Tony Zosherafatain: The Man Behind The Film…”I Am The T”

By Sabrina Samone

In every generation a story must be told, it is often up the storytellers to speak for the countless voices of our world. In our generation those story tellers are often film makers: the writers, producers, directors, and actors that bring a story to life. This post Academy Award interview is of a man that does just that, bringing voices to the countless unseen, unheard, trans men from around the globe. He is a voice for trans men of color, an often more unheard voice in our community.

Tony Zosherafatain is a man like many with a duality of spirit¹, but he is also Greek/Iranian. A duality of race that also gives him a unique perspective on what it means to be a trans man of color. Even in his upcoming documentary series, Tony will be featuring trans men from ten various countries and cultures. Cultures that are usually overshadowed by American and Western European countries. As in his life from working with those with disabilities, and a nurse practitioner student, he is the champion of the unheard voices of our society.

I am the T: an FTM documentary“, chronicles the lives and transitions of trans men in ten different countries. Production began in November 2014 in Norway, and will continue in the following countries: Malaysia, Canada, Thailand, Lesotho, Germany, the Phillipines, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Australia. Individual country segments will be released independently. The full-feature release date is scheduled for 2018.
 
The first segment was filmed in November 2014 in Norway, and features the story of Isak, a 28 year old trans man who had recently began transitioning. Isak’s story (screened at this workshop) portrays both the challenges he faces as an FTM, and the triumphs over adversity that characterize finding one’s gender and broader self. ” I am the T” plans to grow into a documentary series that chronicles the stories of hundreds of trans* identified people around the world. The mission of “I am the T” is to shift the tide of trans representation in the media to one that is more subjective and culturally-inclusive. 

TMP: You’ve previously mentioned that your reasons, four years ago, to do the documentary film “I am the T” was that you’ve noticed the lacking of trans men in media. Why do you feel personally that was the case compared to trans women? 
Tony Zosherafatain: At the time that I created the idea for the documentary, trans representation was severely lacking; trans stories were not a media priority. As a trans man who was not yet out, I couldn’t find images of trans masculine people to help me realize who I was. Since 2010, we’ve had the emergence of trans women of color such as Laverne Cox and Janet mock in the media, which has helped the trans community move forward. I think representations of trans men in the media have lagged behind, for a variety of reasons. One reason is because many trans men may want to live as stealth. I think another reason is due to male privilege. For many of us, it may be easier to be accepted into society because we are transitioning into the gender that controls society. I think the media also finds it hard to grasp trans male stories because traditionally, being trans has been associated with MTFs, and with good reason given that it was trans women who spurred the LGBT movement at stonewall.
TMP: In your opinion, how has that changed, and has it changed fast enough?
Tony Z.: I think that media representation of trans men has changed, but at a slow pace. For example, the only trans male on TV used to be Max from the L word, which was a horrible representation of the FTM experience. Since then, we’ve had a trans male character played on Transparent, and better films featuring trans men. However, trans male representations are not fully inclusive. In the MTF community, there are trans woman of color who are spearheading the movement, but for FTMs, we are only mostly seeing white trans men being represented. The FTM community needs to share the power of representation with trans men who are of color, disabled, feminine, queer, and those who can’t/don’t want to medically transition. In this way, I think the media will realize that there is much more to our identities; that we are as complex as any other human population.
TMP: Who is your partner in the project and how important is it that we recruit more trans men of color in film?
T.Z.: From the beginning, it was important that I recruited trans people for this documentary. As a trans man of color myself (half-Iranian)³, I wanted to recruit as many other under-represented trans men as possible given that a lot of films about our community are directed by cisgender people. Right now, I have a videographer and editor named Aiden, who is half-Mexican and half-black. I also have an editor and production assistant who is a first-generation American trans man. Another team member, our Graphic Designer, is a trans man who hails from Malaysia. We also have a cisgender production advisor who helps us gain perspective so that we can portray FTM stories in a way that changes the way cisgender people view trans masculine stories. I think it’s very important to see more trans men of color in our community. Trans men of color aren’t being prioritized for representation projects, which is a disservice. I think increasing the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of trans male representation will inevitably lead our community forward. It’s powerful to see a trans man from an oppressed minority thriving. That sends a message of hope to trans youth of color.

TMP:  Tell our TMP readers if you will, what was your motivation behind creating this documentary? Why specifically did you choose to show a variation of cultures in this film?

T.Z.:  The motivation behind creating this documentary is rooted in my experience as a first-generation American trans man. Neither of my parents were born in the U.S.-my dad is from Iran and my mom is from Greece. When I began transitioning, it was even more difficult to find trans men from my specific cultural heritage. If we can show a variation of trans men from different cultures, it will send a powerful message: that the trans experience is universal. I think that creating a diversity of representations in the FTM community can only serve to reassure trans men from these backgrounds that they exist and that they are worthy of visibility.  

TMP: How many nations are represented in the complete series?

