As early as transgender singer Shea Diamond can remember, she identified as a girl -- and was punished for it. “I got whoopings for walking like a girl, for using the restroom sitting down like a girl,” says Diamond today. “Even singing when I was little, I remember being corrected: ‘Put some bass in your voice.’ It was like robbing me of the only joy I had in this world.” She ran away from home in Flint, Mich., as a teen, and at age 20 robbed a convenience store at gunpoint -- desperate, she says, to fund her gender-affirming surgery. According to records, she was incarcerated at various men’s correctional facilities in Michigan from 1999 until 2009.
Behind bars, Diamond found her voice as a songwriter. After her release, she relocated to New York and entered the world of trans activism. When songwriter-to-the-stars Justin Tranter saw a video of Diamond singing a cappella at a Trans Lives Matter event, he reached out. Now, he’s executive producer of Diamond’s first EP, Seen It All, a collection of roof-rattling anthems showcasing Diamond’s soulful voice that comes out June 29 on Asylum Records.
In person, Diamond, 40, is radiant, reveling in one of several “firsts”: She has never been photographed for a magazine before. Eliah Seton, president of Warner Music Group’s Alternative Distribution Alliance (which includes Asylum), says the label is putting a strong push behind Diamond, and Asylum president Kenny Weagly adds that single “American Pie” has been targeted for synchs on TV and beyond.