This is part of the author’s LGBTQIA encounters in New York City (and beyond), where he works with The Brooklyn Community Pride Center (BCPC) as a State Department Fellow/Community Solutions Leader of the Community Solutions Program (CSP), a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State, and implemented by IREX.
It was sometime in 2009 when, after noticing the scarcity (absence, even) of the representation of transmasculinity that Ryann M Holmes founded – with another friend – the bklyn boihood.
“There was an absence (of us),” Ryann said to Outrage Magazine. “I couldn’t see anything (about us) in TV, in the movies, and even in the Internet.” And though, he admitted, there may have been some representations, “I still couldn’t relate to them.”
And so, in a way, bklyn boihood started as “something personal. It was a way for me to tell myself to love myself more, to be excited (in my being) a ‘weirdo’. I was owning it, and I was affirming to myself that I am just as beautiful.”
bklyn boihood, therefore, became a “collective that champions healthy masculinity, intersectionality of identities, and anti-misogyny for bois of color all over the world.”
bklyn boihood – now led by six individuals – now have “members” from all over the world, having created a community of bois of color. Much like trans organizations in the Philippines (TransMan Pilipinas, for instance), it is trying to be pro-active in leading the discussion on trans issues (including trans identity) – e.g. the community releases a calendar that celebrates transmasculinity, gives out workshops and talks, throws parties (which, incidentally, become sources of income that allows it to run its programs), and hosts retreats.
Since the emphasis of bklyn boihood are people of color (POC), Ryann expressed his awareness that, as a term, using POC is tricky – a largely academic term referring to everyone who is not White.
“I gravitated towards the term at first because of the idea of unity,” he said. That “there’s a space for people like us where Whiteness isn’t the norm. (Under the umbrella term) folks can identify with each other.”
But at the same time, the term “gives power to Whiteness by singling it out.”
Thus, “I now have mixed feelings about it.”
More importantly for Ryann, though, is the reclaiming part. “People own it. People name themselves their own way,” Ryann said.
With the emphasis of bklyn boihood on transmasculinity, Ryann is also aware of it being perceived as counter-feminine. “Society hates femininity,” he said, adding that this is ironic since “society is also obsessed with it.”
He is, therefore, cognizant of fluidity. “When we talk of transmasculinity,” he said, “we’re talking of how people want to present themselves. That although you may want to present (yourself) as masculine, it’s okay to focus on others, too.”
To further the discussion on transmasculinity, bklyn boihood launched “outside the xy”, a gathering of materials on – obviously – transmasculinity. These include stories, poems, essays, rants, or what-have-you’s. In not so many words, “it’s a space where POC can showcase themselves,” Ryan said. (Accepting submissions until September 30, those interested may check “outside the xy” here.)
Speaking to all trans people in the world, Ryann preaches self-acceptance.
“You’re beautiful. Be yourself. Live your life to the fullest,” he ended.
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED WITH TOMAS RASKEVICIUS
ADVOCACY OFFICER, LITHUANIAN GAY LEAGUE