On Sunday, The New York Times published a story revealing that, according to a government memo they obtained, the Trump administration is considering a policy that would define gender “based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”
In response to the report, Billboard Pride facilitated a Facebook Live discussion (which you can watch in full above) among a handful of openly transgender musicians — Gavin Rayna Russom, Jaimie Wilson, Mila Jam and Morgin DuPont — and moderated by Pose star Indya Moore, where they could discuss and react to the memo, as well as open up about their individual experiences of being transgender musicians and give advice to youths who might be discouraged by the recent news.
On the subject of being transgender musicians, Morgin DuPont notes that she wants people to look at her craft and admire her music for what it is, versus being more intrigued by her trans identity. “You can see how sexualized society is that genitalia would even be a factor to anybody’s artistry of any sort,” she says. “This is a part of who I am, and I’m not ashamed of it by any means, but my trans identity isn’t necessarily what drives me to make music…It’s important for us to be normalized by society.”
Jaimie Wilson reveals that being trans, he has had a love-hate relationship with music because even though he fell in love with it at a young age — he started playing piano at the age of 5 — when he began to realize who he was, he wanted to write songs about how he was feeling but he couldn’t show them to anyone because he grew up in a conservative, religious household.
“When I finally did come out, I started my hormone therapy and my voice just started to go away, and I felt like that was the only thing I had at that point, because I didn’t have my family ’cause they didn’t accept me,” he shares.
“That was probably the darkest moment in my life, when my voice started to go away and I felt like I couldn’t create and I didn’t have that healthy outlet any more…I started singing and writing and I kept doing it and I realized you have to do it because you love it; it’s not for other people, it’s for you. I feel like when my attitude switched, that’s when I started being able to sing again.”
Mila Jam adds that in her music, she talks about things that are happening in the lives of women, and that she doesn’t consider her music to be “trans music.”
“Cis and trans women have so many parallel experiences in our lives, especially as a binary straight trans woman of color,” she explains. “I just sing about the blues, I sing about things that are just going on in my life.”
Indya Moore then asks the panel what their reactions were when they read the New York Times article stating that the Department of Health and Human Services may try to limit the definition of gender to be determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”
Russom points out that not only did she have a problem with the news, but she also took issue with the article itself, explaining, “I think the headline was so intentionally inflammatory, and even listed trans people as like 1.4 million Americans who ‘opt’ to live as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. I am not opting for this. I didn’t opt into this. This is taking care of myself.”
“This administration, in particular, has been a real spiritual challenge to continue to stay engaged,” she continues, “But also to not let it make me crazy, and it didn’t make me crazy. When I saw that article, it really upset me, and it really scared me, and it was my connection with other trans women and people in my community that allowed me to recalibrate.”
Moore interjects that she doesn’t believe that these arguments are even about gender, but about the fact that Trump’s administration doesn’t care. “I think a lot of these things, it’s all about sustaining patriarchy and it’s all about their balls staying heavy,” she says, as she looks to the camera and adds, “You balls will never be heavier than our lives.”
“You can’t erase a human,” Wilson states. “I think [Trump] thinks of it as a word instead of [that] there’s actual faces and people behind that word.”
Moore also shares a startling statistic, stating that calls to the Trans Lifeline crisis hotline more than doubled in the 24 hours following the release of the Times story, with 434 calls being received by midafternoon on Monday, up from 212 on an average Monday.
Asked what advice they would give to transgender youth, Jam tells Moore that she is reminded of something Laverne Cox once said. “She says that we must not give up, we must not stop fighting, and we must always believe and we must keep going,” Jam says. “That really inspires me because these moments, they come and go, and no matter what happens here on out, we have to continue on. We have to empower ourselves and our community to continue to fight.”
Russom shares that what has helped her has been connecting with other trans women, while Wilson reveals that his biggest motivation is the younger generation. “We want to give them a place where they can just be happy and be themselves,” he says. “I think it’s terrible that someone would have to be scared to be who they are and I don’t think it should be considered brave to come out. This is how we’re born, this is who we are.”
Finally, the group is asked if they have any messages for President Trump and his administration.
“You can’t erase a human being,” Wilson reiterates. “We’re people, and our lives matter.”
“How dare you think that your life are more important than ours,” adds DuPont. “How dare you. Fuck you.”
You can watch the entire discussion above to hear much more from Gavin Rayna Russom, Jaimie Wilson, Mila Jam, and Morgin DuPont, and Indya Moore.