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A Star Is Born

Trans artist JanieWhateva’s OutSmart Zodiac series promotes LGBTQ visibility.

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JanieWhateva

Truth be told, astrology is central to LGBTQ culture. But it wasn’t until a conversation with JanieWhateva, the artist and creator of OutSmart’s stunning new Zodiac series, that I understood the profound connection between LGBTQ culture and astrology. With little to no LGBTQ exposure growing up, Janie turned to astrology as a teenager to search for a better understanding of herself and her trans identity. “Using astrology as a stepping stone, we can learn about our emotions and dreams and have a path to self-discovery,” she says. Not only does astrology provide people with answers to some hows and whys, but it’s also inherently reflective of the self. 

“When you feel desperately alone, it helps to see the literal web of stars above that connects us all. It assures us that others have walked our path before, and we’re never truly alone.”

JanieWhateva

In essence, astrology serves as a vehicle of self-portraiture—which is not exclusively visual in nature, but rather an honest reflection of the self. And for people under the LGBTQ rainbow with multiple intersections of identity, self-portraiture is absolutely vital. Queer survival depends on queer visibility. Not only is your own image essential to self-love and acceptance, but queer representation also serves as an example to others to live and love openly and authentically.

As a perfect example of how crucial self-portraiture is to LGBTQ identity, JanieWhateva began her artistic career by affirming her identity as a woman via drawing. Combatting dysphoria, and before she was out as trans, Janie would draw a version of herself that the mirror did not yet reflect. There on paper, her true inner self revealed her outer self, and the wholeness of her existence finally clicked into place. Not only was she creating art, but she was a work of art. 

I’d be remiss not to highlight the significance of a trans artist creating this Zodiac artwork, since representation behind the scenes matters just as much (if not more) than outward visibility. Trans people rightfully demand that trans characters be portrayed by real trans actors, and that trans writers should be the ones to write trans narratives (we’re looking at you, Jill Soloway). Trans folks disproportionately experience workplace discrimination and are vastly more susceptible to poverty, so supporting and hiring trans artists is an economic imperative. 

Janie has created an utterly flawless convergence of both inner and outer reflections in her 2019 Zodiac series. Superbly personifying Houston’s rich diversity, all of Janie’s star signs are specifically modeled on LGBTQ identities. Some familiar faces appear, with trans actress Hari Nef representing Libra while Aquarius is aptly depicted by drag darling Aquaria. 

As a Virgo herself, Janie is methodical and cautious, taking great care to portray each sign by showcasing different body types, races, and gender identities. Also true to her Virgo nature, Janie admits to being a skeptic when it comes to astrology. Regardless, she enjoys and finds comfort in astrology, appreciating its place in our culture. Straight, cisgender men on Tinder can hate astrology all they want, but astrology ultimately harms no one and generally makes people feel better about the world and themselves. 

Let’s be real: 2018 has sucked for a lot of people. Outsmart’s 2019 Zodiac series will give us LGBTQ folks something beautiful to look forward to each month with representations of people like us and a reminder that we’re all connected. “Astrology is fun to explore,” Janie says. “When you feel desperately alone, it helps to see the literal web of stars above that connects us all. It assures us that others have walked our path before, and we’re never truly alone.”

This article appears in the January 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Kathryn Way

Kathryn Way is a contributor to OutSmart magazine.

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