Disney/ABC owns and operates eight television stations across America, and each one is about to debut a full slate of a new docuseries about eight extraordinary transgender Americans. The videos will be available starting Monday via the television group’s streaming apps, as part of its ongoing Our America series.
Who I’m Meant To Be was produced by ABC Owned Television Stations’ race and culture executive producers—Nzinga Blake, Porsha Grant and Mariel Myers—as a special project for Pride Month. Altogether, there are eight episodes, each one aimed at amplifying the voices of transgender people in their own communities, through first-person narratives.
Blake, an Emmy Award-winning veteran producer, said she had to resist her natural inclination to be the storyteller, in favor of these eight trans people.
“In this situation, you have to allow people to tell their own stories,” Blake said in a recent Zoom conversation. Her team worked with Disney’s LGBTQ employee resource group to narrow the focus for Pride month on the most marginalized voices in the community, that of trans people. But there were questions about what aspect of the trans community would be best for this series: The ongoing epidemic of anti-trans violence, the fight for equal rights, employment, access to housing and healthcare, and helping viewers understand affirming terminology were all discussed, she said.
“I’ve met a lot of trans people and the one thing I really feel we need to reflect is their joy,” said Blake. “It is so beautiful to see people happy, and that’s the mood, the tone, I wanted to see reflected in this collection of people around the country. It is a celebration. But at the same time, we do have to highlight some of the social issues that are affecting their overall well-being.”
Some of those stories are about the erasure trans men in particular experience when they come out, and are presumed to be cisgender. Lex Kennedy of Los Angeles shares his perspective on this in one of the episodes debuting Monday on mobile devices and streaming platforms Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku. Two other episodes are already available to be viewed, one featuring Kaylee Harris of Union, N.J., and the other showcases RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Honey Mahogany of San Francisco, Calif.
One of the challenges of this project, said Crystal Cranmore, the race and culture reporter at WABC-TV in New York City, was finding trans people willing to go on-camera to reveal their very personal, very private stories of transition.
Finding someone as open as Kaylee Harris wasn’t easy, she said.
“It was really hard, but I didn’t give up,” said Cranmore. “I hoped that somebody out there would want to share their story. And so I eventually found a doctor, Michelle DallaPiazza; She’s the director at the Transgender Health Program at Rutgers Medical School, and she put some feelers out there. Kaylee was awesome enough to be willing to chat with me. You could just tell right off the bat that Kaylee is such an awesome person, a positive person who did not let the pandemic keep her down. A lot of people really had a tough time, and I just think it’s so amazing to me; That’s the most interesting part, if anything. That’s the message that even during the toughest of times, you want to be who you’re meant to be.”
Harris said she feels fortunate that her transition, begun in earnest last year, has gone so well, amid what she called “the systems of discrimination that so many of my trans siblings face.” Harris works in the construction industry, in an office setting, and found both her employer and coworkers to be extremely supportive throughout her coming out.
“I feel within myself a certain joy that I know lives in all of us,” she said. “I know many of us have a hard time being able to express [our authentic gender] or are not in a position to be able to express safely, but being in that position where I do feel safe to do so and having that choice so readily accessible to myself, I wanted to come forward because I think it’s important that people see what joy is destroyed by those systems.”
In her video, Harris and Dr. DallaPiazza talk openly about hormone therapy and other aspects of gender transition, but the overall message Harris wants people to see and hear is about how she found happiness by finally living her truth.
“I think that one of the things that is special about being transgender and being queer in general, but specifically about being trans, is that it really shows the dedication to being exactly who you are,” said Harris.
Mahogany is the first Black and transgender chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, making her one of the party’s highest-ranking transgender officials in the country, according to KGO-TV. In 2020, Mahogany was elected vice-chair to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, which made her the first Black trans person elected in California. Mahogany—who uses she/they pronouns and identifies as nonbinary and queer—is a San Francisco native who attended USC in Los Angeles, then returned to the Bay Area to earn her master’s degree in social work from UC Berkeley. It was there that Mahogany experimented with drag for a student film and discovered it wasn’t just a performance to her, but felt like an essential but previously unexplored part of who she was. “I began to embrace it,” she told KGO-TV. “Drag for me had always been a celebration of what was feminine in myself, but I realized that I didn’t have to be in drag to celebrate that about myself and acknowledge the full spectrum of my gender.”
“To this day, I don’t really necessarily completely identify as a woman,” they said. “I think that gender is fluid, and that it can change and that sometimes it changes over time.”
According to his website, Invisible T Men, Kennedy was born to a single mother determined to give her children a different life, and grew up in a highly religious family. Kennedy goes by ‘Sir’ and writes that he “always pushed back on every box he was being socialized to fit into.”
He describes himself as “a vegan, queer, black trans masculine media content creator who loves film, music, gardening and the beach and believes ‘ball is life.’”
Lex studied at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., and finished his studies at the Los Angeles City College in their film program. A director of a number of short films, his work has been featured in film festivals and won awards. He also completed a sound fellowship for the incredible Netflix documentary, Disclosure, executive produced by Laverne Cox.
On Wednesday, June 23, Our America: Who I’m Meant to Be, Extending the Conversation, a post-documentary conversation of trans-panelists from the documentary, will stream across connected TV apps and can be viewed on each of the TV stations in the eight markets of ABC Owned Television Stations: ABC7/WABC-TV New York, ABC7/KABC-TV Los Angeles, ABC7/WLS-TV Chicago, 6ABC/WPVI-TV Philadelphia, ABC7/KGO-TV San Francisco, ABC13/KTRK-TV Houston, ABC11/WTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham and ABC30/KFSN-TV Fresno.
The panelists will join KGO’s Reggie Aqui and trans activist Raquel Willis to discuss issues impacting the transgender community, their lives and their shared experiences. In addition they’ll respond to negative perceptions of trans people, the many social issues that perpetuate those perceptions and comment on the trans community’s achievements and contributions to society.
Click here to watch a report about Kaylee Harris on WABC-TV.
Click here to watch a report about Honey Mahogany on KGO-TV.
Follow Honey Mahogany on Instagram and Sir Lex Kennedy on Twitter.
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