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Wear Your Voice interviewed 6 trans and non-binary (NB) artists, in hopes that others will gain the confidence to know that they are not alone.

Navigating spaces has never been easy for transgender and non-binary people who have to go through the hurdles of various forms of discrimination in the workplace, finding romantic partners, using public restrooms, violence, sexual assault and just being seen as human. Wear Your Voice interviewed 6 trans and non-binary (NB) artists, in hopes that others will gain the confidence to know that they are not alone, and that success has different definitions and different paths for each person.

Skylar, 26, He/Him/His

Skylar is one of the most well-known Youtubers to document his transition under the pseudonym Skylareleven. He has documented his transition from female to male since 2009. He was super stoked about a lot of the physical and emotional changes that he was hoping would come from his transition and he wanted to share his experience in hopes it would help others. “Overall though, a lot of the work I did was just being a kind human to others, or at least the kind of human I wanted to be and needed for my younger self” he tells Wear Your Voice. He answered emails, he met with fans and other folks who needed support and has volunteered countless hours to mentoring and educating others. Skylar’s passion is to encourage others to live to their fullest and best life. He says that he initially felt scared to transition, he feared he would lose his friends, family and his future — and while he did lose some of those things, he also says he gained so much more. Skylar wants to be able to instill that type of optimism in others. He tells WYV, “with the rates of depression and suicide so high (and murder, especially of trans women of color), I want to remain visible and hopeful of a more just future for trans folks.” Skylar wants transgender and non-binary people to take their time, he says it’s so hard to grow and evolve so much at once, with his final word of advice to just keep moving and keep becoming.

Torraine, age: timeless, She/Her/Hers

Torraine Futurum is a musician and model. She started modeling by accident. Torraine tells WYV, “My friend Ethan James Green shot me for his portrait series and it kind of started a snowball effect of people wanting to work with me.” From there it’s been a wild ride of ad campaigns editorials and runway shows. Torraine started in music making, officially, about a year ago. “It really just started with me wanting to make a soundtrack for an art show was organizing but I got so engulfed in the catharsis of putting your worldviews into an auditory experience. I realized music is the highest form of art for me.” Modeling really happened for Torraine because of her vision. “I think I have a skill for creative direction and big picture thinking. I creative direct my social media presence and my physical appearance and the things I say or don’t say in a way that a big business would. And I always have, even before people started paying attention to me.” Torraine says media savvy and strong brand integrity and creative direction are what have helped her a lot. She says you have to know who you are and come up with a strong, streamlined way to convey that to an audience in the easiest recognizable way. “Thinking big picture is so important.” Her advice to other transgender and non-binary creatives on putting their best talents forward, is to just do what you want on your own time. But don’t forget life is short.

J. Skyler, 33, She/Her/Hers, They/Them, Theirs

J. Skyler's primary claim to fame is through her writing, providing critical analysis on fantasy and science fiction, primarily in the comic book medium, but also for animation and film. "I have also done advocacy taking various courses related to sociology and human sexuality". She developed her twitter hashtags #TransCrowdFund and its spin-offs #DisabilityCrowdfund and #FemCrowdFund as a way to combat economic violence, which disproportionately harms marginalized groups. For her hashtags, specifically, it took diligence contacting various publications as frequently as possible to submit either requests for interviews or pitches to present them to the public herself. J. Skyler says luckily, a number of editors today have methods to contact and submit work to their publications right in their biography summaries on their social media pages. For her writing, following and speaking to fan-based publications on Twitter as well as professional writers led to her various columns and pieces being published and circulated. J. Skyler says her passion was inspired by everything related to fiction (animation, literature, fantasy, science fiction, adventure, etc.) which have been a passion of hers since she was very little. Altruism and doing whatever is possible to make the world a better and safe place for others has been her inspiration as well. "The two have often played off one another over the course of my life" she tells WYV. Her advice for other trans and NB folks is to create things for yourself first. Instead of publishing a public blog or making other forms of art or whatever inspires you for the masses, do it just for yourself — for your eyes only. That way when you're ready to show the world who you are and what you can do, you'll have a mountain of work collected over the years that you can surprise everyone with. "Doing things for your own entertainment or enjoyment take the pressure off of having to be perfect for everyone else. It gives you room to refine your talents without having to deal with deadlines or unnecessary critiques while you are still figuring things out."

Ritchie, 23, (He/Him/His)

Ritchie is the owner of Rainbow Dust Portraiture, a fledgling art business. He loves painting portraits and he makes no secret of the fact that he is queer. Rainbow Dust was originally just a hobby Facebook page for him to share his art. After the 2016 election, he was dealing with such a profound sense of hopelessness that he decided he wanted to do something productive with his art and try to get his voice out there. It has taken a lot of hard work and study, but determined to make it work, Ritchie taught himself how to use programs such as Photoshop, he taught himself how to make Facebook pages and ads and portfolios and as he says, a lot of it has just been “experiment and see what works”. Ritchie is proud of what he has accomplished, and that he can see real progress in his art from the start until now. He’s always had a passion about LGBTQ rights above almost any other issue. His main focus is queer issues and fighting for queer equality. “They are basically my attempts to say, queer people are here, we’re not going away, we’re human beings, and you need to treat us with respect.” Ritchie says that he think it’s important for trans and NB people to put themselves out there and make their voices heard. “It’s easy for us to be trampled on, shoved out-of-the-way, and ignored if we’re silent”. Ritchie encourages us to get loud, get angry, and show the world we’re not going to accept disrespect and fear that so often ravages our community. He wants to encourage other trans and non-binary people to get out there make your art, write your heart out, and show the world that you’re a beautiful, valuable human being.

Lawrence, 21, (They/Them/Theirs)

Lawrence, is a poet, who found their interest in middle school.  They were inspired to write their own poetry mimicking mid-19th century/early 20th century poems that sparked their inspiration. Lawrence soon switched to fiction poetry, and once they started college, they re-fell in love with poetry more soundly and started exploring the way they could fit themselves into it. Lawrence defines success as being able to continue writing, saying to themselves that writing and poetry has a purpose. Lawrence says it’s incredibly easy to think that poetry is something useless because it often doesn’t have any massive financial benefit. They are constantly reminding themselves that important things can have use other than its monetary value. Lawrence says one of the most indescribable moments for them is writing about their experiences of being trans and speaking them to other people who may not have the same experience, and then having someone come up to them and say, “I loved X piece”. Lawrence believes you have to be your biggest support system, as tough as it may seem. You have to value what you’re doing because if you don’t, you’ll never utilize your creativity. When it comes to your own specific talents, people may tell you that it’s useless, that poetry is useless, that the arts and humanities are unless, and those people are entirely wrong. Lawrence say to believe that you do have something to say that others will hear. They explained that there is always a risk reading poetry about being trans and often times outing themselves over and over again and it can be draining — their advice is to go with a friend to an open mic, and just read by giving it at least one try.

“That moment is indicative to a lot of the street harassment that I have had to endure, and that street harassment started, first because these men found me attractive, because I’m a woman. And then they realized that I was trans and it became something else.” - Laverne Cox
Whenever transgender women are discussed in cisgender male circles, the topic always seems to focus on sex. The message being conveyed is that transgender women engage in a form of trickery to coerce unassuming cishet men into sleeping with us. But if you look deeper, you will find that the facts do not line up. In reality, it is not trans women who are looking to trick or even have sex with men, but men themselves, and their insecurities for being attracted to us. I am a transgender woman who is often awarded the advantage of being cis-passing and also being conventionally pretty. I am the type of transgender woman, cishet men use as the poster child for trans women who “trick” them. When I am out in public, I catch the attention of men more than I actually care for — and I never disclose. It is not up to me to disclose when I am the one being approached, when my personal space is the one that is being encroached upon. Despite what cisgender societal expectations may be, trans women are not obligated to wear their trans status like a scarlet letter for a man’s own sexual comfort. And despite what men may think, women — whether cis or trans — do not exist to make them comfortable. Often, it is not even safe to disclose in these situations anyway.

As a Black American I am marginalized, my experiences have been tainted by racism. However, when I began my gender transition, those experiences shifted.

Caitlyn Jenner is known as the most famous openly transgender woman in the world. However, to what extent does Jenner's visibility help the transgender community? It can be said that she has helped shine a spotlight on a community that is often left out of our own narratives. But unlike Jenner, most of us trans folks do not have the same agency as her, because Jenner benefits from white, upper class privilege, and in that sense, Jenner's visibility is unparalleled to the poverty that ravages my community and the discrimination that we face in the workforce. As a Black American I am marginalized, my experiences have been tainted by racism. However, when I began my gender transition, those experiences shifted. I recognized it as I was preparing for my first job interview, being openly femme and trans, I found myself worrying about how passable and how polite I would appear to the employer before I even thought about the interview questions. I should note that I am a transgender woman who has the benefit of being cis passing, meaning that I have more access to safe spaces than someone who is visibly trans, and it would be a lie if I said that I do not rely heavily on my privilege as much as I can.

It's time for the black community to stop neglecting black trans women and leaving us to fend for ourselves.

When myself, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors and community activist Blossom Brown interrupted Charlamagne tha GOD's Hip-Hop and Politics panel on the MSNBC stage at Politicon this weekend, we knew it would be the catalyst for an overdue conversation within the black community. [embed]https://twitter.com/ashleempreston/status/891821597073457153[/embed] As news of our protest spread like wildfire on social media platforms, thousands of people began stating their positions on whether they felt that Charlamagne tha GOD, and alleged comedian Lil Duval, held fault in the dangerous transphobic dialogue that took place on air last week during iHeartRadio’s show, The Breakfast Club. [embed]https://twitter.com/fatfemme/status/891367522561392642[/embed] Of course there were apologists who immediately began defending Charlamagne and Lil Duval. Instead of addressing how Charlamagne used previous guest, transgender author Janet Mock as a prop to provoke a controversial response from Lil Duval for sensationalism and ratings, they chose to argue that Lil Duval is his own man and independent of The Breakfast Club. They didn't see fault in Charlamagne and his co-hosts laughing hysterically at his adamant assertion that if he had sex with a trans woman he'd kill her. They didn't see any harm in Charlamagne and DJ Envy sexualizing Janet Mock – a married woman – by asking Lil Duval if he found her beautiful and if he'd engage in sex with a transgender woman. They chose to defend death to trans women by making the false argument that we are sexual predators who are out to trick men into having sex with us, therefore if we’re killed, it's a justifiable response.

There is no room for the active dehumanization of trans women, we’re done with your shit and we’re fighting back.

Last week, Janet Mock was a guest on the popular radio show, The Breakfast Club. The author and activist is on a press tour to promote her newest book, Surpassing Certainty and she bravely appeared on the historically misogynistic show. The interview was anything but professional and things went very awry when hosts DJ Envy and Charlamagne tha GOD put Mock in a hot seat of inappropriate and invasive questioning that focused heavily on her body in a way that can only be described as just plain ol’ harassment. Mock was subject to antagonizing questions such as, “what made you become a transgender as opposed to a gay male?”, “You had your penis cut off?”, “where did you get your boobs?” and at one point in the interview, Charlamagne tha GOD, bluntly asks, “do you have a clit?” in which Mock is visibly uncomfortable answering.

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