T.Z.:  There will be a total of ten countries represented. Because of time constraints, we will most likely create a two part documentary series. Each part will include five countries so that we can give each participant’s story adequate coverage.

TMP: Through this journey, what lessons have you learned about trans-society and the various cultures involved?

T.Z.:  I’ve learned more than I ever would have imagined. The first is that many cultures that we deem “discriminatory” against trans people are actually more complex. For example, I dug into my own background, found that the Iranian government is accepting of trans people and covers trans surgeries. On the other hand, someone who lives in a country that is seen as “very liberal” may not actually create an easy transition process for an individual person. For example, Isak (the participant we filmed in Norway)² hasn’t had the simplest time accessing hormones or finding social support. I’ve also realized that there are many shared experiences between trans men in different cultures, many of them relating to bodily experiences, such as binding, taking testosterone, and struggling with internalized dysphoria.
TMP: I see you are an avid hockey player. Do you still play?
T.Z.:   I had almost forgotten about hockey because of retirement, haha. I’ve been playing since I was eight, and I think having access to this sport helped me figure out my gender in some ways. It helped me escape the constraints of being assigned to the wrong gender by allowing me to partake in a sport that is seen as traditionally “masculine”. I played a year in college at Wesleyan University until I sustained a shoulder injury that ended my career. Occasionally, I still play in adult pick-up leagues.   TMP: Working with those with disabilities is a humbling experience, and during the time you lived in Massachusetts, you tutored those with disabilities. How has that shaped your view of your dysphoria?

T.Z.: This is another great question. I think that disability rights and trans rights are intersectional.

People who are disabled fight to have their bodies respected and are often the targets of physical violence, discrimination, and often have to prove that they are indeed human. That resonates with many trans stories, and one could even say that dysphoria is a debilitating emotional and physical disability. I think that just like the disability rights movement has changed the way we see the concept of ableism, the experience of dysphoria can be changed if we are given the unequivocal acceptance to become ourselves. 

TMP: Do you still feel that trans men are an outside voice and how can we as a society change that?

T.Z.:   I definitely think trans men are an outside voice. I think we do have to be aware of male privilege and not try to take up too much representational space; however, if we portray our stories in a way that challenges societal norms about masculinity, gender, and beauty, then I think we can really challenge the reasons behind transphobia. I think we as a society can improve that by changing the ways we see gender by accepting that one’s sex isn’t pre-determined by genitalia. I think we also need to shift away from the idea that gender determines personality, sexuality, social roles, and one’s life destiny.

TMP: I like to ask, if you could tell the world something about Tony Zosherafatain  and you knew everyone would listen, what would you like them to know about you?

T.Z.: That I have been through many struggles in my life, as a trans man, as a first-generation America, as a man of color, but, honestly I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m very proud of my backgrounds. My life experiences have made me mentally resilient and I can relate to people on a more human level. Though I’ve been the target of discrimination, I try not to judge humanity. I’m critical of systemic discrimination, but believe that people can change for the better. With “I am the T”, I want to show people life through a trans man’s eyes so that even conservative viewers no longer doubt that we are just as human as anyone else.

It has been a pleasure getting to know this man of many talents, a pioneer in film for trans voices, a nurse, and a champion for the disabled. It is our pleasure to announce that this interview is part one of a series TMP will cover about the director, and the film “I Am The T’.  Tony has also teamed up with TMP as a guest blogger, where he will be chronicling his experiences filming in Norway.


  1. In Reference to the duality of being trans. Two spirited people. Consider throughout history as special connections to the divine, and a direct representation of God’s form.
  2. The film I Am the T, covers background from several countries; Malaysia, Norway and Canada to name a few.
  3. Iran actually performs far more SRS surgeries than most countries. It’s a doubled edge sword. While being trans has less stigma than being gay or lesbian, the tragic side is the forced sex reassignment of gay men and lesbian women, so that they will be heterosexual in the eyes of the community and Allah.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM

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Sergeant Elaina Odom: Sacrifice…Duty….Honor…In the Face of Hate

By Sabrina Samone

Imagine when given a choice between a life of crime and addiction, you had the mental “worthiness” to choose a path that would better yourself, to be an asset to your family, and to defend your country. You would’ve easily chose to be a “burden”¹ on society, to your family, and a drain on your country, but you didn’t. Elaina Odom made the decision to be of service to those she loved, and her country. To save her life from a dangerous path. Eleven years, she dedicated her life to service of country. Climbing the military ranks to become Sargent Odom. Not everyone is cut out for the military, let alone to do more than a few years. Lifers, are dedicated, determined, with a humble passion for serving their nation.

Now imagine, eleven years that included combats in Afghanistan, sacrificing precious time away from your three new beautiful children, for long periods of time. After another deployment to Korea, you come home eager to be with your family, and families unknown that you have risked your life to protect. While you cradle your youngest, make Churros, and put on ‘Book of Life’, so they can calm down; you hear that your Commander and Chief has made yet another early morning tweet. This time it’s to inform you that he does not support you, or even wish for your service.

