Mirror Memoirs is a national storytelling and organizing project intervening in rape culture by uplifting the narratives, healing and leadership of Black, Indigenous, and of color Two Spirit, transgender, non-binary, intersex and queer survivors of childhood rape and sexual assault.

The US Centers for Disease Control estimates 20% of all adults (1 in 4 female-assigned-at-birth and 1 in 6 male-assigned-at-birth people) experience rape or sexual abuse by an older child or an adult by the age of 18.  New studies suggest that gender non-conforming children may be at even greater risk. 

This project uses storytelling and survivor leadership to illuminate the needs and wisdom of survivors at this vulnerable intersection, in service of co-creating the answer to the question: “What would have to be true for no child to ever be raped or sexually assaulted again?”

Our Values & Commitments 

Our work is inherently intersectional, following the leadership and prioritizing the needs  of those survivors who have been most harmed by systemic, historical and cultural  violence in the United States. We are committed to building a world in which Black and  Indigenous gender non-conforming children are loved, protected and cherished, and in  which their wisdom, autonomy and humanity are respected. Given the well-documented  history and legacy of state violence against these children and their communities, we  are an abolitionist organization, committed to building safety and support through  relational networks and cultural change, not through prisons, police or state-run  psychiatric institutions. Knowing child sexual abuse and rape culture will not be fully  eradicated in this lifetime, our work is intergenerational, with a commitment to  intentionally involve youth and young adults in the leadership and development of our  organization. Finally, we value all forms of labor that go into creating our organization, and as such, we have adopted a horizontal pay scale (all full-time and hourly staff  members get paid the same rate).

Our History & Structure 

Mirror Memoirs was founded by nationally-recognized survivor activist Amita Swadhin in  January 2016, when they received a fellowship from the Just Beginnings Collaborative  (launched by the NoVo Foundation). In February 2019, we received fiscal sponsorship  from Community Partners, a non-profit in Los Angeles that supports over 150 emerging  projects. In December 2020, Jaden Fields became Co-Executive Director, after four  years of shaping the project as a Core Member.  

Our Board is comprised entirely of transgender, intersex, non-binary and/or queer  people of color who survived child sexual abuse, with a commitment to reserve 75% of  Board seats for survivors who are Two Spirit, transgender, intersex or non-binary. In  2022, 60% of our Board members are Black.  

Accomplices beyond our core demographic are invited to help us raise awareness and  funding, as well as have input into our strategic plan and organizational development,  by joining our Leadership Council (which includes a give-and-get commitment).   

Key Program Components & Accomplishments 

Knowledge Production  

The foundation of our programming is our audio archive of stories from LGBTQI+  people of color who survived child sexual abuse. From 2016 through 2018, our  Founding Co-Director recorded interviews with 60 survivors across 15 states in the US. We have since recorded an additional X survivor stories.

In September 2018, with support from Dartmouth College and the Northwest Network,  we assembled a team of seven transgender, non-binary and intersex Mirror Memoirs  members to begin coding our initial audio archive into data. Coding was done using  Atlas TI software, an academic research tool. All of our researchers were paid for their  work.  

This initial archive reveals a collective narrative largely untold in mainstream media,  even during the post-#MeToo era. Our storytellers are 42% Black, 37% Latinx, 10% Indigenous and 31% Asian or  Pacific Islander (percentages higher than 100 due to mixed-race survivors)  • 9% were raped or sexually assaulted by a cisgender woman. 70% of our storytellers are transgender, non-binary or intersex. 

Those survivors who grew up to identify as transgender women had multiple  perpetrators, across a broader span of time (into adulthood), at much higher  rates than other survivors. As children, many of our storytellers were sexually assaulted in mental health  hospitals, by the police, and/or in foster care, revealing a failure of our current  social safety net to protect survivors at the intersections of oppression. 100% shared their personal vision for how humanity can end child sexual abuse – very few named police or prisons as a solution.  From 2021-2022, we are partnering with Athlete Ally and RALIANCE to expand our  audio archive, recording another 15 stories specifically from transgender, non-binary or  intersex survivors in service of creating a counter-narrative to the bills being proposed in  state legislatures nationwide to criminalize gender-affirming healthcare for transgender  children and to ban transgender girls from competing in K-12 or collegiate sports.  

