This Trans Millennial Wants to End Religious Trauma
Today we’d like to introduce you to J Mase III.
It’s an honor to speak with you today. Why don’t you give us some details about you and your story. How did you get to where you are today?
Thank you for having me! You know I grew up in a Black Muslim & Christian family as a Trans kid. I had two vastly different coming out experiences with either side of my family and, honestly the intensity scared me away from faith spaces all together…Until I was in my mid-20’s and found myself working with LGBTQ youth. For those of you unaware, up to 40% of homeless kids on the street today are LGBTQ. So, by default I was working with many young people who were displaced from their homes simply because they were LGBTQ- and double for kids who were Trans and/or gender diverse. Much of what was being projected onto kids were values around religion that the adults and families had never actually had space to research or process. And the youth were absorbing a lot of religious trauma, whether or not they themselves were religious. So, I began studying liberation theologies and fell back in love with faith by working with youth and adults on their religious trauma and rediscovering faith practices that made room for the most vulnerable among us.
I’m sure your success has not come easily. What challenges have you had to overcome along the way?
Being Black and Trans in a world that antagonizes both means I am not far removed from the issues I speak about. To be at the intersections of these identities and part of a community of folks, is to understand that liberation does not come from indifference, it comes from passion, connection and a willingness to fight for the people you love. I had to learn that I am one of many, and as such, it meant I had to be looking into how I can create the best conditions not just for myself, but the people behind and beside me.
Let’s talk about the work you do. What do you specialize in and why should someone work with you over the competition?
Hahaha, I’d love to reframe this. If we are all working towards a world that centers and shows up for the most targeted and the most vulnerable, there is no competition. We are all working collectively towards a goal. My particular role in that forward movement is working with faith communities, higher ed institutions and non-profits on being Trans affirming with a lens on racial justice. I do this as a performance poet, a workshop facilitator/trainer and as an author. I am co-editor of a book called, “the Black Trans Prayer Book” and have written various articles on survivor centered theologies, with an upcoming solo project that will expound these frameworks.
What’s your best piece of advice for readers who desire to find success in their life?
I have been thinking a lot about this question, “What is it that you want that you never had to be told to want?” For me, that has been to live my life freely, out and among a network of Black Trans people stretched from Philly, to Seattle, to London. Don’t just do what you would do for free, do what gives you life. Do what gets you up out of bed and makes people giddy to watch you talk about.
Speaking of success, what does the word mean to you?
Success to me isn’t just a solitary thing, it is a communal legacy. It is acknowledging the many ancestors before me that did not get to experience autonomy during their lifetimes. It is being able to wake up everyday giving thanks to Mary Jones, Jim McHarris, Mrs. Lucy Hicks Anderson, Frances Thompson and every Black Trans freedom fighter that allowed me to be here. That part of my liberations as a Black Trans person, in some part has to be creating space for Black Trans Joy.
What’s next for you?
What’s next for me is finishing a documentary on the Black Trans Prayer Book with my colleague Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi (which if anyone wants to help us fund is more than welcome) and getting my newest book out into the world.!
Finally, how can people connect with you if they want to learn more.
Folks can stay up to date with me and all my pandemic musings via Instagram (@jmaseiii) and linktree (https://linktr.ee/jmaseiii) !