President Donald Trump announced he was banning transgender people from serving in the military in a series of tweets Wednesday, July 26, 2017. (Images via Twitter)

On Wednesday 26, 2017, wrongfully elected Donald J. Trump sent out a tweet that transgender people were not worthy, and a burden to the US military. The summer of 2016, with the help of Former President Barack Obama, the ban was lifted for transgender people to serve openly. Earlier this year, under the new Republican Administration, debate arose in regards to US spending on trans related health care. Many experts have noted that the average cost would be between 2.4 and 8.4 million dollars annually², which is relatively low compared to various other treatments, including elective cosmetics treatments that are covered.

If you are unable to place yourself in those shoes and feel the pride of someone providing a safe comfortable life for their family. A person that’s proud of the work they do for their country. Then meet Sergeant Elaina Odom, because that imaginary scenario is her painfully real story.

TMP: Elaina, as a Transgender American, and active service member, how did it make you feel to hear about the tweets from your Commander and Chief?

Elaina Odom: Honestly? When I first heard about it, I felt like I had been hit in the gut. Seeing those tweets, and getting so many messages from others concerned about it really bothered me. Here we have been fighting for equal treatment, and this happens in attempt to just so easily dismiss us.

TMP: In his Tweets, Trump stated that he had consulted with Generals, and other leaders in the military. He also stated that having trans people in the military would result in additional cost to taxpayers. His entire tweets have since been proven false, and outright lies. But how does that affect the morale of the average military personnel risking their life for that very office to exist?

E. O: I can’t speak for others, but I know that he has had a running track record with not telling the truth in order to further his ideas. As for myself, I was hit with this feeling of loss and hopelessness. What would I do, what could I do? That was the feeling for a lot of other people I talked to as well.

TMP: Being on the front line of this fight, as well as the freedom of our country, what’s your opinion on the treatment for health care of Transgender personnel, which based on a recent report by ABC News, confirms a yearly annual cost for trans related health care of about 8.4M, and how would that compare to the millions more being spent on Viagra to treat male impotence?

E.O.: I can’t say they are doing a perfect job as many health care providers are still learning to treat trans soldiers. From the experiences I have had personally though, they have always been open and willing to work with us. As far as treating impotence outweighing the cost of our care, it really is a numbers game. ED is more common than trans care, and that explains why there is such a deep difference in cost.

TMP: How worried are you about your future in the Military?

E.O.: I have had some concerns that this will end my career after being in as long as I have. But at the same time it presented me with the opportunity to really look at things, and see what I was missing in my plans to provide for myself and my family, should we be discharged.

TMP: When did you first decided that military service was for you?

E.O.: I first thought about joining the military around sixteen, seventeen years old. I was in a bad spot selling drugs, stealing, and things like that. I was not in a good place, and needed to change. The Army offered that opportunity.

TMP: What has having your dreams of being in the military meant to you, and what it could mean to others that want to serve?

E.O.: Truthfully, I never dreamed of joining the military. I joined to get away from a life that would have ended up getting me locked away, or killed. It was a way to survive, and eventually better myself through their offering of education. It meant a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and so much more without the things I was doing.

TMP: You’re a Sergeant, yes? What were the obstacles you faced physically, and mentally to get to that position?

E.O.: I am, yes. Getting promoted to that rank for the longest time seemed impossible as their were so many in my job. They promote on a points based system, and for us we were maxed out on the scale for a good five years almost. I knew I would have a hard time getting all of the points needed, and over time eventually gave up all together. Then one day, I was told hey, you made cut off, you are getting promoted.

TMP: How exciting for you, that’s awesome. Have you been involved in any combats?

E.O.: I served a year in Afghanistan. It was rough being away from my family, as it always seems to be. But it came with the job, I signed on to fight and win our nation’s wars, even if that meant being gone for a year at a time.

TMP: Despite the bigotry we’ve faced this week from the leaders of this free nation, what advice would you give to other transgender military personnel, or those that wish to serve their country one day?

E.O.: Keep your head up, we have a hard road ahead of us, just like before. But progress does not happen without a struggle. We will get where we need to be in time.

 

TMP: I  like to ask my guest here at TMP, that if you could tell the world something unique about Sgt. Elaina Odom³, and you knew everyone would hear, what would you like them to know about you?

E.O.: I honestly don’t know. I have been told I have a knack at being sarcastic to the point that people really can’t tell, but that is about it I think.

Elaina Odom, is one of an estimated 15,500 transgender military members, that would share similar stories this week. A struggle that’s been a battle for decades, with fears of receiving a dishonorable discharge. Military families that are forced to look into each other’s eyes with no other explanation than that of the bigotry of the very country you defended with your life.

We can debate, and recently a study showed that 58% of Americans are in favor of transgender people serving. Yet, let us not forget what is really at stake. We are on the progress to full inclusion into the military, and I fundamentally believe a tweet cannot alter that ship from sailing. What is at stake is the credibility of our democracy. These tweets were no more than a mere distraction from the recent hearings on Russian hacking of an American election. It is really revealing of Trump, that not only was our very democracy’s soul put up for sale, but now the blood of the men, women, and non-binary people who have died for the very existence of this country since it’s conception. 

