What is FORT and why are we building it?

Trans people are not inherently broken, or contentious. We all live in a society that actively violates our bodies and our homes by giving us rules to live by based on the shapes and attributes of our bodies. Trans people are living proof that nobody has to follow those rules if they don’t fit. We demonstrate every day that they weren’t written for us, and they don’t serve us. That they only hinder our joy and restrict agency over our lives.

Who wants to be totally accepted by a society, simply based on how well we follow the rules that were made up by the most powerful among us?

No shade at all if those expectations do work for you. But challenging their power and actively supporting those who don’t fit into them gives everyone room to establish consent over their identities. It says this is who I am because I chose it. Not because I have to be this way.

Trans people have always existed. We question what we’re given, and remake it for ourselves. We break and rebuild, we step outside expectations and explore. Often playfully, sometimes dangerously. We are naturally creative. We are beautifully authentic.

There are many reasons that we face such a backlash. We are perceived as a threat to the way things are. And we demonstrate empowering and compassionate alternatives. Many are inspired by us, but even then… When our bodies are placed on billboards, our feet and wheels invited to stages and runways… Often our stories are written by others, voices erased, needs ignored. Our hard-earned joy is commodified by brands who claim to celebrate us (because we’re “trendy” aka profitable), but refuse to stand up to our enemies or treat us with respect in the production process. We are used as political pawns and denied our humanity by constantly being questioned and debated.

And we’re honestly bored of it. So we’re making space for ourselves.

A FORT is a protected space of rest and nourishment. We cannot grow, heal and create in the middle of battle. We need room. We need safety. We need each other.

FORT is a multi-practice, non-profit, sober queer creative space in the heart of London containing a consent-led & trauma informed tattoo/piercing studio, an art/print shop, a print workshop and a production house. We will tell our own stories and we will celebrate our own lives. On our own terms. By us, for us.

But we live in a world where property is very inaccessible, especially for those who’ve been writing their own rules. We need funds to secure our space, but we don’t want investors who control and profit from what we do. We don’t want long and uncertain processes and hoops to jump through and boxes to tick whilst seeking funding and grants. We want something that’s truly ours. So we’re finding our own ways to get it.

We needed to raise £20,000 to open our space. Deposits, rent upfront, renovations, etc. And, importantly, we needed a project that demonstrates why it’s so vital. Our community needs to be inspired, rejuvenated, loved, celebrated, glorified even. By us, for us.

So we’ve made an all-trans naked calendar. Celebrating our own bodies, for our own causes — not for the profit of others. We started shooting 12 days after we had the idea. We had 108 applicants from all over the community and the country wanting to model. We photographed 58 trans people in 13 individually designed and built sets (12 months plus a cover). We had three trans photographers (@sleepy_edi@kairo_kay and @queergarden), two intimacy coordinators and 16 other production and promotion crew. From runners to welfare assistants to designers and even our accountant — every single member of the team is trans. And most of us are neurodivergent. For a moment we created and lived in our own world. For a moment we could breathe. We could laugh. We could stim. We could communicate our needs and have others excited to meet them. We could cry. We could play. And it felt magical. To be naked, powerfully vulnerable and fully seen. Accepted for who we know ourselves to be, without question.

We gained far more than we set out to. We needed money to build our FORT. And in working together on this fundraiser, we learned that our mission is so much more necessary, beautiful and achievable than we ever could have imagined. Our process inspired our community and our community inspired our process. By orchestrating our own ideas of autonomy and euphoria into every single detail, we held space for each other and we felt the resulting freedom with every fibre of our beings. We proved that we do have the skills and we can create the spaces to do whatever we like, however we like, with breathtaking levels of craft. With timelines and budgets that would make advertising executives weep. And the connections and artworks that came out of this process changed our lives.

This year, we’re not asking for permission. This year, we are building our own homes and finding our own heavens. This year, we’re building a FORT.

Creative Director & ProducerJamie (he/they)
Photographer & Art DirectorBeliza (they/them) @queergarden
PhotographersKairo (he/they) @kairo.kay
Edi (they/them) @sleepy_edi
Production CoordinatorKit (they/he) @prince.x.mononokay
Intimacy CoordinatorNeen (they/he) @neensever
Intimacy Coordinator & Head RunnerViolet (she/her) @mx__universe
Welfare & EventsLu (they/she) @luchalkx
PRMilo (he/they) @milo_turns
Set Build AssistantLili (they/them)
Production AssistantsEms (they/them) @alien_ink_
Tash (they/he) @tash__vine
Ruth (any/all) @ruth_walshe
Hugo (they/them) @hugo.snips
RunnersChris (he/him) @chrishham
Sym (they/them ) @theflavouroftears
Dani (they/them) @danicroston
Robin (he/him) @r.ustyart