Body Liberation for All
Body Liberation for All
Unapologetic Visibility | Episode 45

Unapologetic Visibility | Episode 45

2AM Ricky on Advocating for Trans Health, Embracing Vulnerability, and Living His Purpose

Recording artist and songwriter 2AM Ricky is best known for utilizing his platform to bridge the intersection of LGBTQ advocacy and entertainment. He uplifts marginally perceived communities while building trans awareness, one song and conversation at a time.

In 2021, Ricky became the first black transgender male artist to land #1 on any music chart, with his single "Whatchu On (ft. CeCe Peniston)" peaking on the LGBTQ Urban Charts. His extensive portfolio includes several placements with credits including CeCe Peniston, Tyler Perry Studios, Zeus Network and more.

Ricky has helped industry professionals, corporate leaders, and creatives worldwide to develop language and best practices for transgender healthcare and education, intersectionality, inclusive strategies, and mental health. He recently released a new album titled "Listen If You're Lonely", a musical exploration of mental health, relationships, and life from a black masculine perspective.

This episode 2AM shares some of his story with us and we discuss:

🌈 Growing up without LGBTQIA+ representation and becoming a visible member of the community

🌈 Living a blessed life and finding your calling

🌈 Navigating transphobia in reproductive healthcare settings

🌈 Words of wisdom 2AM has for trans and non-binary young folks

Episode Resources

Decolonizing Wellness: A QTBIPOC-Centered Guide to Escape the Diet Trap, Heal Your Self-Image, and Achieve Body Liberation

Connect with 2AM Ricky

Episode edited and produced by Unapologetic Amplified

This transcript was generated with the help of AI. Thank you to our supporting members for helping us improve accessibility and pay equitable wages for things like human transcription.

Have you ever wondered why almost all the health and wellness information you see out there is so white, cis able-bodied and het? I know I have. And as a queer black registered dietitian, I gotta tell you, I'm not into it. I believe health and happiness should be accessible to everyone. That is precisely why I wrote Decolonizing Wellness: A QTBIPOC-Centered Guide to Escape the Diet Trap, Heal Your Self-Image, and Achieve Body Liberation and why I host Body Liberation for All.

The road to health and happiness has a couple of extra steps for chronically stressed people, like queer folks and folks of color. But don't worry, my guests and I have got you covered. If you're ready to live the most fierce, liberated, and joyful version of your life, you are in the right place.

Body Liberation for All Theme

They might try to put you in a box, tell them that you don't accept when the world is tripping out tell them that you love yourself. Hey, Hey, smile on them. Live your life just like you like it

It’s your party negativity is not invited. For my queer folks, for my trans, people of color, let your voice be heard. Look in the mirror and say that it's time to put me first. You were born to win. Head up high with confidence.  This show is for everyone. So, I thank you for tuning in. Let's go.

Dalia Kinsey: Thank you so much for coming on the show at 2 AM Ricky and I met recently at a 100 Black Trans Men Event that was focused on reproductive justice. And while I was there listening to your story was so impactful. I already knew, of course, that there are a lot of health disparities throughout the country for black folks, for people that have a womb and for trans folks, like when you're more than one type of marginalized, it really gets more and more difficult to get good access to healthcare.

But just hearing your story, it was so visceral. I really appreciate you putting in that emotional labor to share your story with other people, and to do all the advocacy work that you're doing in addition to being a young person who's making their dreams come true. It seems like a lot to tackle at once.

So, I'm so happy that you're here, and I would love to hear about a little bit of your story that maybe people don't always get a chance to hear. Like, how did you know, as a young person in North Carolina, a young Black person, that all that you're doing right now is possible, and if you didn't know it then, what had to shift for you to be open enough to life to be able to get to where you are right now?

2AM Ricky: First of all, I'm from Winston Salem, North Carolina, so I'm from, I would say, a smaller town. I wouldn't say too small. I've seen smaller cities, but a smallish town. And I grew up in a space that everyone knew my family, everyone knew who we were, the history of them. And so navigating through, coming from a small place that everyone knew who your people were, but you might end up going through certain things and we all know in Black culture, "what happens in this household, supposed to stay in this household" type of thing navigating just trauma overall, and knowing that I needed someone who could be a voice for me, but that was also a situation where I needed a voice, and I knew that I was coming from a place that a lot of people looked at us for the voice, and so it was a very complex situation.

And so I wanted to make sure that no matter what I did and no mattervwhat it was that I became, I just wanted to make sure that I made a great impact.

Dalia Kinsey: Okay. So how old do you think you were when you started realizing you wanted to have reach?

2AM Ricky: I, it's interesting because I actually got into music. My first like real project was called "Hiatus" and it was based around the death of my brother and best friend and he used to always say that like he used to always tell me that I will be doing these things and I will kind of like argue against it.

Oh, not because I didn't think it was possible, but because of the weight that I knew came with it, I, as a young kid was like, even now I'm pretty introverted. So I'm not going to say I'm not a people person, but people like me, and I would rather just watch people.

