. For more information, email Steve Olson at or visit For more information on Family Diversity Projects, check out

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