INTERVIEW: Black trans artist Lucas Charlie Rose on his trans-only mixtape
By Gender Bent
February 28, 2017
“Are you a boy? Or are you a girl?”—Professor Oak, Pokémon
My gender-identity crisis started young, and the only reason I choose to call it a “crisis” and not a “transition” has everything to do with how gender (“norms”) and sexuality are viewed and received within the Black Community, and when presented on a broader spectrum.
One of the greatest difficulties I’ve experienced on my journey of coming out as Pansexual in regards to my sexuality, and Nonbinary (Pangender) in terms of gender, is learning to accept the fact that no matter how hard I’ve worked to acknowledge, understand, and accept these parts of me, there will always be loved ones (and perfect strangers) who refuse to understand, and would rather write off my entire existence completely by just chalking it up to “confusion” or a “phase” that can be cured by “praying it away”.
The truth is that it is not we who are confused; it is them. Being told that we are “confused” is what confuses those of us who are (considering or actively) transitioning genderwise or sexually. We are told we’re “confused”, when really, it is nothing more than a damaging and deflecting act of defense to show us why we are “wrong” by those who are truly confused and in the wrong.
This mindset is dangerously prevalent within the in the Black Community, wherein lethal Misogynoircissism and Queerphobia runs rampant, which in turn continues to produce bigoted mindsets that encourages and glorifies fatal Transphobia.
(And so help me if I see one comment that says: “Well, I’m white and my community/loved ones are the sa–”. Don’t.)
By Jacqueline-Elizabeth Cottrell, AFROPUNK contributor
In the Black Community, it can be next to impossible explaining that there exists more than three realms of sexuality (ie; Straight, Bi, and Gay), and that gender does indeed expand beyond that of Boy and Girl, Man and Woman.
And the all around refusal of acknowledgement, education, understanding, and acceptance from loved ones can be a living hell—particularly in the case of one having grown up Black and witnessing the rejections of Queer family members or loved ones, by (and/or) demonstrating (whether consciously or subconsciously) prevalent disdain and intolerance for the LGBTQQIP2SAA community as a whole. This intolerance only serves to drive closeted people further into the closet from fear of rejection, violence and threat of death (by way of outside attack and/or suicide).
In the Black Community talk of “Transitioning”, “Nonbinary”, and “Pansexuality” is casually (and damagingly) written off as “some of that whypipo shyt”, and following suit only means straying further and further away from Black Jesus’s smiling face every day.
This is why it was nothing short of a miracle that transwoman and remarkably talented slayangel King Giselle Nicole appeared in my life (and at such a critical time) to show me that not only do I exist as a nonbinary Black person, but that I am also far less alone in the Black Community than I originally perceived to be.
I learned that she is not only an astronomically talented songstress/rapper and dancer, but is also the First Lady of a Hip-Hop group that made Black history by releasing the first ever trans-only mixtape in November of 2016 (and has since released two more albums in January of 2017).
Trans Trenderz is the brainchild of Paris-born Black and trans-masculine rapper and hip-hop recording artist and model, Lucas Charlie Rose, of whom writes and produces the brilliant musical and visual anthologies that beautifully and profoundly encompasses the tribulations and triumphs of being ‘Black, Trans, and Living’.
Lucas Charlie Rose was more than kind enough to honor my request for interview with Afropunk and show the Black Community—and world—a side of music that is changing the game entirely.
I – What Was Early Life Like For You?
“I was born in Paris, France. My mom is a white woman from Brittany, which is called the nose of France cause it looks like a nose (lol) and my father is a black man originally from the Caribbean (Martinique and Guadeloupe which are two islands still under French colonization). Both my parents were involved in the radio industry. My mom was a grand reporter at the time and her work was to cover what was happening in Africa specifically and my father was a radio producer. Both of my parents broke stereotypes to advance in their careers; so did my grandparents. My paternal grandma – rest her soul – grew up as the only black woman in a convent in Paris before World War II; my maternal grandpa was the first person in his village to go to University. Whenever these people talk about their past and their accomplishments it’s hard not to be impressed.
When I was 9 years old, my parents separated and I moved with my mother and my little brother to Niamey, Niger. then moved every 3 years. First back to France, then to the States, and then Montreal where I’ve spent the last 7 years of my life.”
II – Where Has Your Journey Of Gender Identity Led You?
(Lucas Charlie Rose, age 10)
“First, I wanna say that the way I feel about my gender has never really changed. I’ve always felt like who I am today, what changed is that a new language was introduced in my life. A language that made it possible for me to truly be who I was.
I’ve always been Lucas, I just had no idea that I was allowed to be Lucas, if that makes sense.
Up until my first puberty, I passed as a boy for majority of the time, and that felt like freedom to me—something I took for granted until it was taken away from me. The hardest part about puberty was that I wasn’t in charge of my gender anymore. It didn’t matter how masculine I dressed, it didn’t matter how I felt about myself, people were now calling me ‘she’ and I started dissociating from who I really was.
When I think back on my teenage years, most of my memories are in black and white, and I held on to the few validating moments I experienced so tightly that I still define my gender with them. For example, when I was 13 years old, I was hanging out with my father and my older brother (who is 10 years my elder) and my father pointed out that I was sagging my pants, “She’s copying your style!” he said with a smile on his face. My brother looked at me with a smile on his face – which rarely happens because he’s super reserved – and high fived me. In that moment I felt like I was one of the boys, I felt like I was me. I’ve been sagging my pants every since (and pulling them up makes me feel super anxious).
I realized I was trans and came out on March 27th 2014, and I wrote a blog post about it.”
(“That’s me on the day I found out I was trans (lol). I look so uncomfortable.”—LCR)
III – How Would You Describe Your Music?