Dalia Kinsey: Oh, I, I can relate to that so much. So it sounds like you actually got a calling.

I think there's lots of different ways we can decide to live our lives. But some people, you know, have a passion that they want to share with others. Or they have a thirst for fame, but I don't think an introvert has ever thirsted for fame. So you're just tolerating attention that comes with sharing your gift.

2AM Ricky: Basically, God says so. And I feel like when I tell him, no, he kind of bullies me a little bit. So we just gonna flow with what he said.

Dalia Kinsey: Oh, the facts. Yes. If everybody can just. Learn to get out of their own way. When people keep telling you like, Oh, but you're so good at that thing. Or like, Oh, that thing that you did, it's still on my mind.

I really think you should push a little further. It's usually easier for other people to see our potential than for us to see our own potential. But I find that a lot of times, especially for queer folks and trans folks, that because we're being undermined in other ways. That sometimes it's even harder to trust yourself, so you know who you are but being your full self, sometimes people reject it or you see them rejecting other people like you, and that may make you feel like, well, maybe I can't trust my gut.

Did you ever have any, any need for breakthrough around that being trans and from a southern state? I mean, y'all consider your, yeah, yeah, y'all are southerners. Yes. Okay. Just because North was in there for half a second, I questioned myself, but yeah. What was it like? What was the trans acceptance like the LGBTQIA

acceptance in general, like when you were a kiddo in the 90s?

2AM Ricky: I would say, well, I didn't really get exposed to too many queer folk when I was coming up. Like we didn't, I grew up more so in an area that was like more like faith based. Like you didn't really see people if they were LGBTQ, you didn't really see them talking about it.

 It wasn't a lot of trans representation. So, even once I did get to the point of like, I started going to like, Black queer community. Cause I graduated high school at like, 16. So, I went to college really early. Oh, yeah. Yeah, I was like sneaking into clubs at like 16, 17, chilling.

Dalia Kinsey: I'm surprised you got in cause you look like you're barely 21 right now.

2AM Ricky: You know what? I don't know how I got in either. They never, like, I don't know how I've done a lot of things in life but I'm here. So, somehow, I was in there, and I was in there faithfully.

Dalia Kinsey: So... I guess they just figured, you know what, he's cool. Maybe.

2AM Ricky: Everyone treated me as such.

I don't know how I got in. Favored. Favored, lets call it that.

Dalia Kinsey: Oh, I like that. Do you feel like in general, despite what other people might see as, oh, it's a difficult identity to be born with, that your life has been blessed?

2AM Ricky: Definitely. I think that my life has been very blessed. I don't at any point think that my identity or anything negates the blessings or grace that's on my life.

If anything, I feel like there is a special grace that's on my life for me to be able to navigate certain spaces into having the calling that I have. But to be within my identity. I think that in itself says a lot about the favor that was on me when I was created and when my purpose was in mind. And so I live in that authentically.

I don't take that for granted. And when I do find myself in times of taking it for granted. I always humble myself by reminding myself of the fact of anyone else could have been chosen, but I was, and anyone could have been chosen in any type of design and body is, is how I was created to be able to fulfill whatever purpose it is that I have on this earth.

Dalia Kinsey: I love that. For music it sounds like the first real connection you felt with music and creating your own piece of work was linked to an emotional experience. Did you need that push to feel like it was time to express yourself in that way? Did you have any fear around performing or people judging your creativity?

I'm fascinated by anyone who does creative work. Just knowing how scary it could be to do a work of nonfiction where there's lots of guardrails. So to see artists walking off into like the great unknown, it's very impressive. So what was that step like for you?

2AM Ricky: I've always written music. Even as a kid, I was known for walking around with like a drawstring book bag with a binder, you know, it'd be like full of like lyrics and poems and stuff like that.

And so for me, it was like, I've always been vulnerable within my art and within my creativity, and I'm a person who naturally, like, I know my flaws. Vulnerability is one of them. Like, I think my, like, my calling has forced me to do that because I have to do interviews and stuff like that and talk to people.

But like on a regular basis, I wouldn't just randomly just be telling people what's in my heart. So, music gives me that gateway to also connect with people in a way that normally I might have to battle even myself with.

Dalia Kinsey: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It feels like again, it was inborn, like something you just had to let become, not something that you had to become.

It's like you came here ready to be an artist.

2AM Ricky: Yeah, I can say that, like, every obstacle that I've had, even within my personal life, I can see how, like, I'm a very faith based person, and so, like, I can very much see how when people say that, like, everything works out for your good. I can, I'm a person that can, like, really stand on that.

I advocate for that. Like, I, I can reflect on my life and see how every little thing, good, bad, indifferent, has aligned to what I am doing now and the impact and influence that I'm making now to the world.

Dalia Kinsey: I love that. I know, depending on how your life is playing out, sometimes it can be hard to see how a bad experience could ever serve you or make you any stronger or do anything for you.

