By Sabrina Samone
America has always been known as the great melting pot, but how those ingredients mix, is a question that in 240 years, has yet to be answered. Never before have we been so blatantly reminded of this, as we have under the #notmypresident’s administration. Bigotry persists, and there’s probably no one on Earth that knows that better than the average trans person. Yet, even in these times while we watch the leader of the supposedly, most free country in the world, support an enemy our grand parents died to protect us from, we too must take a second to look bigotry in the face and see if there’s any resemblance in our mirrored reflection.
As a community, we know the value of representation and visibility. If you are under 25, that urgency may not be as strong as a trans person over 40, who remembers searching for anyone in this world that gives them the light of hope, that they are not alone. When we know a name, and see a face, that share some of the struggles that we do; we feel less alone, not so abnormal, and we’re given hope that we too can find happiness. Yet, in our culture, I challenge anyone at this moment, to do a simple search of media content of this week that gives a voice to the men of color in our community. There is less media representation for reasons that often could be reflecting our attention span.
Whether bigotry is given in a cag, or as a table-spoon, it is bigotry. The voices of trans people matter, our stories give hope and understanding, but if they are not heard or ignored, we miss an opportunity to be that great promise of a true melting pot. The trans men of color in our community are the unsung heroes of the Trans revolution. Their true silent masculinity does not demand validation, but out of respect it should be given. Among many are those that have created the greatest, positive changes for trans culture world-wide, as in Kylar Broadus, who is the only transgender person to speak on behalf of an entire minority group, before The Senate of the United States. They’re career advocates like, Kris Hayashi, who heads the largest transgender organization in the country, if not the world, and strives to uplift all of trans society. They face the demons of some of the most oppressed countries in the world like, Victor Mukasa, in Uganda, yet still paves a way for the next genderation to walk just a little easier in the sun.
These are the silent masculine voices of our community, that refuse to be silenced, and because they have, all our lives matter even more.
1. Kylar Broadus
Broadus, who transitioned more than 20 years ago, is an attorney who focuses on LGBT law and transgender rights. He is the founder and director of the Trans People of Color Coalition, the only national organization dedicated to the civil rights of transgender people of color. The former Lincoln University of Missouri professor is also co-founder of the think tank the Transgender Law and Policy Institute. The Missouri native is the first transgender American to testify before the U.S. Senate in favor of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. During his 2012 speech he said,
“For me, the physical transition was about letting the outer world know my internal sense of self, of who really was inside this body. … My transition was a matter of living the truth and sharing that truth for the first time in my life.”
2. Kris Hayashi
Kris is the Executive Director at Transgender Law Center, one of the largest organizations in the country advancing the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming people. Prior to that, he had served over a year in the role of Deputy Director at the organization. As a public transgender person of color, Hayashi has been a leader in movements for justice and rights for transgender and gender nonconforming communities for over 13 years. His first Executive Director position was at the age of 23, with Youth United for Community Action in California (YUCA). YUCA is a grassroots community organization created, led, and run by young people of color. YUCA provides a safe space for young people, to empower themselves and work on social justice issues to establish positive systemic change through grassroots community organizing. Kris took on his second Executive Director position five years later at the age of 28 at the Audre Lorde Project (ALP) in New York City.
3. Victor J. Mukasa
Mukasa is a human rights defender from Uganda who now lives in the U.S. He is a Co-founder of Sexual Minorities Uganda and Executive Director of Kuchu Diaspora Alliance-USA. He was forced to seek asylum in the U.S. after fighting for LGBT rights in the highly trans/homophobic environment of Uganda. He was the first activist to address the United Nations about transgender issues in Africa. As part of the “Proudly African & Transgender: Self-Portraits in Writing” exhibition, he wrote,
“For most Ugandans, any person that expresses ‘him/herself’ as the opposite sex is a homosexual and so this exposes transgender people to all the mistreatment that they would love to give a homosexual. All transgender people are seen as the obvious homosexuals. Therefore, on top of all the transphobia, there is homophobia even if you are not gay.”
