*”Transcendent,” the groundbreaking docu-series about a group of talented trans women, returns to Fuse Wednesday night (June 8), and series star Bionka tells EUR/Electronic Urban Report that fans can expect to be taken “a little bit more in-depth” into the lives of the women, and experience “a lot more drama” this new season.
“But they’ll get to know us on a more personal level. We dive into family and touch a little bit on homelessness and what that is like being a transgender. And we show and little bit more of the restaurant and what happens.”
Bionka co-stars alongside Bambiana, LA, Nya & Xristina. The series follows this young group of women as they navigate their professional, personal and romantic lives while performing at one of San Francisco’s most popular cabarets.
What one word would you use to describe your co-stars?
Bionka: Nya: Mom. LA: The Baby. Bambi: Strong. Xristina: I don’t want to call her an airhead, but Xristina is your educated sexpot (laughs.).
What has been most rewarding about having a platform where you can celebrate being a trans woman?
Bionka: Just being able to share my story in a positive light, and have it be true to life.
In what ways do you believe this show has helped the transgender community?
Bionka: We’re all five different women and we all come from five different walks of life. So if not myself, they can pick up something from Nya. They can pick up something from LA. They have these experiences, and see young transgender women actually doing what most of our old trans pioneers were doing a long time ago. It’s just, now we’re on TV.
Have you heard responses from viewers whose opinion about the trans community changed after watching the show?
Bionka: I personally haven’t but I think it’s amazing. Hell, if you can sit down and watch all five of us for a good thirty minutes, I commend you because we’re handful. We’re also funny too and it’s not so much in your face like, “We’re trans…this and that.” It’s secondary that we’re trans.
When activists say they want to talk about struggles faced by transgender people, what do are they talking about?
Bionka: It’s kinda similar to most LGBT people. We face struggles with family, poverty, sex work. We face struggles with trying to find a proper job, that’s why most of us tend to go to sex work and drug use. You have mental heath issues from years of being ridiculed and put down and always talked about. Dating is a problem. Can I find someone who is open to dating a transgender person? When I go to work, do I have to tell everybody that I’m trans? These are big things. I don’t stand on the transgender soapbox and be like, I’m trans so you need to do this. I think people need to work on accepting people as the gender that they identify as and trans is secondary.
How often do you hear stories from trans people who regret transitioning?
Bionka: I’ve met a few trans people just in my work in San Francisco who have transitioned and decided to de-transition because it was a struggle for them trying to find the means to transition or because they feel like they need to pass and they don’t have the money to afford surgery and different things. They feel like once they do get the surgery that would help them be passable and fit in and so that in itself is a struggle.
How do you feel when activists compare the struggle of the LGBT community to that of the civil rights movement? Many – especially black people – feel it is an unfair comparison.
Bionka: I agree! As trans people we do have issues and we’re still trying to overcome these boundaries. Ya know — we’re not accepted at most work places. We have this big bathroom thing that’s an issue now, and it’s sad to say but I think that I kinda am passable to where I don’t really have to face that, but I also come from a background working in non-profit and working primarily with the trans community, and I feel my sisters. Sometimes I wish it were a little bit easier for certain members of the community to go through life and be okay, and I think we’re moving towards that. I think there’s a whole lot more that needs to be done.
Why is it that the LGBT community and come together and get what they want when they want it, but when it comes to black activists, it seems to take a generation to see results in the black community.
Bionka: Because as black people, I still feel we don’t know how to unite as a community. You notice in other cultures, when they talk about community, they can unite and get things done. Like the LGBT community, I feel like the LGB get it done but then the T is left off. And now the T is in the forefront so they almost have to accept us too. Even sometimes by the gay community we kinda get left out like we’re confused, and it’s like “No-no, don’t you think that you’re confused because I figured out that I am this?”.
How will you use your new-found fame to help raise awareness about the trans community?
Bionka: I can only be me and I’m not trying to be a role model but I know that I am, so in that same sense it’s like, I just want to be able to shed a good light on the trans community and let people know that we’re every day people and there’s no qualms about us. What you like is what you see. We’re not going to flip the script. I think just to be able to help educate everyone – even the youngsters that are coming up that are looking at us for guidance to know that you can be who you are. Especially being a black trans person. I already have it against me being black, and then I’m trans too. So it’s like a double conundrum, but if I can use that to just continue to open and spread the light on transgender people….
But, being black is not a strike.
Bionka: But honestly, being a black person, we still have those people who are slightly racist. So the fact that you are black they almost make you want to jump through hurdles, and the fact that I am trans, they want to make you jump through even more hurdles, and then the fact that I’m a woman. It’s like, they almost want to look pass you until you speak and they meet you and then they’re like, “Oh, wow… you’re just like everyone else!”.
“Transcendent” airs Wednesdays at 11:30p/10:30c on Fuse.