I’m originally from Buffalo New York but have lived in New York City for more than a decade. I'm a New Yorker through and through. I moved here with the dream of becoming the next Bonez Malone. The next Nelson George or Toure. I studied the mastheads of all my favorite magazines, reached out to folks at the very top and lucked up on an internship at Complex Magazine; then another at Vibe magazine, all the while banging out album reviews and Q and A’s at allhiphop.com, ballerstatus.com, sohh.com; any music site that wold publish my work I wrote for. Often for free.
I landed a spot on a reality show (everyone should be on a reality show once. If there’s a show for hog farmers and psychics, there’s definitely a show for you), MTV’s I’m From Rolling Stone. The premise of this show was to give six promising young journalists their dream job at Rolling Stone magazine. For 10 weeks cameras followed us through the streets of NYC, Mexico, Alaska, and Denmark. I got to interview The Roots and Jay-Z, document environmental racism in El Paso and share some wild nights with the good ol’ boys at Rolling Stone.
There were always awkward moments during those days. I’d walk into an interview at a studio or a record label and the artists would always give me dap or a pound with just the slightest bit of hesitation. My gender ambiguity made other people uneasy and uncomfortable which of course was mortifying for me. After they’d realize I wasn’t a young boy I’d then get “sweetie’d” to death as if they were trying to apologize for initially addressing me as a masculine person. But, if that’s how I’m presenting isn’t that how I want to be addressed? Anyway, it became too much. I took a step back from the freelance work to figure out what exactly was happening. Was I transgender? Was I just frustrated with the awkward moments? Was I drinking the hetero-normative Kool-Aid?
I wasn’t born in the wrong body. I never despised it. I just grew away from it. My masculine energy was confined by my body and name and gender marker and public perception. I needed to make a change before it got to be too much. Before this overwhelming sense of being in a steady state of incongruence drove me bonkers. I found a yahoo group for transmen of color. This little group of black transguys scattered stealthily across the country was my only support system. We discussed everything from coming out to dating to public restrooms. Nothing was too sensitive a subject to broach. These guys asked the embarrassing questions and shared painful and intimate moments and I realized that I wasn’t a freak. Or a mistake. Or wrong. I was a different kind of man amongst hundreds of men just like me.
One day, I sat next to my mom as she was watching Normal, an HBO film about a husband and father transitioning late in life. I caught the tail end of the movie with her then I asked, “If I ever decided to do that what would you do?” She said, without skipping a beat, “I’d never speak to you again. Are you crazy?” I knew then that this was going to be one of the hardest decisions of my life so I just took a step back and thought about it. A lot. For the next 3 years.
I started my transition the summer of 2007. This is around the same time that I was featured in U People, a music video/documentary about the lives of black and brown queers in Brooklyn. It takes place at a house party, of course, and documents the stories of sexuality, gender and love across the spectrum. I was just at the beginning of being able to admit out loud that I was in fact transgender. This documentary picked up my very first moments of becoming who I am today. The film was well received at festivals all over the world and it was an amazing project to be a part of. It gave me a sense of solidarity and acceptance around queer identity. I knew that I could transition to be the man I knew I was, be straight, and still be a part of the gay and queer community that I'd known my whole life.
The following year I had the opportunity to model for Out Magazine’s Transgender issue and be featured in a short documentary called Realness, which was screened at the NewNowNext film festival. Both of these events were happening while my transition was in its infancy. I was on hormones, but ambivalent about pronouns, hadn’t changed anything legally and still not out to my family. Here I am, sharing my story with strangers and the public, but the closest people to me had no idea.
In 2011 after being on testosterone for 4 years and barely being about to hide it, I had to come out. Again. The “T”, at full dose, was making my features more and more masculine. I would try, in vain, to lighten my voice and shave off my encroaching facial hair when I went back home to visit my family. Typically I visited twice a year for 4 or 5 days at a time. During these years, it was only once a year for 48 hours. I remember being out with my mom and deliberately walking away when she had to interact with a salesperson at the mall or if she ran into an old friend. I didn't want to be introduced or referred to because it always, ALWAYS ended in me being embarassed and my mom being confused and hurt. She understood me as her daughter. The world saw a young man. She would be insulted and embarrassed when the unassuming manager at MACY's called me sir or young man. She would quickly reply, "That is my baby girl." Mortified.God forbid she run into a distant relative. I would disappear in the store or down the aisle as to not cause her any embarrassment. Anyway, it was time for me to take that next step and have top surgery. This was the point where I knew that I would need my family’s support. Having a major surgery was scary but necessary. I believed that despite my mothers comment years ago, she would have my back. And she did. My entire family, although they didn’t understand it that well, was completely supportive.
Since coming out and being visible, the burden of secrecy is gone and I have the space to be the man I want to be. I can really look at tropes of masculinity and choose which to engage in and which not. I have a clean slate to create the life and the legacy I've always wanted. I can be a leader in the community, share my story with no apprehension and be comfortable in my skin. This openness has allowed me to be a part of various campaigns from the Live Out Loud's Homecoming Project, to LGBT Funders Men and Boys of Color Initiative to being honored as a Spirit Day Ambassador with GLAAD. I don't introduce myself as "Transman Tiq" to every one that comes into my life. I chose how and who to disclose to at my discretion. Above all, I'm out. I'm proud. And I lead by example. Trans. Is. Beautiful.