Trans is beautiful.
By Nora Rothman
Shea Diamond (“She-uh,” she/her) is a trans-rights activist and singer/songwriter based in New York. She left home at 14, and in 1999, desperate to get money for sex reassignment surgery, she committed armed robbery and consequently served about 10 years in the men’s prison system. Shea moved to New York City in 2009 and was discovered while singing at a protest rally.
Describe Shea Diamond in 3 words:
Fun-loving, compassionate, old soul.
Can you tell us a little bit about your playlist?
I wanted it to show a little diversity, all powerful cis/trans women, and [gender nonconforming] artists that I listen to or have recently discovered! With women, trans and gnc people being raped, killed, or denied equal rights, it shows solidarity and unity in sticking it to the “man.”
Femininity and the feminist movement has always been under attack. Now it’s starting to look more diverse. There’s more than just strength in numbers: it sends a clear message no one gets left behind. We often say none of us is free until all of us are free, but we leave a lot of people that face the same or similar treatment and dismiss it as “that’s not my experience.” Victim shaming, or trying to rationalize/justify violence, has been common practice. There’s nothing humane about watching another suffer while you sit in your Privilege. We would raise more hell if we saw a dog receiving the same treatment! Trans women are being violently killed at an alarming rate and if nobody is outraged, it becomes normal. People start to justify the murder! What sane people could find logic in these atrocities?
So I wanted all feminine energy for my playlist. It may be a man’s world, but it’s a trans woman’s playlist.
How did music become a part of your life during your time in the criminal justice system?
Well, I was dealing with a lot of emotions. I felt rejected and cast out by the whole world, and once I got in the system my treatment was worse: trapped, discarded by friends and family, and bullied. Feeling powerless and forgotten, I began to write songs about my life: the treatment I received for being me—both in the “free” world and the system—and the strength I gained when I learned to love myself unconditionally.
What is your favorite thing about yourself today?
To be honest, I’m out here free! I was given the rare opportunity to record great music, perform on hundreds of stages with and for celebrities and politicians. I’m physically the woman I’ve always wanted to be, and now I’m able to do all the things I’ve always dreamed!
What does age mean to you?
Age just means wisdom in knowing as I get older, I don’t have the delicacy of repeating the same mistakes over again. I have to get it right, learn from not only my mistakes but the mistakes of others in and around my life! It means that while I spent most of my life fighting colorism and sexism and society still doesn’t get it, now I have to prepare for ageism and what that means for a black trans woman.
Everyone doesn’t get the opportunity to live and advance. The rich benefit from the suffering and deaths of the poor. They invest in prisons and funeral homes. Survival has always been a crime! Any idea you have about making extra money, forget about it. If the government can’t find a way to get a cut, it’s illegal. Period.
How do music and activism intersect in your life?
I never understood this until one of my trans sisters told me. After I got signed, I felt like I was betraying my community or letting everyone down. She told me, “girl, your activism is in your songs.” I realized my lyrics unapologetically cover gender, oppression, incarceration, politics, colorism, equality, race, sex, self love, self care, religion and unity! Being an out, proud trans recording artist in a transphobic industry is a revolutionary act in itself.
What causes are you fighting for in 2018?
#DumpTrump, #Stopkavanagh, trans equality, visibility, protections and women rights, human rights, maximum wage, decriminalize survival work! Call to action world wide for the senseless trans murders that occur! I’d love to #bashback with #AMillionTransMarch.
Do you have any advice for trans women in the music industry?
My advice is to never give up. Create thought provoking music that teaches compassion and understanding. Music gives trans woman the rare opportunity to actually be heard! Be mindful of what you say, understand we have mostly young impressionable youths that look up to us and they are already being told in music through the cis narrative they’re not good enough. It’s important to inspire and empower! Tell your story. Music without any real depth is just lacking! With all the things happening to us in these streets as trans women, a trans artist should have plenty of relevant lyrical content.
Who’s one artist on your playlist we need to start following immediately, and why?
I’m completely infatuated with Mykki Blanco right now I could just scream!!!! I’ve never met a queer artist like them or anyone like them for that matter! Definitely changing the game! Incredibly talented and down to earth. I can’t believe I actually met Mykki last week!