Espavo Project

Espavo:   Thank you for taking your power back

FORGE encourages trans[1], gender non-conforming, gender non-binary individuals and loved ones who have experienced sexual violence to take part in this photographic and narrative project, with the goal of increasing personal healing and empowerment, and offering strength and hope to the community.

It is the nature of a trauma that sometimes victims feel like it never ended, like we are still living through it.  The Espavo Project aims to break that destructive hold by creating professional photographic portraits of transgender, gender non-conforming, gender non-binary individuals and SOFFA survivors of sexual assault in all their current, vibrant aliveness.   Each participant will receive a frameable copy of their portrait, and all will be invited to share their image with others via online and/or traveling galleries.  Participants will also be invited to produce a statement to accompany the portrait, with FORGE staff providing reflection and/or writing assistance and guidance to those who would like it.


The next photo shoots will be in conjunction with the following conferences:

  • Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, Philadelphia, PA (June 9 – 11, 2016)
  • Gender Odyssey, Seattle, WA (August 4 – 7, 2016)
  • National Sexual Assault Conference, Washington, DC (August 31 – September 2, 2016)
  • Check back for additional photo shoot dates.


Frequently Asked Questions

Who will take the pictures?  FORGE has recruited multiple professional photographers with ample experience with and good reputations for photographing members of the trans community.  Appointments with these photographers will be available at selected trans conferences across the country, and to individuals located near the photographers’ home towns.

What if I’m not located near a trans conference or your photographers?  If we are not able to arrange a time and place for you to meet with one of our photographers, we encourage you to obtain and submit your own photograph for inclusion in the online and/or traveling galleries.  Simply email an electronic version of your photograph to tgwarrior [at] forge-forward [dot] org, mail it to FORGE at P.O. Box 1272, Milwaukee, WI, 53201, or call us at 414-559-2123 to discuss specifics.

AT 2 low res

Do I have to be public?  No.  We will be building online and traveling galleries of survivor photographs, writings, artwork, videos, and other works produced by survivors in order to increase personal healing through visibility and inspire other survivors and the professionals who serve us, but you are under no obligation to include your photograph or statement in these public venues.  Each participant will fill out a detailed consent form that will specify how, if at all, we may use your photograph and/or other submissions.

What does Espavo mean?  Espavo is a reclaimed word that means “Thank you for taking your power.”  Survivors don’t have the power to erase what we’ve survived, but we do have the power to choose what we do with our lives despite of or in reaction to those traumas.  The Espavo Galleries will document the many creative and wonderful ways in which trans/gender-non-conforming/SOFFA survivors have taken back our power.

Ms Lady Mocha 8 High res w words


Is there a cost?  The Espavo Project is funded by a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women.  Photographs and staff assistance with statements (if needed) are provided free of charge.

What is the statement about?  Pictures can be worth 1,000 words, but sometimes words are necessary, too.  Gallery participants are invited to write a statement about one or more of the ways in which you have “taken your power back.”  FORGE staff are happy to help you think through this statement, and can even interview you and draft a statement for you to revise as you wish.  Statements can be a few words, or many paragraphs.

Can I submit videos, artwork, or some other medium?  Yes, as long as the theme is on some variation of how you, as a survivor or loved one, have taken back your power.  Send an electronic version of your submission to tgwarrior [at] forge-forward [dot] org, mail it to FORGE at P.O. Box 1272, Milwaukee, WI, 53201, or call us at 414-559-2123 to discuss specifics.  (Please note that we cannot guarantee the return of original artwork.)

Peter low res with watermark a


Where will the traveling gallery be shown?  Parts of the gallery will be displayed at transgender conferences to introduce attendees to the Espavo Project and to highlight the resilience and strength of survivors.  Other displays are to be arranged, and may include: showings at LGBT Community Centers, public education events, professional trainings, political events, and private showings.  If you are interested in hosting an Espavo Gallery at your event or city, please contact FORGE at  tgwarrior [at] forge-forward [dot] org or 414-559-2123.

What is the online gallery??  The online gallery will be housed at  Because what is on the internet is available to “everyone” “forever,” we anticipate that only some of our participants will choose to have their photograph, statement, and/or artwork made available here.  Those who do, however, will be able to provide hope and strength to many, many other survivors who they would not be able to reach in any other way.

Miranda Espavo 1

This project was supported by Grant No. 2012-KS-AX-0006 and 2015-UD-AX-0008 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this program are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.


[1] Throughout this document, we will use fluid language of “trans,” “transgender,” and “gender non-conforming.”  We honor and recognize the complexity and multiplicity of gender identities.  We use these words in their broadest meanings, inclusive of those whose identities lie outside of these terms often limiting terms.