Sage Dolan-Sandrino Is Advocating For Artistic Change & Inclusivity

When it comes to recognizing people who are going above and beyond to advocate for inclusivity, no conversation could be complete without including Sage Dolan-Sandrino. Dolan-Sandrino has fought for opportunities and created ones when they didn’t exist. But crucially, she has worked to create opportunities for others with a focus on the intersection of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC experiences.

Sage Dolan-Sandrino socially transitioned at just 13 and her experience was documented in Disney+’s 2022 Growing Up docu-series. Growing Up is directed by Brie Larson, and each of the 10 episodes follows the coming-of-age story of a different individual. For Sage Dolan-Sandrino that meant taking a look at her experience of being outed at school and her move into advocacy and policy work.

I exist. I am not just some figment of your imagination, not just some dinner conversation. I’m nothing for you to disagree with because you can’t disagree with the fact that I’m alive. I’m breathing and I’m going to continue doing just that.

Sage Dolan-Sandrino, speaking with INTO

Coming out is often a scary experience, and it’s so much worse when one’s agency is taken away. Dolan-Sandrino was outed at school when images of her experimenting with her transition were passed amongst classmates. The traumatic event pushed Dolan-Sandrino to fully social transition, arriving at school the next day as her true self.  That experience and the realities that faced Sage Dolan-Sandrino as an Afro-Cuban trans woman and the knowledge that others face those same challenges led the young Dolan-Sandrino to begin policy work under a pseudonym.

By the age of 15, Sage Dolan-Sandrino had already worked with groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality. This work in advocacy reached a huge moment when the Obama administration reached out to include her as part of the Initiative for Educational Excellence for African Americans. Ultimately, Dolan-Sandrino became one of a group of LGBTQ+ students who helped to advise the White House on their guidance on Title IX in 2016.

During the Obama administration, the Office for Civil Rights within the Department of Education was responding to the need to ensure that the civil rights of transgender and nonbinary students were protected. They actually reached out to about a dozen of us around the nation to meet with then education secretary Arne Duncan and let him know about the discrimination we faced in schools and brainstorm solutions. Our personal experiences and lived expertise as trans and nonbinary students helped inform the May 2016 guidance on Title IX, which clarified that prohibitions on discrimination against students on the basis of their sex also included prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of gender, including transgender. We felt seen.

Sage Dolan-Sandrino, writing for Teen Vogue

Having found her voice in advocacy, she began to share it in a way that could get in front of readers everywhere, doubling up her work on policy with work on public opinion. Sage Dolan-Sandrino became Teen Vogue’s first-ever trans youth writer, and as a journalist she wrote hard-hitting articles that advocated for trans rights on a national level. These ranged from Why the Women’s March Is Important for Trans Teens in January of 2017 to I’m a Trans Student, and the Trump Administration Memo Won’t Erase Me in late 2018. That same year, Dolan-Sandrino began her own space for creative output as she founded the digital zine TEAM Mag. There, working with others, she developed her creativity and made content intended to highlight joy in marginalized groups.

In 2019, Dolan-Sandrino told Mashable that she was going to film school and sees herself as an artist first, but with an “activist lens.”

I see my art as an ally to activism. Because it’s ultimately the same mission: to normalize the trans community and bring authenticity to the stories we tell.

Sage Dolan-Sandrino, speaking with Mashable

That perspective of merging art and activism is alive and well in Dolan-Sandrino as she is now the inaugural Monica Roberts Fellow at the National Black Justice Coalition, an organization where she had previously served on their Youth Advisory Council. At the NBJC, she serves as the creative lead for projects on liberation. She is also key to collaborating with other organizations, including Cartoon Network and NYC Pride’s Heritage Foundation.

I was taught very early on, being a mixed girl, that I only saw my queerness reflected, in narratives of white people. I didn’t see my queerness intersecting with my Blackness, intersecting with my identity as a Caribbean woman.

Sage Dolan-Sandrino, speaking with INTO

For Sage Dolan-Sandrino, art and activism come hand-in-hand, and she is using her voice to push for change. Her work with organizations that are trying to make things better for people in marginalized communities through the NBJC helps her to push a focus on the intersectionality that so often seemed missing in her youth. But just as importantly, her work with political administrations and roles such as being a member of the Board of Advisors for Gucci’s Chime for Change helps to provide a space for a change in public sentiment. In the past decade, Sage Dolan-Sandrino has come a huge way and accomplished an astonishing amount, and it is clear that she will continue to be one to watch in the coming years.

You can stream Growing Up on Disney+ and learn more about Sage Dolan-Sandrino’s experience now.

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