“I grew up not speaking English. When I was 15 years old, about 6 months before I moved to the States, I remember asking my English teacher if she thought I would ever become bilingual. My dream had always been to make music in the States, even if I didn’t understand the language, I didn’t care. I wasn’t interested in France, I wanted bigger. But she looked at me and told me ‘No.’, breaking my spirits for a second. How dared she tell me that I couldn’t do it? I had to prove her wrong. But when I moved to the States I was so embarrassed by my accent I refused to speak English for the longest time. It took a couple of years before I grew the courage to speak and I have been speaking mostly English ever since.
But because I grew up not understanding what my favorite rappers were saying, the way I make music is different from other folks. To me, melodies are more powerful than words. I don’t give a fuck about how vast my vocabulary is – first of all because English isn’t my mother tongue and I’m still learning it – I care about how it sounds. How good it flows, how melodic the words sound. It doesn’t matter the words I use, they will never be able to convey my feelings as well as melodies can. That’s why I’m really good at making really catchy hooks I guess (lol).
When it comes to the genre of my music, I try not to limit myself. I like Hip Hop in general, trap, old school, it doesn’t matter. Either a song grasps my heart or it doesn’t and it’s the same for the music I make. I’m not interested in putting myself in a box. I rap, I sing, I do it in French, in English, the only thing that I always do is stay myself. I don’t pretend to be somebody I’m not.”
III – What Inspired You To Create The Trans Trenderz?
“One of the things that happens whenever a community is being marginalized is that it divides itself. Trans people are made to believe that there is only one spot in the spotlight; as if there’s only one token trans person allowed per circle. As a result of that, we fight each other. It’s basic survival of the fittest. And I hate that.
I’m really susceptible to conflict, and I refuse to invest in fighting my people. The only thing I want to fight is the system who forces us to see ourselves as token. And I strongly believe that we cannot get rid of this tokenization if we don’t unite our forces. Alone, you can’t accomplish anything but if you form a team, anything is possible.
That’s why I started the Trans Trenderz. In June 2016, I headlined a show at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference and performing at this show was another Black trans musician: Sidney Chase.
We talked about how amazing it felt to be surrounded by creative folks who shared our experiences and the conversation quickly moved to ‘lets make music together’. Inspired by this conversation and by the whole weekend in general, I started looking around for trans Hip Hop artists to create a mixtape that would show the world how much talent our community has.
The way I went about producing the project was like this: I gathered nonbinary and trans Black artists such as King Giselle, Sol Patches, Afropanther, Neeko Freeman (to name a few), introduced them to each other, gave them beats and let the magic happen. I slowly started noticing that the folks who had gotten involved in the project were always commenting on each other’s posts on facebook, showing each other love like I had never seen before.
These were people who had never met in real life but were making music together like they’d known each other forever. And the lyrics were so raw, so unique, so powerful. Some of these folks had given up on music before finding out about this project, some of them didn’t think about getting into music as seriously as they are now and this project changed all of our lives.”
(Lucas Charlie Rose (left) and First Lady King Giselle Nicole (right) performing during the “Trans Trenderz Presents: #Capricornseason” show in Montreal, on January 7th , at the Sala Rossa. Photography by: Oldin X)
“Less than six months after my conversation with Sidney Chase, we were launching the mixtape in New York City in front of the most diverse audience I had ever seen. Trans people, cis people, black people, white people, gay people, straight people, everybody left the room feeling like they had attended something special and joined a new family.”
(Pictured above: Afropanther (left) and Lucas Charlie Rose (right) during “Trans Tenderz Presents: #Capricornseason” show. Photography by Oldin X)
“I still am having trouble believing that we made this happen. All I know is that, I am now addicted to that feeling: Freedom. Because that’s how we felt performing on that stage—We were free. This is why I decided that Trans Trenderz was more than a mixtape.”
IV – What’s In Store For Trans Trenderz?
“I want to release two mixtapes per year, while introducing new artists each time. I want to be able to produce and release other projects: solos albums, collaboration eps, music videos, you name it! I want to keep organizing shows. I want everything we do to stay financially accessible (free music – (IE: pay what you can, show covers etc), and I want us to get some funding, cause right now everything is coming from our pockets (lol).
Regarding long-term goals, I want the Trans Trenderz to go on tour, and I want us to get a music studio that is just for us; somewhere in the States. A real HQ. I want the Trenderz to start collaborating with mainstream artists.
Most trans activism you see today is not accessible to the masses. People use very subtle language that tends to make folks who aren’t educated feel even more marginalized. Music doesn’t need folks to be educated to be understood. Music is accessible to everybody. And I strongly believe that music will help the world humanize trans people. Because deep down that’s what we need, we need people to start seeing us as human beings. Treat us like such. And with music, we can do that.
We can make these people relate to our lives, we can make them dance, make them cry, make them feel like they can accomplish anything, we can make them feel closer to us. They might never be able to understand what it’s like to be trans, just like a white person will never understand what it’s like to be black, but with the power of music, they can feel our humanity. Maybe I’m delusional, I don’t care. All I know is this music shit is all I got and I will fight for this until I’m dead. It doesn’t matter how hard it gets.”
(Photography by: Susanne Serres)
For performances, shows and events, tour information, booking, contacting Lucas Charlie Rose, and for more information on the talented Black artists involved in the project, be sure to check out the Trans Trenderz on Spotify, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and Facebook.
*Jacqueline-Elizabeth Cottrell/ AKA: JaxJax Attaxx: Published and Professional Androgynous Model, Cosplay Deviant (active), SuicideGirl (former). Writer and Featured Contributor/Model/Cosplayer to/for Afropunk.com, BlackGirlNerds.com, NerdyButFlirty.com.