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Black Trans People Belong In Hip-Hop

News + Politics, Identity, Stories, Personal BrandingLucas Charlie Rose
Photo Courtesy of Transcendence Icon Company, Aym Icon

Photo Courtesy of Transcendence Icon Company, Aym Icon

by Lucas Charlie Rose

From the moment I bought my first hip hop record to the release of my debut album as an openly trans artist, hip hop has always been a huge part of my life. It was more than just “hip hop culture” that resonated with me—hip hop felt like home.

Growing up, the rappers in my Walkman understood what I was going through. They understood why I felt like the system was working against me, why I felt so angry and so lonely. But they also knew how to touch me emotionally, and take my mind off of the violence and injustices in our society. Whatever I was going through, I knew that they were right there ready to show me support when nobody else was.

When I was younger, I felt like nobody listened to me, and that nobody was paying attention to how much pain I was in—nobody understood. So I started writing. Hip hop became my confidant. I wrote countless songs and whenever my depression was about to get the best of me, I pictured my future as a rapper and hip hop saved me.

Today—years later—people are starting to pay attention to my music. And yet I find that cis people are questioning my place in the culture of hip hop. I often receive comments like “Trans people don’t belong in hip hop,” which is extremely hurtful, especially given how essential the culture has been to my survival. Hearing these comments over and over again has made me ask myself some difficult questions. Is hip hop ever going to accept me? Do I really belong in this culture that keeps on being extremely violent to my community?

My answer? If anybody belongs in hip hop, it’s us: black trans people.

Think about it.

Hip hop came to life in the Bronx in the early 1970s, created by poor black and Latinx teenagers as a means of self-expression. These kids were being oppressed and silenced by the society they were living in, so they started a musical revolution. Hip hop quickly transcended countries and continents to become a healing means of personal expression, a way for many to escape the destiny that the system had written for them.

It is true that the culture has been widely appropriated throughout the last decades by a capitalist society that seems to have forgotten about the origins of hip hop but the history stays the same and across the world, most revolutions have a hip hop soundtrack.

Hip hop in itself is revolutionary, just like us: black trans people.

Academic and activist Lourdes A. Hunter has said, “Every breath a trans person of color takes is an act of revolution.”

Black trans people are among the most marginalized folks in Western society today. I could get into statistics here—but this article isn’t about depressing numbers, it’s about the undeniable fact that black trans people represent every hip hop sound ever created.

Whenever we take up space, whenever we heal, whenever we create, whenever we are loved, whenever we are supported, we are actively participating in this revolution. Because we are everything that society doesn’t want people to be. We are black. We are trans. We are alive. And with hip hop as a weapon, we can be invincible.

So now when it comes to the question, “Will hip hop ever accept us?” I have to stay hopeful.

Truth is, the life of an openly trans Hip hop artist is far from a glamorous one. People often expect us to work for free while our cisgender colleagues get paid; many opportunities are closed to us because of prejudice related to issues of both race and gender, and our lack of resources and support makes it extremely difficult to get work done. Add to it all that everyday work typically involves transphobia, which is separate from the racism you get from white folks when they ask you, “What do you do for a living?” and you answer, “I’m a hip hop artist!”

But I am hopeful. Because when I opened my Facebook the other day, I saw Young Thug modeling Calvin Klein’s women’s collection along with the quote: “You can be a gangsta in a dress, or a gangsta in baggy pants. There’s no such thing as gender.”

Seeing this quote plastered on all the hip hop culture websites I follow warms my heart. It’s not much, but it’s something. It’s a sign. Even though hip hop seems so closed to the idea of gender non-conformity, headlines like these could pave the way for artists like me.
It’s only a matter of time before trans people find their place within the hip hop industry. Because we are everything this culture is about and we have so much to bring to it.

 

Photo by Susanne Seres, adapted by Rebecca Lieberman

Photo by Susanne Seres, adapted by Rebecca Lieberman

Lucas Charlie Rose is a black trans-masculine Hip Hop artist from France, currently established in Montreal, Canada. You can follow him on facebook.com/itscharlierose or contact

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