Trans people are more visible now than ever. From my quiet seat here on the cis bench, I really love this conversation. It stings me with possibility, a feeling of expansion, variables, like a whole greater than the two-part gender binary. The continuing oppression of trans folk is real, the statistics heartbreaking, but there is a joy here that I truly hope is a boundary opening to a better future.
Summer Luk Presents: Trans Talent was offered at Ludlow Studios this past Friday as a fundraiser for the National Center for Transgender Equality. The show was hosted by Summer Luk, a transgender woman who came to NYC from Hong Kong seeking trans visibility in music and mainstream media. Summer is a singer-songwriter and pianist, and was an effervescent MC for a packed room that was as vibrant and colorful as the talent itself.
The wonderfully witty Trace Peterson, a trans woman poet, opened the show, giving us spoken-word material that included a clever take on myriad forms of hormone therapy, packed with entertaining word-combos that were emotional, not physical, drugs. Trace is an accomplished writer and editor: the author of Since I Moved In (Chax Press) and co-editor of the recent anthology Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics.
Stand-up comedian Tammy Twotone (profiled last year on this blog) was drolly hilarious. When identifying herself as a trans woman, Tammy is often asked where she pees. Tammy assures us she has one reason and one reason only for going into a ladies’ room: “Drugs.” In addition to singing in a trans choir on Glee and appearing in Leonard Nimoy’s Secret Selves, Tammy produced and hosted her own trans talent showcase, TWIST, at The Broadway Comedy Club for three seasons.
Rapper Jesse Sgambati is a fresh-faced 19-year-old trans man who began playing piano as a child. He raps, sings and produces, and recently released his first album, Offsides. His song “Lifeline” was a heartfelt and gorgeous performance directed to one specific audience member, and may have melted every heart in the house.
Genderqueer writer and performer Jacob Tobia rocked an evening gown, platform shoes and denim jacket to give us some awesomely amusing storytelling which included a snippet of Taylor Swift. Jacob is also a TV personality, organizer, and host of Queer 2.0 on NBC OUT. They are committed to justice for gender non-conforming, genderqueer and transgender people, and have blogged extensively on The Huffington Post.
Summer Luk closed the show with her beautiful ballad, “I Am a Girl,” for which she directed the audience to stand. We did. The song glistened with a disarming emotional honestly that Summer seems hopeless to hide. Shine your light and keep on shining, girl.
Okay, Ludlow Studios is not Madison Square Garden. But I like a smaller room and a $2 wine. So please excuse my enthusiasm if I urge you to get down to the Lower East Side (or your local equivalent) a little more often to watch the future be born.
The National Center for Transgender Equality is a social justice advocacy organization working to win life-saving change for transgender people.
NCTE was founded in 2003 by transgender activists who recognized the urgent need for policy change to advance transgender equality. With a committed board of directors, a volunteer staff of one, and donated office space, they set out to provide a powerful transgender advocacy presence in Washington, D.C.
Today, NCTE has grown to a staff of 12 and works at the local, state, and federal level to change laws, policies and society. Download NCTE's brochure here.