John F. Kennedy once said, “I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.”

Regardless of what branch, it is a sacrifice. A sacrifice of family, health, and even your life. It’s not a decision many go into lightly, therefore it’s our duty as a nation, as a government, and the duty of the President of the United States to stand by all people who are willing to make that sacrifice for country. Anything less is the true abomination.

 

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM


  1. The military’s Commander and Chief referred to trans military personnel as a burden, and are unworthy. A UCLA study estimates that 15,500 transgender service members to be enlisted on active duty, in the reserves, and in the National Guard. That same study estimated 134,300 transgender people are veterans or retired from the armed forces.
  2. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine states; Providing transition-related care to the 188 military personnel expected to require it annually would cost an estimated $5.6 million per year, or $438 per transgender service member per year, or 22 cents per member per month. If the Australian military’s annual cost of transition-related care were applied to the U.S. armed forces, the Pentagon could expect to pay $4.2 million per year to provide such care.
  3. Sgt. Elaina Odom lives in Texas when not defending her country, a state that has passed bathroom bills punishing transgender people for using the rest room not in accordance to their birth certificate, when she received the news of Trump’s tweets.
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Alejandro Santiago Lord; Building A Legacy of Service…One Act At A Time

By Sabrina Samone

I was recently asked in an interview for TMP’s, Spring4Unity partner Point5cc.com, “What Does My Identity Means To Me?” Loving yourself is only the beginning, I feel as a transgender person. Accepting yourself is the goal, and ultimately the key to fully grasping your identity. One man who does it with suave de vie is, Alejandro Santiago Lord. A confident identity that is not only helpful, but necessary for a man in a man’s world. Before my sisters get angry, true, a confident identity is helpful and necessary for we women as well, but for a man it is almost required or demanded. Especially, if that man is a man of color.

He is an advocate for the visibility of trans-men of color, and therefore all trans-men. Not until all groups are equally represented will we be able to show the world, the true mosaic beauty of transgender society. A liaison for the Georgia chapter of Black Trans-Men Inc.,he is adding to that visibility locally, and injecting positive images of trans-men of color into everyday society. The vision of Black Trans-Men Inc¹., is to build an organization that secures a quality reputation that is socially responsible and economically beneficial within the transgender community and our greater society. To remain the indispensable source that brings together people who both need and provide reliable resources that support a healthy identity and to educate and inspire a social movement that secures human rights, nurtures the human experience and uplifts the soul.

Through his work with My Brother’s Keeper,² he is also an advocate for health care for our minority group. By promoting a healthier transition, monitored by licensed physician, he is also a leading voice in quality health care for transgender society.

Between his work with the homeless, youth, and advocating for trans-men everywhere, I thought it best to grab him for quick TMP ten question interview. This is one Trans Face you’d want to bookmark.

TMP: What do you think we can do as a community to better represent trans-men of color?

Alejandro Santiago Lord:  I really believe it is up to us to represent ourselves. In representing yourself positively the community is drawn to you.

2. TMP: What has it meant to you to live your authentic identity and express that amongst loved ones?

A.S.L.: It means everything to me. Imagine living your life inside of a cocoon, that’s what it felt like. I felt trapped in someone else’s body,  and someone else’s way of thinking. Once I made the choice to live my true identity my life has made a turn for the better. It was very important to me that I express to my loved ones how I felt. I really wanted them to accept me, but had decided that I would live my truth regardless. It took a while but they finally get it.

3. TMP: What specifically, is your role with the Georgia chapter of Black Trans-men Inc.?

A.S.L.: I am the community liaison for the GA chapter. My role is designed to make trans men visible in the community. We have been invited to participate in several community activities due to our recent visibility. I spoke a few weeks back at the Atlanta Film Festival which  has opened the door to more speaking engagements across the country. My hope is that the Georgia chapter of Black Trans-men will be known all over the world. Like I stated in the first question, I feel like it is our responsibility to let the community know that we are here.

4. TMP: Explain to our readers who aren’t familiar with Black Trans-men Inc., what is the role of the organization, and who can be apart of the organization?

     A.S.L.: Black Trans-men Inc.®, is the 1st National Non-Profit Organization of African-American trans men, solely focused on acknowledgment, social advocacy, and empowering trans men with resources to aid in a healthy female to male transition. Black Trans-men Inc. programs provide, all female to male trans men, and SLGBTQI individuals, with necessary tools to secure identity and equality within our society regardless of race, creed, color, religion, sexual identity, or sexual expression. Although it is geared towards African-American trans men, no one is ever turned away.

