Born in North Carolina, Peyton-Namire has lived in Charlotte for most of his 22 years. On a balmy Friday evening he hangs out at a playground where a celebration of his girlfriend’s mother’s birthday is about to begin. Children can be heard playing in the background, a puppy frolics and the smell of sweet barbeque sauces wafts up from a nearby grill. In the midst of all this, a young trans man with an easy smile makes time to talk to qnotes about what it’s like to be him/them.
How do you identify?
When I’m out in public I’m a regular cis male. I don’t live stealth; I just don’t choose to have my transness out there. Because I live in a red state and I really don’t feel safe knowing that people can just go into a fit of rage just from me saying I’m transgender. When I’m out as Peyton, I’m at an event or anything that has to do with people of color or trans people, and I let people know that I am trans. I want people to know that there are trans people everywhere — especially trans men of color. I see more white trans men [in the media] when I see them at all.
Have you always known you’re trans?
No. I figured it out when I was 14. I can’t say that I’ve always been trans. It took me a year and a half to come to that conclusion. At the time I had a partner that helped me, helped me pick out a name for myself. I’ll never forget what they did for me. Coming out to my parents was not an easy experience. Anytime I tried to come out about anything different or unique, it was not accepted and I was seen as rebellious.
How’s your family accepting your trans identity now?
I can’t say that my family has fully accepted me; I don’t even think they really know what that means. I think it’s because we’re Black people and already at great risk for discrimination and death. Adding me being trans on top and transitioning into a Black male is even more frightening for them.
Is that the most difficult part about being young, Black and trans in the south, the risk of being taken for a cis Black man?
Funny thing is, when I tell someone that I am transgender, they’re always surprised. They don’t think that we exist. I get people thinking I’m a male trying to be a woman. I tell them that I’m female to male and most people don’t seem to know what that means. We’re so invisible. Many are so stealth that people don’t know we exist, they [stealth trans men] go about as cis men while I have to prove my transness to people.
Sounds like a bit of a burden. Is visibility part of your activism or advocacy for LGBTQ youth? Would you share a little with qnotes readers about what your role in LGBTQ advocacy and activism looks like?
It looks like me going on stage and telling you about me as a person and then me telling you that I’m trans. I need you to see me as a person before you see me as a trans person.
Going on stage? Can you elaborate?
I team up with Time Out Youth and do Speakers Bureaus for colleges and organizations that would like to know how to best support LGBT kids — the right way. If you teach the teachers a little bit about pronouns or how to address a child, that makes a big difference in kids coming to school. Many are frightened, but having just one staff member, one teacher they can talk to, helps a lot. It can even decrease suicide rates. That’s why I want to go state to state to help establish programs for trans and non-binary kids, [so they] can comfortably transition while they’re in school. I don’t understand why schools don’t protect trans kids or trans kids with disabilities. If I could create a safe space in every state, I would, a safe space for LGBT kids to go.
What led you to become involved in LGBTQ youth issues?
I’ve never been the type to sit back and let something happen. So, when it was time to speak, I’ve always been able to speak up for myself and other people. It’s been a long journey. My doing this, it just happened, and I took the responsibility and ran with it. I try to speak for all LGBT kids if I can. Those that are silent are often the ones contemplating suicide. So, I try to create change — that’s what I aim to do.
Do you have any trans role models, celebrity or otherwise?
Yes, there’s a person on Instagram, his name is SteroidBeyonce, and I like him so much because he’s both masculine and feminine. I think people get too hung up on gender norms, what’s supposed to be for boys and what’s supposed to be for girls. They don’t pay attention to what their kids really like or who they really are. They just want them to fit in. There are so many simps — I call them simps, for simple minded people — in the world, and there’s no need for that. You can find out anything you want; all you have to do is Google it or YouTube it. You can learn about trans people by hearing people tell their transition stories. So, I just think [those who aren’t informed] don’t want to learn. And you don’t have to want to learn, but you will respect my pronouns.
So, what do you think about the recent drama surrounding some homophobic and HIV-stigmatizing comments made by rapper DaBaby?
He’s been canceled for me a while ago. He’s been doing things like what he said during that festival; it’s not new. Rappers that act like that are not new. I don’t understand why it took this for him to get canceled. There was a time when he knocked one of his fans on stage, a girl. He should have been cancelled long ago. His apology video was bullshit — I put nothing past him, especially since he hangs with Lil Boosie, who had so much mean stuff to say about Dewayne Wade and Gabrielle Union’s [trans] daughter.
DaBaby was raised in Charlotte, and the impact of religion is a big thing in the south. Are you religious? If so, how have you been able to reconcile your identity with your religion?
I practice Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism. I know a lot of queer people that practice and do yoga. Through Buddhism I’ve learned how to become one with myself to achieve Nirvana. Nirvana is another word for enlightening, finding peace, happiness. So, I’m okay.
Outside of the peace you find in practicing Buddhism, is there anyone in particular in your life that has supported you? Maybe a role model or a mentor that you’ve learned any valuable lessons from?
Yes, James Rice III. I met him at Time Out Youth when I was 18. He works there. He’s helped me from the beginning of my transition, and he introduced me to Shaq Clarke, my Housing Administrator. She helped me get housing and taught me a lot about budgeting and other things.
James has been more of a father figure to me than my actual dad, though he’s in my life but doesn’t do nuttin’. James taught me that many of the feelings that I have are okay. He taught me that it’s okay to be angry. He’s always told me that he’s going to accept me for who I am and what I come with, and that he’s always going to love me for who I am.
Wow! It’s wonderful that you have such supportive people like them in your life. The world is changing. When you think about the lives of the trans community of color 25 years from now, what do you think things might look like?
I think everyone is gonna’ wanna’ look like trans and non-binary people because it’s the style, though they don’t want the life [many trans and non-binary people live], like a trend. I could see that. Androgynous looks are already becoming fashionable.
What’s a typical day like in the life of Peyton-Lamire?
I go to work around 11:00 a.m. at an uptown restaurant, my shift ends around 4:00 or 5:00 p.m., I’m a host. When I get off, I go home, play with my dog and try to ground myself. I put my feet in the grass and try to unwind fully with a little bit of nature. Once I go in the house, I try to eat something healthy, like salad with chicken, berries and pecans, shower and meditate for as long as I feel like I need to. Depends on the type of day. My happy place is sleeping to thunder and rain. Being an introvert, I think I enjoy more alone time than lots of people, so I fill time with painting or going to a movie by myself. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be around people to feel accepted. I work at a job where there are a lot of people, so I really need to use my downtime as self-care time. My company is the best company.
What makes you smile?
Seeing others happy and knowing that I put that smile on your face.
Any advice for trans or non-binary kids navigating the difficult journey of living as their authentic selves?
I’d tell them, you are not crazy, you are exactly who you say you are. Who others say you’re supposed to be is not important. You can transition. It is possible, and even if you don’t transition, you are valid, you are loved and you can be you.
Join us: This story is made possible with the help of qnotes’ contributors. If you’d like to show your support so qnotes can provide more news, features and opinion pieces like this, give a regular or one-time donation today.
As we continue through the blazing heat of the end of summer, it’s time to take stock and reflect on recent events. This is even more true this month because this is Black August. Black August is a time of resilience and remembrance of Black resistance against racial oppression, especially in the prison system.