Ashley is a trans student. Ashley came out in September and is in the beginning stages of hormonal transition. Her birth name was Mark.

Life for Ashley has become more difficult socially, because identifying as transgender is not that easy. Ashley not only has social challenges, but physical challenges as well. More challenges than we could imagine. Quite often these challenges intersect in ways which may not be obvious.

The Detachment

Often, a trans person like Ashley has felt “detached” from their body for as long as they can remember – an emotional and spiritual detachment, which can also manifest in a physical detachment as well. Trans-identifying adults describe this feeling of detachment, which can also be described as a void or emptiness. There are accounts of trans adults experiencing difficulty with memories about their childhood. One’s childhood should be a time of great discovery, great joy.

Ashley’s childhood should be one filled with happiness.

However, with a desensitization from one’s own body, often comes the desperate attempt to ‘feel’, to feel anything. A trans person like Ashley, or anyone who experiences a trauma that dissociates themselves from their physical being, desperately yearns to FEEL.

Attempts for the trans person to feel may play out in positive ways, but it also experiences may be sought in negative ways as well. Does Ashley seek out attention? Is it constructive for her? Is it destructive? Does it allow her to break through the silence of her identity?

Have you seen this happen? Have you seen a singer in your group, whether transgender or otherwise, seek out sensitization through positive interactions? Through negative interactions?

Growing up is a struggle enough for a singer fitting into the gender binary (meaning, those who identify comfortably as male or female). For those who identify beautifully on the gender rainbow, there are many external and internal messages conflicting with how they identify themselves.

Now, I suppose, if you have a singer who is openly transitioning in your group, they are succeeding with finding harmony with their bodies. It is often the singers who are just at the beginning of transition, or who are struggling quietly, or who are without familial support, who need you the most.

The Choral Tribe

And this is where the Choral Family gives such a tremendous gift to the trans singer. It’s the perfect experience, involving mind, body, and soul.

You are the leader of your Choral Family. You pride yourself in your work to create a group in harmony and of harmony. Your singers develop a chemistry over time and your Tribe takes on a wonderfully unique personality. No two Choral Families are the same.

As the trans student sings in the Family, several important changes are taking place.

The Trans Student Belongs

Do not underestimate the power this has for a student struggling with their identity.

Join the Refugee Choral Consortium Project and Sing Lamiya’s Song!

The Trans Student FEELS the Message

When we focus on something greater than ourselves, a sense of purpose, we are given the gift of feeling compassion. It is said that one must first feel self-compassion before feeling compassion for those around them. The Choral Family offers a powerful tonic to the trans student. Often, the trans student is very tough on themselves. Self-compassion is something they struggle with. And then they come to sing with the tribe, a place where they are told they are important – a family to which they matter. And during that hour of singing, they can enter into an orbit of self-compassion, because of the acceptance. With that, they have the strength to FEEL, not only their own beautiful value, but the Choral Family’s value, the other individual singers’ value, and, if chosen well, the compassion for the literature and the purpose of the song.

The Trans Student FEELS Their Physical Body.

You, the Choral Family Leader, provide this miraculous space to allow the trans student to embrace their own voice  and their own body. I can’t overstate how powerful this is, whether the student realizes it or not. One of the greatest challenges for many trans  people is coming to a separate peace with their voice. This takes time, and often can be heartbreaking to themselves and the people that love them.

For an hour or so, the Choral Family allows the trans singer to find peace with their voice. The Choral Family gives the trans singer a voice, while breathing deeply and sensing the completeness of their physical being.

You allow the trans singer to feel again. Our singer, Ashley, will find not only comfort and peace within the Choral Family, but she will also find strength.

I celebrate the daily wonders you create!

Keep on celebrating music, and the powerful intrinsic and extrinsic value it brings to our lives!
I am passionate about advocacy through choral music. I am a New York-based transgender composer, conductor, and educator. My most recent works include “The Road That Has No End”, commissioned by the Huntington Choral Society, and the 3rd (and final) edition of Requiem Dies Magna, to be premiered by Long Island Voices and Sound Symphony under my direction in September. I am currently organizing the “Don’t Call Me ‘Refugee’” Choral Consortium Project, to premiere in the fall of 2017, and “The Great American Choral Reef” to be premiered on Earth Day, 2018. You can reach me by phone or by email at