5. TMP: Share with the TMP reader why it is important for visibility of trans-men of color?³

A.S.L.: I believe it is very important especially in the trans community. I have met so many trans women who don’t even know we exist. I believe that we blend into society so well that unless we announce we are trans no one will ever know. It is important however that society understands that we are here. I choose personally to be visible so that the new generation have someone they can look to for help. I didn’t have that.

6.  TMP: What is My Brother’s Keeper?

A.S.L.: My Brother’s Keeper is a non-profit organization designed initially to help trans identified individuals with the necessary funds to go the annual conference in Dallas every May, but the need was far greater than what we envisioned. We give away binders for those who are waiting for top surgery, we provide the funds for prescriptions, lab work and doctors appointments. We found that the lack of finances tend to have trans identified individuals seeking hormones through black market. We want to deter that way of thinking.

7.   TMP: What are some of the things you’ve accomplished through My Brother’s Keeper, that you are most proud of?

A.S.L.: We have given out over 300 binders, provided over 75 prescriptions and provided well over 100 with necessary medical services. I will not be happy until we are financially able to provide at least one scholarship a year for top surgery.

8. TMP: What are your views of black market prescriptions in trans society, and why is it important that trans people seek medical care in your opinion?

    A.S.L.:  I absolutely hate that black market prescriptions even exist. I understand the desire to have hormones, but if being on them ends your life then what is the point. Having the necessary lab work to find out the proper dosage is essential. Being monitored by a licensed physician is key to leading a productive life while on hormone therapy. I for one had a lab test come back where my cholesterol was extremely high. If I hadn’t had my routine blood work done and been advised by my physician on what to do I could have had a heart attack or stroke. I do understand that it may be financially difficult for most, but that is what My Brother’s Keeper, Black Trans-men Inc. and other organizations are here for.

9.  TMP: Tell our TMP readers about the ‘I Am Human’ campaign, and how can we be more supportive of it?

A.S.L.: The I Am Human Campaign was founded by my brother Ariq Barrett in Philadelphia, Pa. In his words “the I AM HUMAN campaign which is a worldwide campaign that is not exclusive to any one group or community but is inclusive of everyone. Especially those who have experienced being mistreated or not accepted in society because of race, gender, sexual preference, social class or any type of injustice.” I was so moved by his work with feeding the homeless that I started the I Am Human Atlanta, where we take to the streets of downtown where the homeless population seems to be growing. It is the goal that this campaign is one day worldwide.

10. TMP: I like to ask, if you could tell the world something about Alejandro Santiago Lord, and you knew everyone would listen, what would you like them to know about you?

A.S.L.: I am a simple guy with a big heart. I thank my mother for teaching me at a young age that what you are given in this world is not yours to keep but to put back into the atmosphere. I
truly believe in service. I am on an ultimate high when I see my work manifested in others. The smile on a homeless persons face when you shake their hand. The look of hope in their eyes when you listen to their story. I have found my calling and that is in the service of others. When I leave this world I would hope my legacy would be one of service. I would want them to say that guy cared and he walked into his destiny leaving behind hope for those he left behind.

Now what an advocate we have in Alejandro Santiago Lord. As I often say, “Inspire, to be inspired”, and that is exactly what he has done for this woman. He is an example, that doing something good for our community can never be underestimated or taken for granted. Though, trying at times, moments like this, meeting interesting trans sisters and brothers, if only online at first, can be inspiring to us all, to continue the fight. Every hand is needed and required in this struggle.

 

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM


  1. Black Trans-men Inc. ® is the 1st National Non-Profit Organization of African-American trans men solely focused on acknowledgment, social advocacy and empowering trans men with resources to aid in a healthy female to male transition. Black Trans-men Inc. programs provide all female to male trans men and SLGBTQI individuals with necessary tools to secure identity and equality within our society regardless of race, creed, color, religion, sexual identity or sexual expression.
  2. I Am My Brother’s Keeper is a group for trans people and allies. The group focuses  on raising funds and providing scholarships to help t-men and t-masculine people in particular, including scripts, binders, packers,help providing funding to attend the annual BTMI conferences in the spring.
  3. Trans men of color receive less than a percent of the limited visibility there already is for transgender people in the media. Many trans men of color are  amongst some of the leading voices, and influences in trans advocacy.
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MzzAmirraO: The Hardest Working Sister in Hip Hop

Whatever comes to mind when you think of a trans-female rapper, forget what you’ve heard, Amirra Daye Smith aka. MzzAmirraO is breaking down all misconceptions, and glass ceilings with one lyrical rhyme after the next. She’s not afraid to step out of the clones of ‘video vixxens’, and be the strong lyrical stylist she’s becoming known for. Her rhymes says it all, “walk through with a shoe so vicious swag on a thou and the crew all vixxenz, sit so pretty but we came here to dance, we came to get loose grey goose.”

Last month I had  the pleasure of chatting with another member of her crew, Nicki Andro¹. Together they have collaborated on tracks that are growing a fast fan base. What makes these rappers stand out from the others in our community, is that they aren’t afraid to share the stage. They realize to make it, it will take a team, a community, and teams get noticed. That’s exactly what’s happening with MzzAmirraO, and her crew at SMG group.

