Who Are They? Coco Riot & Elisha Lim Discuss the “They” Movement – Coco Riot & Elisha Lim

“Call Me They” is a weekly blog that Coco Riot and Elisha Lim update every Thursday with illustrations, stop motion animations, letters to newspaper editors, a talk show, a petition and every imaginable ingredient for a happy, robust trans community.

The petition was its catalyst: in 2011 Elisha was interviewed by the gay Canadian newspaper Xtra!, and was refused the right to use the pronoun ‘they.’ Elisha and Coco started a Facebook event petition for this right. To their surprise, the petition attracted 1,355 supporters from all around the world. It was the beginning of a national boycott, a satellite trans panel and a burst of trans activism rallied by Ivan Coyote, Lexi Sanfino, Rae Spoon, Alaska B, and Lucas Silvera. The blog has been established to document, celebrate, and sustain this momentum.

Elisha and Coco are visual and video artists, and so the blog mainly focuses on these media. The illustrations are usually large posters, like Coco’s “El Sueño,” which is a surreal self portrait in bright colours and sombre pointillism, or Elisha’s “God Loves Queers,” which is a series of line drawings based on Elisha’s rebellious spirituality.

The stop motions are stories about growing up genderqueer, in which Coco and Elisha take turns either directing or writing. For example, “Marimacho” is about Coco’s first time passing as a boy at eight years old, and the love and support of their grandmother. The animations have been selected for numerous 2012 film festivals and screenings, including in New York, Chicago and Berlin.

“Call Me They” exhibited during the month of February at Venus Envy Ottawa, with ten paintings and illustrations, and an animation screening on opening night. All of the art is created to honour trans activism and fortify its new generation, with bright, fun, beautiful work.

Elisha Lim is an artist and graphic novelist with a blatant agenda to promote the leadership, dignity, and sex appeal of queer and trans people of colour. Elisha has illustrated novels, wall calendars, books, and magazines with this mission, including Bitch Magazine’s acclaimed “Sissy Calendar,” The Illustrated Gentleman, and 100 Butches, a graphic novel of portraits and anecdotes about masculine queers. 100 Butches has earned a lot of publicity from its introduction by New York Times bestselling author Alison Bechdel, but it still accomplishes Elisha’s covert plan by containing a 90% quota of racialized models and an unabashed dedication “to queers of colour.” Elisha’s solo shows have included the launch of Toronto’s glamorous FAG Gallery, and “100% Mixed Race” at Toronto’s A-Space Gallery, which is an illustrated documentary of mixed race people of colour in collaboration with Elisha’s sister and Racialicious deputy editor, Thea Lim. 

Coco Riot is a queer Spanish migrant artist who believes in art as an element of social change. Most of their work consists of drawings and explores the multiple possibilities such a “simple” medium can offer, such as single drawing panels, installations, animated films, print media, graphic novels, murals, and  on-site drawing exhibitions. They use personal experience as a metaphor for social and political experience. The topics that fuel their inspiration range from queer politics, collective and personal memories, living within different languages, and the experience of migration. Their work has been shown in museums, galleries, and festivals from New York to Barcelona, in Montreal, Toronto, Berlin, Turin, Madrid, San Jose (Costa Rica), and soon in Rio de Janeiro.