Arts-Based Narrative Change 

Mirror Memoirs’ work has always been rooted in the arts, both through storytelling and  through collaborations with multimedia artists, given our Founding Co-Director’s  background in theater (as co-creator of the Secret Survivors project with Ping Chong +  Co in New York City from 2009-2012) and radio production (as co-host of Flip the Script  on KPFK from 2009-2014), and both of our Co-Directors’ work as writers and  performance poets.  

 Our archive release will include photo collages by Mer Young of our publicly known  storytellers, illustrations by Donovan Vim Crony of our anonymous storytellers, and  music by Juliette Jones of Rootstock Republic. We will also release a series of  multimedia (audio, print and video) toolkits, with art by BIPOC LGBTQI+ visual artists. 

Once funding and the pandemic conditions allow us to do so, we plan to create an in person multi-media art exhibit, performance and healing circle series stemming from the  archive. We hope to tour this ensemble in cities across the United States. 

Member Support  

Mirror Memoirs aims to help survivors in our community, most of whom have not had  support to process their childhood trauma, heal through collective storytelling and  community building. Mirror Memoirs has hosted three national convenings for LGBTQI+  people of color who survived child sexual abuse, with over 100 survivors attending total.  Convenings have incorporated somatic healing practices, story sharing, listening  sessions using excerpts from our audio archive, and workshops on breaking the cycle of  sexual violence in our families and communities. Local healing practitioners have also  attended to provide their services at low-or-no cost to participants. We have collected  surveys from our attendees, informing our future practices and strategic priorities. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we expanded our programming to include monthly  virtual member meetings, inviting members to deepen relationships in service of sharing  both emotional support and political analysis, while engaging in healing justice practices  and workshops, and book readings to strengthen our skills to move in line the values of  transformative justice and disability justice. 

Leadership Development  

Mirror Memoirs is, in part, a social enterprise to create paid leadership opportunities as  keynote speakers, trainers, facilitators, policy advocates, researchers, curriculum  writers, and organizational development practitioners for transgender, non-binary and  intersex survivors of color (particularly those who are Black, Indigenous and/or Latinx)  who are historically unemployed or underemployed.  

Thus far, Mirror Memoirs has created these opportunities through our Board  membership, and through consulting and public speaking opportunities with universities,  nonprofit organizations and government agencies throughout the country. Over 40 people in our base have been paid for Mirror Memoirs work, and we expect this number  to increase as we launch our training institutes. 

Survivor-Led Advocacy & Training  

Through the strategy sessions at our national convenings, our membership meetings, and the collective recommendations  emerging from our audio archive, we are beginning to craft a vision for a world without rape, and a policy platform to help vulnerable survivors heal and thrive in the here and  now, even as we work toward that long-term vision. Since the project launched, our team has delivered over 100 keynotes, trainings and  webinars through colleges, conferences, and community-based organizations  nationwide. Our audiences have included direct service providers, philanthropists, social  justice advocates, and policymakers.  

Our policy advocacy work has grown since we became a fiscally-sponsored  organization in 2019. Our Co-Director Jaden Fields was a 2019 Solis Policy Institute  Fellow at the CA Women’s Foundation, where he advocated for the passage of a bill to  fund the creation of youth-led mental health peer support teams in public high schools  throughout California. We are also a member organization of the CA Transgender and  Gender Non-conforming Policy Alliance, which successfully advocated for the  Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund, and the #InvestInTransLives coalition, calling  for a more equitable investment from institutional funders into transgender and non binary-led social change organizations (especially those with BIPOC leadership).

Scroll to Top