From the time he was little, Mars Wright hated coloring between the lines. To this day, he isn’t a fan of coloring books. But for some with a creative mind, a sense of wholeness and individuality can be unlocked with only a blank white sheet of paper and a pen in hand. The possibilities are endless for a child’s imaginative mind, and this truth saved Wright and helped him form the transmasculine artist he is today.
“From such a young age, I was creating,” Mars tells INTO. “Fantasy kind of saved my life…I fantasized of being this young boy, or being who I was, and also being seen that way. And so through drawing and getting out of coloring books, I could take that and build it into a real tangible thing.”
From then on, Wright’s passion for art and creation bloomed along with their journey toward self-discovery. “I became the man I wanted to save me.”
Though Wright pursued a career in art, their initial study of graphic design was the thing that found them a way into the marketplace after graduating. He started making stickers with affirming quotes about trans joy and its importance, such as “Strong Men Cry”, “Life is worth living” and “God is Trans”. And once he had posted them online, the stickers had sold out within 30 minutes. That success emboldened him to start his own clothing line.
“I always try to make things from a personal point of view.”
Now, fans of his art can access all his wearable art in one place. His designs feature gender-affirming quotes such as “Living my best queer life” and “I love my trans child.” But his most eye-catching pieces are his button-ups: Keith Harring-inspired graphic designs with a simple message: that T=trans people are worthy. He’s created a brand that’s not only gender expansive but has a more profound genuine message, unlike the performativity of other clothing brands and corporations during certain months of the year.
For Wright and many trans/gender-non-conforming individuals, clothes can be essential to their gender journey. “Clothing is some people’s first way of experiencing gender euphoria, without having to have access to medical transition or without even having to be out,” Wright explains. “So maybe the first thing you did was buy a different style of shirt, and you’re like, okay, this is something that I can lean into and experience.”
Wright’s work binds queer and trans folks together by helping them find and recognize each other out in the world. In fact, that recognition is what inspired Wright himself. “I went on a trip to New Mexico a little while back,” he recalls, “and I was walking into the local gay bar, And I saw through the door the “Trans Joy is Resistance” hoodie. So I ran into the club, and I looked at this person. I was like, Oh my God. Hey, it’s me! And we had this really cute moment of us screaming in the gay bar at each other.”
This togetherness drives Wright; He’s spoken at community and art events across the country such as Mutual Love Fest in Austin, Texas. This past year he even had a fashion show which featured trans models walking down the runway wearing his designs. This March, he had an art gallery highlighting trans joy in Joshua Tree that displayed a compilation of his pieces over the years. He’s done a lot, but the connection he’s made and the stories he’s heard along the way stay with him, and he’s reminded why he does the work he does.
As a panelist for Mutual Love Fest, Wright met so many people struggling to access health care due to the passing of anti-trans legislation bills. They met someone who was going to get top surgery a week before a bill would pass in their home state of Oklahoma—where they were still getting insurance—that would stop the surgery in Texas.
“Community to me right now specifically means being able to have each other and know that we’re around. I think the biggest fear that I have right now is that young trans kids won’t make it. And I really want trans youth to have community and know there’s a future. Like Trans Joy is resistance and that things could get better. And they’re not alone.” As he exhales deeply, he continues: “I always say, in my little artist statement, I believe in the beauty of imperfection. And I hope through showing that I can help others.”
“I think everybody needs to see trans joy is resistance. And I feel clothing is inherently collaborative. My art always becomes a collaboration because I create it right, I make the shirt, and then you go out into the world, and you’re wearing it.”♦