I’m a lover of music, and I appreciate a good rhyme with meaning, but that’s not what caught my attention by these two artist. Years ago when I popped my first premarin pill, a wise mentor once told me that there is something that money can’t buy and every t-girl needs to posses. Hormones will not deliver it, a man, job or surgery can’t fix it. You either have it or you don’t, and it’s called class.

It’s time my friends of TMP meet the classy, talented, strong, and the hardest working trans woman in hip hop, Amirra Daye Smith aka MzzAmirraO.

 TMP: You’re becoming known as the hardest working trans-rapper out there. What’s the motivation behind your music, and drive?

Amirra Daye Smith:  My main motivation is the youth, so that the young trans girls/boys, can see that yes, we can be rappers too.! I wanna break that door down, and break the stereotypes of transgender women all together. I like to make music for all people. Music that anybody can relate too. My VixxenZ & Vix Fans, keep  me motivated. My Trans sisters, and brothers keep me motivated. They all wanna see me make it, and not just for myself but for all of us. I don’t want to let them down. The world needs to see that there are positive minded, and talented transgender people. We need to be respected.

 TMP: Like many leading hip-hop labels, their crew collaborate together. I’ve noticed a lot of collaborating on your part with other trans-hip hop artists. Who are some of the artists you’ve worked with recently?

A.D.S.: I haven’t really worked with any artist this year besides, Nicki Andro. After putting out my mix tape, I started working on the EP, and there was supposed to be other artist involved, but it didn’t work out that way. Nicki Andro, is the only collaboration that’s on my new EP.² I’m looking forward to working with other artist in 2016. I’m also working with the first artist on my own. I wanna have my own label and start grooming my own artist.

TMP: I’d like you to tell our readers, in your opinion, why it’s so important that we support trans  hip hop artist?

A.D.S.: It’s important that people support transgender women, men, and the youth, because we are people just like everybody else. There’s so much hatred, and ignorance out there in the world, so when we get support, it’s genuinely appreciated. You lead by example, so when you support a transgender person, it opens up the eyes of others. No one should be judged by their race, gender-identity, or sexual orientation. As human beings, we have no limits, and we shouldn’t be limited simply because we are trans.

TMP: Our community, especially our sisters of color, have experienced an unprecedented rate of violence towards us. How much of a positive impact on the African-American community, in particular, do you feel could be achieved for trans society if a trans hip hop artist were to reach the level of popularity, and acceptance in music, as Laverne Cox has done in film?³

A.D.S.: There would be a major impact in the African-American community, to see a transgender woman or man, set the bar high when it comes to hip hop. Some people will never change their opinions of us, and that’s fine too. Also, being a hip hop artist gives the transgender community a voice in hip hop, and would definitely change the way some folk see us.

TMP: Do you feel that if more trans-musical artists were to collaborate creatively that, that would or could bring more visibility and acceptance of all trans-musicians?

A.D.S.: Yes! More collaborations, and more unity is very much needed to help with the acceptance, and visibility of transgender people. There’s power in numbers, and there’s a war going on right outside our doors. More of us will have to stick together if we wanna survive it. At this point, it’s not about competition, it’s about unity, and perseverance. If we wanna make an impact in this industry, we have to stick together. If we wanna make an impact on the world, we must work together, and put differences aside.

 TMP: Music itself can be a political force. We witnessed it in the 80’s, which led to the wall in East Berlin to be taken down, the fall of communism, and great humanitarian relief efforts. Do you feel that could be possible with trans artists, and the plight transgender people face today?

A.D.S.: Yes!! I completely feel that way. Music is very powerful, and is easily shared around the world. The hip hop culture is big on coming together, fighting for what’s right, and what’s fair. It would be great for a group of transgender artist to come together, and do a record together simply to say, ‘Hey we are here, and we just wanna live our lives in a way that makes us happy, and comfortable. Be free to follow our hearts, and not be killed for it.!’

TMP: Did you ever have any concerns about entering hip hop vs. any other genre of music considering the hype of masculinity, and the domination of it by men?

A.D.S.: My mom use to always say, ‘why rap?’ Of all music, why would you wanna try to be a hip hop artist.’ I’d tell her because they say I can’t. People always told me I would never be accepted in hip hop, and I say they don’t have to accept me, but they gonna have to deal with, and respect me, because I’m not giving up. Trans-people are very strong people, stronger than most rappers. Rappers run around pretending for the most part, we on the other hand, actually have to live with the toughest skin, and we are the one who are actually fearless.

TMP: Could you tell our readers about your latest EP, and are there any scheduled performances that we could catch?

