The Trans Guys Who Made the Path Easier to Walk
by Ryan Cassata
Trans men have been gaining an increase in popularity on social media for the last several years. However, there are men that came out long before the current wave of popular trans guys, long before being trans was an often talked about thing in the media. There are guys like Joe Stevens, Joshua Klipp, Buck Angel, Katastrophe, Lucas Silveira and resources like Hudson’s Guide, Original Plumbing Magazine, and Transgress Press Publishing Company created by trans guys. These guys paved the way for the trans men of today. Let’s talk about some of the trans masculine community’s founding fathers. The guys mentioned are just a few of the trans guys that shaped my transition and the new-wave of trans people coming out and being visible on social media and on the mainstream media. Whether you have heard of them or not, they exist and changed the world, they made the path easier to walk, they created space for us. These guys are the reason I can exist more freely in the world as a trans guy.
I came out as a trans man over a decade ago, before that I had already started speaking in middle schools and high schools in New York State about the transgender community. Back then, there were only a few trans guys on YouTube bravely documenting their transitions. I am talking about literally under 10 guys on YouTube that were findable. I watched these videos to find myself and feel a sense of community, a sense of belonging that wasn’t attainable in any other way at the time.
One of the guys on YouTube was Charles Asher and I watched his videos religiously. He was a beacon of hope for me. He was the reason I knew that physically transitioning was even a possibility. I watched him share his journey with tears in my eyes. There was someone else exactly like me in this world. Thanks to him, I had a label for myself, I had a vision of a path forward towards transitioning, I had proof that others like me existed. He made an identity that was basically invisible, seem a little more visible.
Charles Asher has been uploading YouTube videos as an openly trans man since May of 2006. His first video was of him getting his 4th shot of testosterone. This may be the first footage of a trans guy getting a T shot ever uploaded to YouTube. Now hundreds, if not thousands of trans guys have uploaded videos of them getting testosterone shots. If it weren’t for Charles Asher, we’d be further behind in terms of social and political progress for the trans masculine community. Charles Asher was brave enough to be public on the internet during the dark ages. He’s a true legend, a trailblazer, a symbol of hope for the community.
Before YouTube blogging was even a thing, there was a book titled “Body Alchemy” that was published in 1996 by Loren Cameron. This book is probably one of the first photographical documentation of trans masculine surgeries and hormones. This book contains beautiful photographs of before and after medical transition, body building, top surgery, testosterone, and two different types of bottom surgery. It also contains stories written by trans men. This was one of the only resources trans guys had in the late 90’s. Without Loren Cameron and his excellent photographical documentation, would trans guys even be able to take their shirts off on the cover of mainstream magazines? Next time I take off my shirt on Instagram and show my Top Surgery scars, I’m going to be thanking Loren Cameron.
I may have been the first openly trans musician to play at the legendary Vans Warped Tour but I’m not the first trans man to make a name for himself in the music world. Before I started my foot-stomping folk-rock live shows as an out trans man, I was watched other guys do it and because of them I knew that I could do it too. They gave me an immense amount of hope and courage to follow my dreams. I watched footage of Joe Stevens (of Coyote Grace) on YouTube. Hearing his beautiful songs and voice and the way the audience cheered him on, let me know that there was some space for me in the music industry. That people would want to listen. I also listened to Katastrophe (who also co-founded Original Plumbing Magazine) and read his magazine co-operated by Amos Mac. I looked at the photos in those magazines and saw guys like me. I even got to be published in the magazine a couple years later. I will never forget the sense of support I felt when both Amos and Rocco showed up and listened to me deliver the Youth Keynote Speech at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference in 2012. As Amos Mac snapped my photo at OP’s booth, I felt a true sense of belonging in the community.
One of my biggest inspirations was Lucas Silveira of the rock band The Cliks. I followed Lucas, the first openly trans man to ever be signed to a major record label (Warner Music), throughout my entire journey. I screamed the words to his song “Oh Yeah” as my friends drove me around during lunch period in 9th grade. He was pre-testosterone in the recording and hearing him sing so confidently and strongly was the source of my inspiration and tangible proof that I could follow my own path and transition my own way. He was the first singer I had ever heard of that wasn’t afraid to go all the way in the music industry without a physical voice change. I studied the way he moved with confidence in the music video. I watched it over and over for months. I looked up to him and I still do. He did it his way and that allowed me to do it my way.
There are so many more. Joshua Klipp was the first trans man to ever do a duet with his pre-testosterone and post-testosterone voice. StormMiguel Florez was singing gorgeous folk songs and even chatted with me on the phone to help me discover my path. There were also musicians like Athens Boys Choir, A.J. Bryce and Geo Wyeth that were bravely and proudly rocking stages across the country. All these guys were out. They were powerful. Their existence in the music industry was highly political but many of them were touring and releasing records — something I was dreaming of doing. Their presence as out trans men who seemed to be living the rock n’ roll dream, gave me so much confidence to pursue my art as a young trans teenager. Without them, I wouldn’t have gained the confidence so quickly to go out in the world and chase down my own dreams. All of these men paved the way for a safer existence. They made room for all of us. For that, I will never let them be forgotten.
About the Author:
Ryan Cassata is an award winning singer-songwriter, actor, performer, writer and LGBTQ activist & motivational speaker based in Los Angeles. With features in Rolling Stone, Billboard Magazine, The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and The Daily News, Ryan has made the most of his young career, which started when he was just 13.
As a musician with over 550 performances touring across the United States and internationally, including dates on the Van’s Warped Tour, SXSW and at the worlds biggest pride festivals, Ryan has been praised by The Advocate saying he’s a “Transgender singing sensation”, Paper Magazine put him on the “50 LGBTQ Musicians You Should Prioritize” list, LOGO put him on the “9 Trans Musicians You Need To Get Into” list and Billboard put him on the “11 Transgender & Non-Binary Musicians You Need to Know” list and premiered his most recent music video for “Daughter.” He has also been heard on Sirius XM Radio, BBC Radio 4 and other radio stations around the world. MORE INFO AT: http://www.ryancassata.com/