Four Floridians on Art, Career Paths, and Being Trans
This summer, the National Center for Transgender Equality is partnering with Transilient, a traveling photo, video, and interview-based project. The team is currently on a road trip to document the daily lives of transgender people all over the nation, with a particular focus on states where lawmakers are trying to push anti-LGBTQ legislation. Welcome to the #SummerofTrans.
Since starting their epic journey in Miami last week, Basil, SahLeem, and Jonah of the Transilient team have made their way up the coast of Florida. Along the way, they had their first handful of interviews, covering topics from corgis to temporary tattoos.
First stop: Miami. The team met with Cameron, who creates visual art and is in the process of making decisions about whether to share it with others or sell it. He describes his art as “a form of self-care,” “vulnerable, fluid, and freeing.”
Art isn’t the only priority in Cameron’s life, though. In his own words:
I love my goddaughter, Rocco (my corgi), and my fiancée. My goddaughter has helped me through some emotional ruts and it proves what a little support can do, even through FaceTime. It really does take a village! I [grew up] surrounded by beautiful, strong black women who have supported me and raised me. It’s no wonder I fell for my fiancée.
Ft. Lauderdale: Leland
The team then drove from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale, where they spent three nights at New Beginnings. The surgery recovery center for trans people was founded by Leland, who has a nursing background.
Leland shared the personal history that led him from the operating room to founding New Beginnings:
The first 15 years after my dad died I had anxiety and panic attacks. I think it was actually one of the best things that ever happened to me. It gave me compassion, a lot more compassion, in my nursing than I think I would have had before. I think that’s why I went into surgery. When people are getting ready to go in they’re so anxious. They work themselves up. And that’s why I’m great at the work I do here [at New Beginnings].
Lake Worth: Tyler
From Ft. Lauderdale, the team drove up the coast to Lake Worth to interview Tyler, an attorney who also has a master’s degree in social work.
Many people complain about getting older, but Tyler has a different take:
I personally am not against aging. I love it. My childhood was abusive, my twenties was all about me figuring out that I survived a messed-up childhood, and my thirties was when I started my healing. I used to have severe anxiety. Trying to become an attorney was almost a joke, but now things have really improved for me.
The team then traversed nearly the entire state of Florida to get to Jacksonville, where they met up with Drew, a teenager who very recently had top surgery.
Like many medical procedures that can be part of a person’s transition, top surgery is not cheap. Drew didn’t let this stop him, though, and found a creative way to cover the cost of his surgery:
What I really like to do is design LGBT-themed temporary tattoos. I started doing it, like, two years ago — I wanted to find a neat way to fund my top surgery. I was talking to my mom about it and we were like, what is something we can make and ship in tiny packages? Temporary tattoos! I am very happy and grateful because now I can swim shirtless! I can do anything shirtless in general now!
The Transilient team concluded their time with Drew by heading to the beach with him for his first post-surgery swim.
Since meeting with Drew, the Transilient team has already crossed the Florida-Georgia line and is headed to interview even more trans people in Savannah and Atlanta before continuing into Alabama.