Two summers ago I played violin as a street performer in New York City as a way to make money for my top surgery. I loved everything about it. I played lots of stuff people would recognize: the Mario theme song, SpongeBob and some classical stuff too.
More than the music, the way you make the most money is by getting to know people. If you would just play, they’d maybe give you a dollar. If I connected with someone, they’d give me $5. If they thought I was homeless, they’d give me $10. If I thought they were giving me money for being homeless, I’d give half of it to charity.
You can be anything when you’re street performing. I would make up different names and different backgrounds. No one cares who you are. I’d test out male names. This was before I was on testosterone, but I passed as male 98 percent of the time. It helped me a lot during my transition.
It’s also a really great way to meet girls. Usually tourists, which was perfect, because we’d hang out and then they’d go back where they came from. I had a whole routine worked out. I’d take them to the Ferris wheel in Toys R Us, then to Magnolia Bakery in the Village. If they hadn’t figured it out already, sometimes I’d tell them I was transgender at Magnolia Bakery. Because you can’t be mad at Magnolia Bakery. But if it’s not going to be something serious, they don’t particularly need to know that I’m transgender.
I’m in community college right now. It sucks, but I’m saving money for top surgery this summer. At school, I don’t tell people I’m transgender. I’m kind of living a double life.
All my applications are in for next year. I’m so excited. I went to visit SUNY Purchase. SUNY Purchase is my safety school, and I like it, and it’s less expensive than the others, so I’ll probably go there. The thing I don’t like about Purchase is I don’t really want to be out, and I know so many people there.
I’m going to go by a new name in college. I got a new driver’s license and everything, but I’m not telling many people. Kaden is my transition name. I had my friends vote on it. Not many people call me by my permanent guy’s name. My parents said they’ll start calling me it, but to just let them know when.
As Kaden, I’m so associated with being transgender. If you meet other trans guys, a lot of times they know who I am because of all the YouTube videos I’ve made. I’m not the first trans person to be on YouTube. A lot of older guys were. Now there are about 200 young trans guys who are actively making videos. Once in a while I get a hate email. If someone happens to stumble upon the video, they might write something nasty, but it’s not people specifically targeting trans people.
Through YouTube, I’ve connected with lots of other people. When I was in London for spring break I organized a meet-up. I’ve organized two and a half other meet-ups in New York City. The one around Christmas at the Center got about 50 people.
I open the invitation to anyone. I just make sure no creepers are checking up. We’ve never had a problem. I’m just paranoid. I have a lot of Internet stalkers.
I’m going to keep making videos because they help me document my transition. They also help people come out. It’s a good way to show transgender people as real people. The media doesn’t cover trans people that much, so we kind of make our own media.
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in New Jersey, 2011
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