4. Leo Sheng
Sheng came into the limelight after he documented his transition phase from female to male on Instagram and You Tube. He has also been advocating for transgender people, and created his identity as a filmmaker. He has been a source of inspiration for those who are in transitioning phase, and his documented story has helped encouraged them to identify themselves as a transgender. “I really just want to bring awareness to a particular identity and what it may mean for some people — again, not all. I don’t represent transmen, nor do I represent transmen of color. I represent myself. My personal goal, or hope, was and is to try to remove some of the stigma and break the stereotypes of what people think transmen are like. I hoped to show people, as other people have shown me, that it’s ok to be true to who you are and to own your past,” Leo said in a 2016 Interview with Huff Post. Leo is studying at Temple University in Philadelphia as an international student.
5. Laith Ashley
The 26-year-old Ashely, started his transition less than 3 years ago, and immediately appeared in a Barney’s ad, along with several well-known trans personalities. The New York native quickly became a favorite to follow on social media, (and in my best RuPaul ‘You Better Work’ voice), his modeling career took off. He has been featured in shows for New York Fashion Week for Adrian Alicea, and Gypsy Sport. He also has posed for Calvin Klein. Laith, along with his new romance became a huge hit for Whoopi Goldberg’s first season of the show Strut. The show comes amid a call to the modeling industry for more representation of the large number of trans models working, who are denied those coveted go sees gigs with national brands due to their identity. Though many in our community see this as one field that has a great deal of trans representation, those trans models are often limited to the work they receive. While our community knows of them, few have broken the barrier into the mainstream, even fewer of those are men, which makes Laith’s role in this, pivotal for trans masculine representation.
6. Neo Sandja
Neo L. Sandja is a Life Coach, Speaker, Author and Entrepreneur. As the president and founder of FTM Fitness World (The First International Body Building Competition of trans men), he is dedicated to empower people of Trans experience in reaching their full potential. Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Neo came in the U.S., at the age of 19 to pursue his college career. Neo is a certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming Life Coach and a member of the Association for Integrative Psychology. Having struggled with major depression himself, he is very passionate about Emotional Intelligence and helping people find within themselves the drive to lead a richer life. Sandja is the Author of the book, “Right Mind Wrong Body – The Ultimate Trans Guide to be Complete and Live a Fulfilled Life”. Neo is also the chair of the FTM foundation, a private foundation focused on helping people of Trans experience with their overall transition.
7. Andrés Rivera
Chilean transgender activist and founder of Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad, a major transgender rights organization in Chile. Through his work, he helped change the laws in Chile to allow transgender people to legally change their name and sex. He has worked with government and the local health system to facilitate the evaluation, treatment and surgery of trans people, and organized the first Rancagua debate on the Civil Union Pact. He has also fought against employment non-discrimination in Chile and for LGBTQ rights in Latin America in general.
8. Lucas Charlie Rose
Lucas Charlie Rose, was born in 1991 in Paris France, and is a well-known musician, hip-hop artist and You Tube personality; chronicling his transition, and love of hip hop. A trans-masculine hip hop artist that is not only reshaping the next genderation of hip hop, but forging together those voices in music often overlooked. He earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in Film production from Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. He’s been featured over the past year in several lgbtq media outlets. Over the past year, he raised eyebrows with the ingenious, first ever collaboration CD, of several trans-only hip-hop artist such as; Sidney Chase, Nicki Andro, Neeko Freeman, Jiji Parker, King Giselle, and many more. The first ever such project, that spoke volumes to the unity of the trans hip-hop music scene.
9. Shawn Stinson
Thirty-five year old Stinson is a Veteran Marine, originally from Peoria, a personal trainer and health fitness coach. In 2014, he won the 1st annual FTM Bodybuilding Competition founded by Neo Sandja. That would spark his popularity as not only a trans role model, but fitness role model. He would go on to compete the second year of Fit Con, and remained undefeated.
“This is once in a lifetime. We’re changing lives so that people get fit and helping transgender men transition,” says Stinson. The time is now.”
Recently, Stinson was featured in a meme that went viral, in the wake of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT legislation, HB2. Among other things, the law prevents transgender individuals from using public restrooms assigned to the gender with which they identify.”
10. Jiovani Carcione
Everyone loves a man in a uniform, and there’s nothing not to like about this handsome EMT from Chicago. A hard-working man, that has every reason too, as he is also a proud father. Raising a child through the ups and downs of transition, life and remains optimistic and full of hope. Jiovani is the new cover model, and trans man of the future; hard-working parents living their authentic truth, and being a role model to millions yet to come. Reminding a new genderation, that all is possible regardless where you are, and that all trans men of color matter!
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