A new docuseries from artist, author, and motivational speaker Octavia Yearwood delves into the lives of trans people of colour. The first season of The Tranz Form: It’s More Than Physical follows the lives of three black trans women living in Miami: Brielle Roundtree, Elle Williams and Xaria James.
Over the last 15 years (aside from being an arts educator), Yearwood was the Director of Spinello Projects’ FREE! a non-commercial art fair staged during Art Basel Miami Beach 2019. She was named the Miami New Times’ Best Author in Miami and Most Interesting Person in 2018. Yearwood was brought on by the City of Miami Beach to curate arts and culture activations for Memorial Day Weekend 2019, and received an Ellie Award by Miami-based nonprofit foundation Oolite Arts. They continue to focus on diversifying creative space by transforming creative spaces and sits on the Board for the Baller Alert Foundation, and the Advisory Board of Power U. Yearwood has written for publications such as Blavity’s 21 Ninety, XoNicole, and Permission to Write and Bustle.
Teaming up with Executive Producer/Director Carrie Choe of 1106 Productions, the series gives audiences an inside look to the lives of trans folks as they navigate their way through a cisgender-dominated world. The series challenges the idea of gender being a physical attribute, and discusses the many layers of gender and sexuality through the lens of trans people of colour.
FRONTRUNNER spoke to Yearwood, Executive Producer and creator of the series, about the show and her hopes for it.
What made you want to create the documentary and were your hopes people would get out of it?
The constant harming and murdering of Black Trans Womxn is what made me create The Tranz Form. There is no way or reason to rationalize how this is constantly overlooked as an epidemic, so my hopes were to create a docuseries that would celebrate, highlight, humanize, and elevate trans people of colour. The first season focused on Black Trans Womxn, and seasons in the future would highlight other trans folks on the trans spectrum. There are a lot of misconceptions and judgments about what the trans experience is, but rarely are there real conversations with cis-gendered folks and trans folks, and this series supports that communication with Trans Folks leading the narrative.
When making the series was there anything, in particular, you wanted to get across or anything you wanted to avoid?
When creating the series we mostly focused on staying out of the way of their truths but made sure we captured their greatness. I think when you watch the show that comes across crystal clear.
With everything going on with trans lives in the UK and US at the moment, how important are stories from trans people?
It’s paramount, and it’s paramount to make all the space needed to make sure they are uplifted and leading. The Tranz Form did not have trans folks in the background, while not without effort. In the future, our goal is to have trans folks in a lot more seats. Both in front of the lens and behind it. It’s also very much important for us as allies (although I feel non-binary) and artists to not feed into creating surface work that perpetuates patriarchal binary ideas. I was surprised that so much work around trans folks (trans womxn, in particular) was all around pageants and being “passable”. The other bit was very filled with trauma. While trauma does exist, there is SO MUCH BEAUTY AND POWER IN THE TRANS COMMUNITY! That’s why it’s important for richer, fuller, more truthful stories about trans lives that need to be shared.
What are your plans with the series? Will there be a second season, and are there any other trans communities you would like to document?
We just wrapped, but we are discussing how to move forward. The first season was done on a small budget and in a short amount of time. I conceptualized it in August 2019, pitched it to our Director and fellow Executive Producer, Carrie Choe Johnson, in October. We began shooting in November and the first episode dropped March 31st, 2020. For the future, we would love to build a team for the project with trans folks and get picked up to do more seasons that would highlight all TPOC, non-binary folks, trans men, gender nonconforming, etc.
As the Trump administration works on dismantling trans health care rights, the number of trans women of colour killed rises and the Conservatives in the UK scrap plans to ease the process of gender recognition, the importance of trans narratives being highlighted and showcased is important now more than ever.
What would you want people to do once they’ve seen the show?
Once they have seen the show I would like them to first share the show, because I think the show will help people see themselves in the womxn who shared, which for me begins the process of knowing how to better show up for them [trans folks]. Then I would tell folks to find a local or national trans person-led organization whose main focus is the well-being of trans folks, and become a dedicated donor. Being a dedicated donor will ensure that every you are supporting trans lives.
The next thing I would say is to make sure you not only hire trans folks but train staff on how to work with people who may not be like them. It sucks that you have to ask people to hire trans folks (because they aren’t doing it on their own) and have a training on how to support people, but its the world we live in. It needs to get done so we as a collective have to push and remind the world around us how to care for our people.