 A.D.S.: My new EP, which is titled ‘The Prototype’, can be found on Reverbnation.com/MzzAmirraO. This is my first EP, after releasing four mix tapes. I titled the EP ‘The Prototype’, because I look at it as a blue print for trans rappers. It’s an all hip hop project, that reminds you of 90’s rap, but still sounds like nothing you’ve heard before. This is the original copy that will also be copied by many. The style, the swagger of the album has never been done quite this way by any other trans rapper. It’s a hood album, something the streets can rock to, and the people in the suburbs can rock to at the same time. Seventy percent of the EP, is produced by trans-rapper/songwriter/producer, Nicki Andro, also with Tracks A Team in North Carolina, BBK Productions, and Pootie Moe. There’s an instrumental also done by ATL’s producer KO. I write all my own music, and it was an easy ten records to write. It explains how I’ve been feeling the past few months, yet is still just a sample of what’s to come in the future.

TMP: Where do you see trans-rappers acceptance in the hop hop industry a year or two from now?

A.D.S.: I can definitely see some movement happening as fan bases grow. More people are starting to come around and at least tolerate our community, but we still have so far to go. A major record label would have to pick one of the girls up to make a bigger impact. Once a machine is behind me, there’s no stopping me. I don’t really know what the future holds, but what ever happens I’m ready.

TMP: I like to ask my guest here at TMP, if you could tell the world something unique about MzzAmiraO, and you knew everyone would hear, what would you like them to know about you?

A.D.S.: Something unique about me is that I don’t watch television, lol. I don’t really have the time to dedicate to any shows, but people find that weird. I’m not just a songwriter, I can write anything. I wrote a screen play for an animated TV show when I was 15 years old. I would love to get into film, television, and books. I have a very creative mind, and I’m gonna make that work for me. My community, and anyone that’s entertained by it. 

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM


  1.  Nicki Andro, is a South Florida native music producer, writer, and hip artist. She’s one of the first trans musical artist to collaborate, and bring together countless trans hip hop artist. She has worked with MzzAmirraO, King Giselle, and Lucas Charlie Rose to name a few, through Nicki Andro Productions, and Harlekwin Productions.
  2. MzzAmirraO’s Latest EP is ‘Lady in Amirra’, the success of which has brought about countless radio interviews, and the release of the latest single Dat Gurl.
  3. Transgender entertainers have moved into nearly every media in the past few years; modeling, film, and comedy. Hip hop, has been for decades a very hyper-masculine field, and the music industry in general remains one of the last frontiers for trans artist to emerge on the main stage; resulting in cross-genre fields of music through collaborations, that are quickly changing the landscape for trans musicians.
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Ryan Cassata: One World…One Love…One Community

Revised and Updated from original transmuseplanet post July, 2017

In 2009, Ryan Cassata began making headlines in the LGBTQ community when he appeared on the Larry King show, and interviewed by Dr. Drew. The young musician and public speaker had recently begun telling his story of gender identity disorder. Ryan is extremely vocal against bullying.¹ He began touring the United States, playing at LGBT Pride music festivals.  On June 21st of 2013, Ryan performed at the Warped Tour’s Ernie Ball’s Battle of the Bands, which was part of an online competition.

It was during the competition for the ‘Battle of the Bands’, where fans had to vote for those chosen to play in the acclaimed tour, that I was introduced to Ryan Cassata.  I read his story, his views on being a transgender teen in America, and then listened to his music. After hearing the first song, I quickly had to backspace and cast my vote for this outspoken John Lennon of our genderation. I went back to hearing more of his songs on his You Tube page,² and knew immediately, I had to have a chat with this revolutionary in our community.  

To this day, when I hear his song ‘Hands of Hate’, sung with such passion, I can’t help but be boiled over in tears by the end. You can feel his pain, that has resulted from his experiences with hate. Reminding many of us that have tried to forget those turbulent years of high school bullying, that the struggle for lgtqia youth, sadly persist more than ever.  Recalling to mind,  those fallen angels like Leelah Alcorn, who decided to end the pain rather than endure anymore bullying. 

RyanCassata.com

Once introduced to his story, you can’t help but be inspired by his drive, and determination. That passion, triggered by his own stories of bullying, and struggles with gender identity. His desire for a world of one love, filled with unity can only rekindle that inner child in us all, that still strives to see a world of justice, peace, and love for all.

The momentum behind Ryan Cassata, his music, and mission, is contagious and growing.  His fans are now in the hundreds of thousands around the world. He has become a brand;  launching his own clothing line, respected advocate and role model for countless youth.  Spreading a message of peace, respect and one world love for all mankind.

This is one fascinating young man we have to get to know.

TMP:  Ryan, you have done so many positive things in the world at such a young age. What drives you to want to make a difference in the world?

Ryan Cassata: Thank you.  There is so much ignorance and hatred that can be cured with tolerance. There’s a lot of hate towards the LGBTQ community. I think it would be crazy if I just sat back and let all that hate continue. The time is now to stand up and get things moving towards equality and a better future.
  

TMP: When you were just out of high school, at a time when most Cis-kids are just thinking about enjoying their summer before college, you were being awarded the Harvey Milk Memorial Award in 2011.³  What did such an honor mean to you, and what advice would you give to other Trans-kids who are fighting for equality?

