Here I am on the couch with a cup of (well) whiskey listening to some funky jams by Kikagaku Moyo (if you don’t know them… you’re missing out!). And then I realized, wow! I haven’t updated my blog since I moved to NYC. And at this point, it feels like I’ve lived an entire lifetime away from my life in Boston. But this post will be my attempt to fill in some gaps, and share an important lesson I’ve learned: we all have the power to bring ideas to life.
Let’s go back in time for a sec.
About a year ago, I was at the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference. I had just finished hosting an open mic there. I’ve been doing these mics for the past three years consecutively, and was so utterly impressed by the musical talents in my trans community.
I saw a table across the exhibition hall. A record label. Interesting!
I approached the table, and quickly met Kyng Rose. Kyng was the founder of a label called Trans Trenderz. They described it as more than a record label, but expressed great passion for amplifying the voices of trans artists. We exchanged cards, and I told them that I lived in NYC, and could potentially help them find gigs there.
The following week, back in the city, Kyng had a gig. I met them at the train station on 125th, and we went to a little taco restaurant nearby. There we got some happy hour margaritas and talked. They told me about their vision of the label. How they wanted it to become something where no one could talk about the music industry without acknowledging trans artists. How trans people in the media right then (in 2018) were actors and models, who either spoke someone else’s words, or didn’t speak at all. How they wanted society to understand the diversity of the experience of trans individuals, especially considering the differences between black and white trans men and women and nonbinary and gender non-conforming folks.
At the time, I had just finished an amazing internship experience at Studio G, Brooklyn. I was sort of searching for new projects. But a thought emerged: what better way to use my skills and experience in recording and mixing then by helping the trans community.
I left that little taco spot with a feeling of energy and excitement. So much so that I woke up the next morning at 6am without an alarm thinking about the label.
After signing a few artists here in NYC, I quickly felt my role as engineer and mixer expand to much more. I was these artists’ confidant. I was their engineer of course. But I was also their music video director and editor. I was also their branding consultant. I was their shoulder to cry on and their couch to crash on. And honestly, it was a lot to take on. Anywho, as business interactions required, I earned the new title of “Manager”.
Over the course of six months, we released a number of recording and video projects. We played some incredible gigs! For example, I played my first paid gig outside of the USA. Also, an opportunity to get on stage in front of 10s of thousands of people at NYC’s Reclaim Pride March this past June.
But managing a record label for trans people was not all roses. See, MY trans experience was very different from the artists I was working with (who were mostly black trans people). Many had no support system. Multiple artists faced homelessness while we were working together. Some still do.
But it brought to light issues I’d never really been forced to acknowledge before. For example, at one gig at a university, I had rented a car to drive us all there. While I went to park the car, the other artists (who happened to be black trans people) went inside where we were going to load in and start setting up our merch table. However, they were greeted with ugly looks and questions by security as to why they were there. They had to wait until I came back to be granted access into the space, although I had no other credentials than my skin tone.
What the fuck?
Anywho, there were many examples like this which I won’t get into. But it forced my eyes wide open.
Beyond learning such an important lesson about the wide range of experience in the trans community and how my whiteness has played such a role of privilege in my life, I mentioned a different lesson at the top of this post about bringing ideas to life.
In less than two days, the label is hosting a historic show, the Trans Trenderz Music Awards. This is the first music award show dedicated to celebrating trans and gender non-conforming artists.
Kyng and I first thought of the idea while on the train. We were talking about trans-centric events. The majority of the ones we’d seen were either health related or crisis related. But it sparked an idea. What if we put together an event to CELEBRATE trans accomplishments? And right there on that midnight train back to Harlem, the idea became a seed.
For the following eight months, we began organizing. We found a venue. We picked a date. We reached out to potential funders (with little response wompp). We started researching community members who supported the rest of the community and brought them on to present the awards. We made little cute Google forms and opened up nominations. We made a logo and made a plan and goddamn it… we worked so freaking hard thinking about all the details.
But just tonight, we were stuffing awards bags with cute little gifts. And we were printing out programs for the attendees. We had a major printer jam, but fixed it, and then ran out of ink lol! But now, I’m sitting here looking at the fruits of our labor. Full gift bags. Label branding out the wazoo with banners and posters and lanyards oh my!
This event feels like the culmination of something. It feels like my studies and life experience have brought me here. My transness and my musicality and my tendancy to find talented people and latch on to them have brought me here.
I’m so thankful. I’m so humbled. But most notably, I’m in awe of the power of an idea. This event was just an idea. And here we are in a small apartment full of all sorts of shit, getting ready to host a couple hundred members of this small and everlasting community all without funding.
If you are intersted in coming or donating some cash to help others attend who can’t afford it, you can do so here: