Trans Man/Activist/Advocate/Queer/Kinky

I am trans. It is more secondary to other things since it has been a couple of years since I came out. I am queer…really queer. I am an activist and advocate. I am a writer and have found solitude in writing poetry. I have been recently been getting into music. Even though I am a writer, I don’t write any songs. I do play a couple of instruments such as, the drums and dabble with my guitar. Finally, I feel free moving kinkly throughout this world.

I began to explore my sexuality towards the end of high school and very early on in college.  First thing I saw that somewhat resembled any part of who I was, was the television show, “The  L word”. There was only one Black lesbian on the show for the entirety of the series. The representation was limited to say the least. It wasn’t until college that I saw Black women writers, like Audre Lorde. Audre’s writing was the first time I saw Black queerness in way that it wasn’t laughed at. I was like,  “Audrey exists and no one told me?”. Audrey and writers like her quickly became my possibility models. The strength in their stories were palpable because they felt familiar and as if they replicated pieces of my experiences and life. So when I realized in real life that Black lesbians existed and were doing amazing shit, it allowed me to feel more secure in my journey and confirmed the fact that  queerness, Blackness, and transness aren’t separate. To this day, I continue to seek friendships, support, and possibility models in people that embodied all of that.

The role of possibility models also helped me feel supported and confident when I was transitioning. The opportunity to see other Black trans men who were identifying their own masculinity and doing so unapologetically was crucial for me.

I knew transgender women existed but only from poor and blatantly disrespectful parodies like from Jerry Springer. Honestly, there wasn’t of an outlet to tell stories. I knew that trans women existed but not trans men until I saw the movie, “Boys Don’t Cry”. I saw the movie and it scared me to see so many connections to a story, relate to a character’s feelings, while at the same time seeing the character assaulted and killed. This coupled with my upbringing, provided early messages that being gay was a sin and even worse…deadly.

I grew up in the Church of Christ so it wasn’t an option to be gay. In high school, I was pretty sure that I was gay, but knew if I came out when I was living under the same roof as my parents, that they would try to do some form of conversion therapy on me. I tried within all of my being to be a “straight, Christian woman”. I tried really hard, but it didn’t work. I attempted to join groups that didn’t fully represent all of the identities and aspects of my being. For instance, I even stepped foot into a Black women’s bible study group in college, with the hopes of finding a solid ground for me to fearlessly stand upon. Once again, I tried, but it didn’t work.

I grew tired of “trying” and I came out the first time as a lesbian; which is funny to me now because that’s not even close to what I am. When I came out for the first time, some of my family was okay with it. I came out to mom. It was right before I graduated from college. I actually sent her an email on Easter. It was very dramatic because sometimes I am dramatic.

When I came out as trans, it was a different story. More or less the same family that was okay with me being gay, then turned to being a little bit confused. My mother is not about it and refuses to change pronouns. Some family members try, yet still slip up sometimes with the use of  pronouns. I appreciate the effort though; especially from my Black guy cousins who try to welcome me into their Black man crew. Now they do not quite understand that I am a very feminine guy, but I appreciate that they try. On the other hand, I have some family who see me as perverse now. They think the LGTBQ community is perverse.

I have come to realize along my journey, that having a strong support system and people in your corner are key. Fortunately, I work with queer, trans people who the majority of are people of color. Most of my friends are trans, queer, people of color. My last partner was pretty supportive. We were together for 6 years. She was supportive of my journey. In addition to her, I have other trans men to connect with. I facilitate support groups for trans men, where we don’t just talk about the physical transition and transformation, but we talk about the emotional aspects of the journey as well.

It has not been easy going from a little Black girl, to a queer, Black woman, to now as a Black, queer man. I am faced now with the reality that Black men are the number one feared group by everyone. I wasn’t prepared for that reality and having other trans men of color to connect with has been really pivotal in me dealing with the emotional toll of transitioning and the emotional damage that is ravaged by the ignorance, hatred, and fear of society.

Within my work as an educator and counselor for people with HIV,  it is clear that trauma informs overall health. In an effort to deal with trauma in a healthy way, we provide support groups. I personally facilitate two different groups: 1) trans masculinity and 2) sexual health/positivity. The trans masculine one meets twice a month. As for the sexual health/positivity, the goal is to educate people around proper sex ed (which was missing from all of our traditional schooling) and give space for people to enter a zone where they no longer feel shame.  So many people hold shame around the topic of sex, interests, what they like to do, and ultimately who they are. So I appreciate the opportunity to hold spaces and workshops for people to start to unpack some of that shame because said shame fosters unhealthy choices around health.

Although, I love the work I do at the nonprofit, I want to move more into policy. I currently am participating in a 2 year fellowship looking into research at UCLA. I am in the first year now looking particularly at how research informs policy. There are two projects that I am heavily interested in researching for my fellowship.

One project is looking at economic empowerment for trans people. A handful of programs attempt to address it, yet trans people still have double the unemployment rate. I want to do an assessment of existing programs to identify gaps to determine why trans people still can’t get hired or are able to retain jobs.

There was a study that looked at trans masculine sexual health and reproductive health. Unfortunately, research is pretty non-existent, but trans people have and will continue to have very specific health needs. Especially if on hormones, knowing how that effects sexual and reproductive health. While also knowing how trauma can work into that as well.

One thing that I found very interesting was there is a national average in which one in four, people experience sexual assault before 18, at the same time, for trans people it is 1 in 2. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around “why” and think about what this could mean. There was another study Kaiser did around adverse childhood experiences study (ACEs). The study’s participants were mostly White people that had insurance, a.k.a access to a lot of shit. If  these participants had a higher ACE score and had bad health outcomes, then it doesn’t take a lot to know then of course people who don’t have access are even worse off. Even if people had the means to seek medical attention, a lot of people don’t seek medical care because of discrimination or past experiences with discrimination.

The fact that specific sexual health care, preventive care like being screened for HPV, which are vital for a healthy lifestyle, are not being administered for people because they are not being treated right or are refused care simply because of who they are. For example, I had a friend who had a hysterectomy, but went to emergency room for something else. The symptoms affected his stomach area, so he informed the doctor of his surgical history. In response to the hysterectomy, the  doctor said, “No you didn’t. You don’t even know what a uterus is”. My friend firmly responded that he had one and actually gave birth. The doctor did not believe him and he ultimately wasn’t treated and had to leave.

These kind of stories are frequently coming up in my research. Therefore, I want to know what kind of policies can be put in place so that people apart of my community can have access to better resources.

The experience and daily grind as an advocate and activist in this work is difficult,  but I enjoy work that I do. I get to hold space for people to share their stories and bring their full authentic self; whatever that may be. I want to be remembered for people feeling safe with me and comfortable to fully be who they are.

For people to feel safe with me, I need to continue to work on my self and unpack a lot of shame I had and for who I am now. I think a lot about generational and historical resilience. Yes, a lot of shit went down, but we are still here. Resilience is embedded in people of color. We are literally embedded with resilience and so I, we need to hold onto that. Especially when there are blatant reminders that this world was not designed for us.

I have made a conscious choice to show people in my life that they are valued and a necessary piece of my, our world. Recently, I do a lot of work in pouring a lot of energy into non-romantic love, friendships, etc. I was giving to much into my previous romantic relationship, prioritizing a certain kind of love and not fostering love and connection in other relationships. I try to center tenderness with myself as well as with other people. Folks in my life hold me accountable and will be quick to let me know if I am pulling some bullshit.  My folks and I will also center joy in our lives, especially when hard to find places or ways to experience joy. With trans people for example, I will only see people when we gather for Trans Day of Remembrance where we honor and recognize the lives that were lost. That is just sad. So we all need to find ways to center joy, and find nourishment from the people we love and care about the most.

Want to stay connected to Jaden and his work?

ig: @thedappermrjaden