Ryan Cassata: Thank you. When I first started changing things in my high school, I was changing things in order to make things easier for myself. I had to change certain things so that I could survive high school. I skipped 11th grade; during my senior year, I made it my mission to educate my peers and teachers, so they could pass on the message of acceptance. I wanted  my school to accept transgender students by the time I ended school. I knew that if I worked really hard, I could make a difference and make it so much easier for someone else whose transgender that would come along and walk the hallways of my school after me. I did make it easier and I won the Harvey Milk Memorial Award upon graduating high school. This was very symbolic;  I was following in his footsteps and doing good in the world. I started doing a lot of volunteer work in the eighth grade. My advice to other people who want to make a difference is to get involved. Volunteer at your local center and if you don’t have one or can’t volunteer for them, then speak out at your school. I used do speeches for the Long Island center and I also did speeches and educating within and outside of my school…on my own. It became my mission as a young teen to change things and I did.

TMP: I’ve been listening to your music for weeks since we first spoke, and I have to say there is not a song that isn’t inspiring, and makes me hopeful about the world. It’s often hard for a Trans-person to stay so hopeful about things, faced with so much discrimination and hate. How do you turn pain into hope, and make such inspiring music?

Ryan Cassata: I always try to find the good in things and in people. I think everyone has a little bit of good and a little bit of love in their heart. I think with education it is easier to make people understand minorities. When you change your perspective to hope, life will be much more positive.

TMP: When did you start performing and writing music?

Ryan Cassata:  I was singing and making up songs all though out my childhood.  I started actually like, writing music down on a piece of paper and playing it again later when I was about 12. I started guitar at 6 years old, piano at 12, and I started singing seriously at 14.

 I had my first performance when I was about 13. My first band was  called “The Fenetiks.” When that band broke up, I started playing out solo and I loved it.

TMP:  With your many television appearances and interviews for main stream media, is there one that stands out as being the most positive moment for you, whose show and why?

Ryan Cassata: One of my favorite media moments was being interviewed by Long Island Pulse Magazine. They were so open to being educated about the transgender community and they actually cared about what I was doing,my speeches and my music. They didn’t make a being Trans*, a ‘freak show.’  They treated me as a normal person and they wrote an incredible article about me. It’s my favorite so far.

TMP: Your revolutionary spirit is very contagious, but many are bogged down in just trying to survive. Any suggestions on things we all could do in our everyday lives that could make a difference towards spreading universal respect, and equality?

Ryan Cassata: Smile more. Smile at strangers. Go out and do good. Volunteer. Be nice to others.

TMP: What are your hopes and dreams for the Transgender community, and for all of mankind?

Ryan Cassata: I hope the community will become less depressed, and that the suicide rate will decline. I want the transgender community to be seen as another group of people and not a taboo. I want society to accept us.

TMP: You seem to have so many projects going on at the moment. Anything in particular you’d really like the readers of Transmuseplanet to check out, that you are currently working on?

Ryan Cassata: Right now I am working on starting a chest binder fundraiser to raise money for ‘IN A BIND’.   More info about this will be released soon.

TMP:  Could you tell us about your latest EP?

Ryan Cassata: My upcoming EP will be released on September 13th on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. It has eight songs. It’s a very deep album and I am hoping many people will listen and learn from it.

TMP:   Since your touring all over the country, what is your assessment of the level of understanding and support for the Transgender Community in your travels?

 Ryan Cassata: So far, San Francisco is the most tolerant and accepting place that I have been too. I feel safe here. I don’t feel safe on the east coast or in my hometown.

TMP: If you had one chance to tell the world, and knew everyone would hear you at once. What would you like them to know about Ryan Cassata?

Ryan Cassata: I want to change the way society thinks, to be more accepting of the LGBTQ community and to other minorities. I will do anything to spread awareness about this and make peace come sooner.

Courtesy of Ryan Cassata’s 2016 EP Shine

Ryan Cassata is definitely a man on a mission to uplift mankind. He is not only an inspiration but an example of the next genderation of trans activist. He is a reminder of what we all fight for; the day all lgbtqia youth can envision a future of  simply enjoying school, planning for college, and a life afterwards without fear. 

To change the world,  maybe is what every young soul sets out to do, but his story can also be an inspiration to old souls, that we still can.

Anne Frank once said, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”  Ryan, and the drive of many trans youth gives us hope, that one day we can see that good in the world.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM


  1. Transgender students face much higher levels of harassment and
    violence than LGB students. And these high levels of victimization
    result in these students missing more school, receiving lower grades and feeling isolated and not part of the school community according to the study The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools‘  by GLSEN.org and written by Emily A. Greytak, M.S.Ed., Joseph G. Kosciw, and  Ph.D.Elizabeth M. Diaz
  2. Ryan Cassata’s You Tube Channel                   
  3. Harvey Milk Foundation:  Harvey Milk Foundation works for equality in the Americas, and around the globe.            

 

 

 

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