Transcendence: Queer Restoryation

The Transcendence book is available here!

“We are living in a moment with increased representation of transgender and gender-expansive people, but many of these representations focus solely on proof of existence or center around a narrative of transition. In Transcendence, Quirk takes us to another level, inviting us into a deeper experience filled with spirituality, history, and mythology.”  —  Jess T. Dugan (photographer of Look at me like you love me, To Survive on This Shore, and Every Breath We Drew)

with fire

Enter a world where distinctions of gender, time, and place become fluid and flexible, and new queer stories connect to ancient patterns. Cai Quirk’s Transcendence: Queer Restoryation inspires readers to take a nuanced look into intersections of gender, spirituality, mythology, and nature.

Transcendence explores many paths beyond supposed binaries: male and female, night and day, land and sea, earth and sky, life and death, self and other, self and earth. In the spirit of myths, this book transcends boundaries and identities to reach a deeply human experience of connection. The 38 self-portrait photographs and six mythic tales open doors to new possibilities through stories of creation, of rebirth, of journey.

In a society that tries to erase the presence of queer, transgender, and non-binary folks, it is vital that we share our stories, whether these are the everyday realities of our lives, or mythic tales of realities deeper than ordinary truths. Binary ways of seeing the world will not simply disappear — we must actively replace them with ways of seeing and honoring fluidity as natural and necessary. Through the powerful act of queer restoryation, Transcendence invites readers on a journey of empowerment, inspiration, and healing. 

sacral spring

Cai Quirk’s brilliant vision of the future, Transcendence, is an instant classic. While absorbing their words and witnessing their alchemy, I had an overwhelming sense that generations of upcoming legends decades into the future would be holding this book in their hands. This first edition copy will prove a valuable investment; one day it will be a family heirloom.”  —  Zackary Drucker (producer of TV series ‘Transparent’)

each twilight
of water
through veins deep inside

Myth: From Earth’s Cradle

Before there were people, before there were parents, before the Earth knew the joys of laughter and running feet, Earth thought ze had all ze could need in life. During the day, the sun bathed Earth in warm rays of light, and flowers smiled down upon zem from meadows and rocky cliffs alike. At night, moonbeams washed over the land and the wind in the trees was the music that rocked Earth to sleep. 

As time passed, the rustles in moments between sleep and wakefulness began to bring meaning, guiding Earth to create beings to dance on zer surface and float through the skies. From the leaves in the trees ze created birds and butterflies of every color. From the cliffs and hills ze drew animals that could hop, skip, and run. 

The rustles from the wind in the trees guided Earth further, to create a being that could greet zem in return. This being would love and care for all aspects of life, from the animals on the ground, to the fish in the water, to the birds in the air. Ze would need to draw earth, water, and air together to create this being. The Earth tried pushing these elements together in a great explosion, but the being fell apart. Ze tried mixing them together in a large hollow in the ground but to no avail. 

Ze returned to the wind in the trees with despair in zer heart. How could the elements be drawn together into one being? Just as this new being will need help surviving, so too will you in creating, the wind told zem. You may ask any of us, call on any of us you need. Ze thought and thought. 

Finally Earth called upon seeds at the base of a great tree, for ze knew how to grow plant beings. Those beings reached deep into the ground for water and towards the sky for air. Ze was surprised to find the sprouts of vines rising from the soil, not a child of the great tree. In zer dreams that night, the wind whispered of course… who but one who needs support from other beings could bring forth this creature.

As the vines grew, they formed a circle near the ground, a cradle in which the newest being of creation could be supported and sheltered. The vines drew together water, earth, and air, to create these people that would care for Earth as ze cared for them. As the people emerged and walked across the world, they, like the vines, needed support from others; they could not survive on their own. They learned from the beings around them how to gather food, shelter, and medicine, and began to understand what it means to be human.

Even though we, the descendents of those first people, are no longer born in circles of vines, we are still interwoven with the Earth and other beings. We are still held by Earth’s cradle, still learning from the beings around us, still invited to care for Earth in return, and now the wind can guide us all in our journeys.

hollow core
with every breath
sight unveiled
from ashes we rise
seeds sown
roots entwined
as one

Exhibition images