Sir Mixalot never saw it coming.
You can be sure that when the rap star recorded that ode to big butts, â€śBabyâ€™s Got Back,â€ť that he never, ever imagined how Athens Boys Choir would remake the tune for 2007â€™s album, Jockstraps and Unicorns. With the familiar beat as the soundtrack to â€śTranny Got Pack,â€ť the Athens Boys Choir (aka the transsexual spoken word artist known as Katz) raps about the larger than life package of a packing trans guy: â€śLittle in the rack/but he pack big sack.â€ť
Based out of Athens, Georgia, Athens Boys Choirâ€”orginally comprised of Katz and another perfomer, Rocketâ€”began touring in 2003. The next year, the act signed with Daemon Records and released their debut album, Rhapsody in T.
Although now a solo perfomer, Katz usually isnâ€™t alone on stage. Heâ€™s shared the bill with numerous artists from The Butchies to Ani DiFranco and Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. In 2006, he toured and performed with transgender performance artist Scott Turner Schofield in â€śThe Southern Gents Tour.â€ť
Over these four years Katz has gained a diverse fan base, many who might never have imagined theyâ€™d enjoy a spoken word performance. â€śSpoken word,â€ť Katz admits, â€śis such a vague term that it tends to bring with it [pre conceived notions]. I think Iâ€™d surprise people with the energy of my performances and the unapologetic honesty of my pieces.â€ť
When Katz (athensboyschoir .com) steps on stage, audiences can expect a performance that merges spoken word poetry, homo hop stylings, trans, queer and anti-war activism, pop culture references, sarcastic wit, and videos featuring Barbara Streisand as Yentl. Just donâ€™t expect him to mince words. When asked what he sees as the biggest challege facing the trans community, Katz is blunt. â€śThis is where the unapologetic honesty comes in: I think we are one of our biggest problems, because we donâ€™t work together enough. The transsexual community is notoriously separated in our activism by FTM and MTF organizations.â€ť
Living as an openly trans man in the south, Katz say, can be difficult. â€śNot having a solid community of gender-queers is a bit trying at times. Medical attention becomes a testy issue as does dating. But thatâ€™s the stuff poems are made of, I suppose.â€ť
Still, Katz insists, â€śPeople have a lot of false views about the South,â€ť and heâ€™s a big fan of Athens, Georgia. â€śBecause thereâ€™s no community thereâ€™re no preconceived notions from the rest of the city about FTMs. Iâ€™ve been attacked three times in Miami, FL and not onceâ€”knock on woodâ€”in Georgia.â€ť
He may be a fan, that doesnâ€™t mean he wonâ€™t point out his hometownâ€™s foibles. In Katzâ€™s â€śAthens, Georgia,â€ť a track on Jockstraps and Unicorns, heâ€™s critical of the cityâ€™s sex education programs that rely on promoting abstinence in place of access to birth control or condoms. Jockstraps and Unicorns may be an unusual choice for an album title, but Katz hopes it will speak to his LGBT audience, and he swears he picked it â€śfor the sole reason that it was the gayest thing I could think of at the time.â€ť
Released this April, the album differs from Athens Boys Choir (myspace.com/athensboyschoir)â€™s previous albums; particularly in increased production values, and a greater use of backtracks.
Since â€śThe Southern Gents Tourâ€ť with Schofield, Katz says heâ€™s had to change his definition of success, because heâ€™s reached so many goals. â€śIâ€™ve been damn lucky making it to here. Iâ€™ve released three big CD projects, toured all over the country, shared the stage with some of my heroes and made hundreds of new friends. Iâ€™ve been humbled by thousands of people that have shared their time, money and art with me.â€ť
When it comes to the future, Katz contends, â€śMy goal is to be this lucky tomorrow. After that, Iâ€™m playing it by ear. As far as ruling the worldâ€”maybe when I grow up.
As far as Walmart: if they wanted to sell a spoken word CD by a transsexual with a serious distrust of the governmentâ€”the world may be on the way to apocalypse anywayâ€”it wonâ€™t be on the shelves long.â€ť
The Indigo Girlsâ€™ Amy Ray once said of the Athens performer, â€śKatz makes room for the evolution of a movement. He doesnâ€™t shy away from questioning his own community and [he] has potential to be a leader to his generation of queers and a bridge to an older generation.â€ť
â€śWhen Amy Ray says anything, I have to take it as truth,â€ť Katz admits, â€ś[But] I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™d go as far as calling myself a leader. I am a voice in [our] community. In all honesty, I think our generation is pretty rad and doing a fine job finding a trajectory that is focused on community building and visibility.â€ť
For Katz, being out as transsexual is one way to build that visibility. But he doesnâ€™t fault those who choose a different path. â€śItâ€™s such a tough road to travel. So many of us live in fear, or stealth, or both. Itâ€™s hard to knowâ€¦where a safe place to put your energy is. Iâ€™m not sure if this is a solution, but Iâ€™m challenging the community to love and respect the journeys of each individual.â€ť
Trans writer, Jacob Anderson-Minshall, co-authored Blind Curves, the first in the Blind Eye Mystery series, available now. Contact email@example.com or visit Anderson-minshall.com for more information.