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Sage Dolan-Sandrino Brings Trans Community to the Front With “The TEAM Mag”

At a time where there were no protections in place for transgender youth in schools, Sage Dolan-Sandrino started to bravely advocate for them. 

“I began my policy work under an alias,” she said. “I couldn’t let anyone know I was trans for safety reasons.”

From ages 12 to 15, the Afro-Cuban queer teen worked with multiple organizations, such as the Humans Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality, to help shape policy that protects transgender youth, and she even became an Ambassador to the Obama Administration’s White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. 

As she made her way into high school, Sage channeled her voice into publications like Teen Vogue and Vice, and in 2018 she founded her own digital zine and creative collective entitled The TEAM Mag.

“TEAM Mag was born out of the need — that became so evident to me —  for authentic and equitable representation,” she said.

 

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A DC native, Sage grew up with Black and Brown peers and neighbors that looked like her and lived like her, but she never saw herself or her community’s experiences reflected on DC-based TV shows and mainstream media, which is too heavily dominated by a white, cisgender, straight, and politically driven narrative.

“I saw a lack of representation in the kind of media and stories that I wanted to see,” she said. “I also noticed that Black and Brown creators were only highlighted or included in the conversation to meet diversity or inclusion requirements and only when our trauma was really at the center of the narratives. We never got to see ourselves in narratives of joy, celebration, love, and happiness, and I wanted to change that.”

 

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And The TEAM Mag has paved the way for that change. From its first issue Genesis to partnerships with creatives like Iman Daydream — a Virginian artist who illustrated a comic series depicting three Black queer couples — the zine has been able to create inclusive, authentic narratives that counter the mainstream media’s often white-washed, cis, and heteronormative culture.

“If we as Black queer people cannot see ourselves reflected in the narrative world, we are led to wonder, where do we belong in the real world?” Sage said. “I thought for so long I would never experience love because I never saw a character like myself experience love, and it’s really only been through creating experiences for myself that I’ve been able to unlearn that.”

 

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And for Sage, who serves as the zine’s Creative Director, she knows just how much these inclusive narratives and kindness go hand and hand.

“The way I demonstrate kindness is by being very intentional with the narratives that we decide to explore at TEAM,” she said. “We are no longer interested in engaging in senseless depictions of trauma because our community doesn’t need that — we are witnesses to, and experience that trauma every day. But what we also experience and too often don’t get to see are narratives of our joy, celebration, and happiness, and so being kind to me is being intentional about representing and creating those opportunities to see ourselves loved and celebrated.”

 

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Now at the age of 20, Sage continues to work on The TEAM Mag in New York, and she continues to passionately amplify the voices of her Gen-Z peers stating, “We really do have the power to change the world.” 

As Sage notes, Gen-Z has spending power — and that, coupled with their generational mindset of inclusion and equity — means that Gen-Z has the ability to shut down companies, communities, and publications that do not adhere to the moral obligations of dignity, respect, inclusion, and equity, and just as notable, they’re starting their own collectives, companies, and communities that are on the side of justice.

 

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“It’s become very clear to me that if you’re not on the side of Gen-Z, you’re not on the right side of history,” she said.  “We grew up in the time of constant war, in a time of constant conflict, in a time of global warming. Our world’s chaos is the norm — none of this is new to us, but all of this is something that we want to change.”

To help Sage create this change, you can support The TEAM Mag by following, liking, and sharing their Instagram (@theteammag) content or donating here.  By sharing their content, Sage notes, “We increase the possibility of a person who is in the most dire need of our content to be exposed to it.”

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