I’ve admired award-winning singer-songwriter, actor, performer, writer, LGBTQ activist & motivational speaker Ryan Cassata for a long time now. I found him while scrolling through the Instagram #transman feed; his caption stopped me: “I will not stay silent. I will continue to speak. I will continue to share trans history. I will continue to share my story. I will continue to put my community first even when I’m afraid, and speak anyway, and show up anyway and do what I believe is right in my heart. For the good of the community. Strength in numbers. Solidarity. I will not stay silent, it’s time to speak up.”
Ryan is an internationally recognized motivational speaker and singer/songwriter. He was one of the youngest openly trans activists interviewed by Larry King on international television in 2009. At the time, trans voices were almost never heard in the media. During his interview, the banner on the screen read, “The Secret Life of Transgenders.” (Transgender is an adjective, not a noun. The word ‘transgenders’ should never be used to refer to a group of people.)
Ryan went on to appear on The Tyra Banks Show, ABC’s “Head’s Up, and in 600 performances touring across the United States and internationally. He was the first openly trans performer at the Vans Warped Tour; he’s performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Green Show, the South by Southwest Film Festival, and the world’s biggest pride festivals. Ryan has been praised by The Advocate Magazine as a “Transgender singing sensation.” He has been featured in GRAMMY.com, Rolling Stone, Billboard, The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and The NY Daily News. His award-winning music video, “Daughter,” which has been viewed over 760,000 times.
I had recently had the opportunity to interview him via email, in between a host of projects he’s working on in preparation for the launch of his new album, “The Witches Made Me Do it.”
When did you first begin writing music?
I started writing music when I was 12 years old. My first song is called “Wonderful, Beautiful” and I wrote it on the piano shortly after I began piano lessons. My mom came home and asked who wrote the song I was playing. I said “I did!” She didn’t believe me at first. From then on…I just haven’t stopped writing. I’ve written hundreds of songs.
One of my favorite lyrics is in “Bamboo Plants,” specifically: “our dogs are howling in the yard / As I’m stargazing laying on a plastic lawn.” How would you describe your songwriting process?
My songwriting process is always different but all of the good songs start with the feeling of being inspired. I literally feel the song coming on so I try to get to my guitar or piano ASAP so I don’t miss it.
What is one of the most important decisions you have ever made? Why was it important?
One of the most important decisions I made was getting my dog Geoffrey. He makes me laugh and smile even when I’m going through rough days.
In a 2019 interview, you said that you sometimes feel like you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders on behalf of the trans community. How does carrying this weight affect your work?
It gives me a great sense of purpose. Sometimes it’s stressful but most of the time it fills my heart with an enormous amount of purpose and joy. My mission is to help others with their journeys and to help others feel less alone. I found that purpose when I appeared on the Larry King Live Show in 2009 to speak about being trans. I was 15 years old.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m in promo mode for my record “The Witches Made Me Do It” that drops on March 27th, 2020. I just launched the official t-shirts so it’s been fun to send those out and see people using the #TheWitchesMadeMeDoIt hashtag on instagram. We are wrapping up some music videos and will release them sometime soon. I’m also rehearsing with my band, writing more music, and getting ready to get back in the studio for the follow up record. Oh, and I’m also booking a tour. There’s a lot happening here at once.
How do you want to be remembered?
As a good friend, a hard worker, and an artist.