What do you say to other young folks? Young trans folks who are dealing with families that aren't being affirming and watching how the political environment has completely turned against trans folks and basically all queer folks, but the people who are really getting the most heat, it's definitely trans folks.

How do you kind of explain that to a younger person that you can still do what you want to do with your life? And this doesn't define you, but you also should be allowed to be in spaces where you feel safe and you can show up fully.

2AM Ricky: I would say that for one um, I would say for one, I'm a living example.

I think that I, even though I battle with vulnerability, I am vulnerable for the mere factor of there are kids just like me who need to see what someone like, who looks like them looks like to live in their truth and to make it through not having acceptance and make it through not feeling like they have support and make it through feeling like they are not seen and let them know that anything is possible.

As long as you're alive, as long as you're breathing, regardless of what the circumstances feel like in that moment, everything is nothing but a moment. Like, literally, no matter how bad today is, you're gonna go to sleep, and you're gonna wake up. And tomorrow, you're not gonna be in that moment. It might be things that feel the same, it might be circumstances that feel the same, but you're technically no longer in that moment.

So if you can just focus on making sure that you live for the next moment, you make it for the next thing, you keep pushing. For that next moment, because that moment that you're no longer in that circumstance will come.

Dalia Kinsey: That's really helpful. And we really, I feel like as a, I hate to say as an elder to some people, I'm now an elder.

When did that happen? But it is helpful just to be seen so that people understand that even if you don't know any older queer folks like in your family or in your area that we're out here and a lot of us have survived really rough times. And we just want to see everybody make it to the point where they can look around and notice.

Wow, my circumstances completely changed. I found my real family, people who can hold space for me and support me and make me feel safe, and I never thought I'd get here, but you have to hang on. Some of us have to hang on longer than others to get to that point where you notice. Oh, it's true. Things really do get better.

Yeah, when it's come to navigating some areas are more tricky than others when it comes to navigating queer identity and trans identity. And the healthcare system is one of those areas where you go in because you're in need of care, you usually go in in trouble. It's usually a bad situation or a bad situation is looming on the horizon.

And you can't always go exactly where you want to go. You can't always go to the providers that are trans inclusive. How has that process been like for you? Because I feel like in general, everybody who could be anyone who could give birth, we all notice that there's an issue with providers not listening to us.

So I would imagine, That tendency is really, really problematic when you're a trans man and you're trying to explain to maybe an ignorant provider what your concerns are and why you came in. Like, do you have any pointers after having to navigate health care systems as a transmasculine black person in particular, because sometimes we're even less likely to be listened to.

What have you learned from having to deal with the health care system?

2AM Ricky: For one, a lot of our healthcare professionals are very uneducated on how to properly care for trans, non binary folks, especially those of color. For one, I would urge every medical professional practitioner to bring in a Black trans strategist and consultant, and bring them in frequently, and the reason why I say frequently and not just once a year is because times are changing, medicine is always evolving.

And what we learn about ourselves is constantly being updated. But it's very important to have different perspectives of not only care, but also within the marketing materials given out within your facilities, within the photographics that we see up on the walls, making sure that representation is seen in every area, that the receptionist, especially the receptionists, have proper training, because they're the first instance that a patient gets and first interaction that a patient normally gets, And from personal experience, I've had instances of walking into the office, like you said, in trouble, in pain, there's a major issue, and literally being told, sir, why are you here?

This is for women. You're not supposed to be here. You don't know where you're at. Being, being argued against as I try to check into my own doctor's appointment.

I have had nurses literally argue, nurses and doctors argue with me again even become very aggressive. I've had instances of doctors and nurses getting aggressive with me.

Dalia Kinsey: Even after you, so..... this is such a mess. So after you've already cleared the first hurdle, which is checking in with an untrained receptionist that doesn't understand a birthing person could have any kind of gender presentation.

So you dealt with that person. And then you get into the room and then there was more resistance as to why are you here? Why are you here?

2AM Ricky: Yeah, I've had it both when I've been met in the room, but when I walked in at the receptionist. I've had it once. I've made it into the receptionist trying to be seen.

I've had it. I've had doctors offices wrongfully give me medicine because they didn't know what to do. And then the doctor themselves come in and me and the doctor going at it because they're misinformed. And they're, you know, using the wrong pronouns, the wrong language and extremely uneducated.

I'll never forget when I had uterine cancer. I had to go get a test and I remember a relative coming with me and finding out I had gotten bad results. And the person not only not having any compassion, but because of them being so uneducated, their lack of, and because they had, I guess, a personal opinion against the queer community as a whole, their personal opinion came out instead of proper care.

Mm. So instead of getting the news that, hey, this is what's wrong, I got papers tossed at me with a person who's been arguing against me and insisting I shouldn't even be in that space. Oh, luckily, I've been to the doctor's office that I could read and had someone with me who understood that could, although that was difficult for them, because this was a relative having to say, oh, crap, here we go.

This is what we're dealing with. Oh, in the midst of were heated, we're arguing down nurses, practitioners, we're having Black women coming aggressively approaching me and I'm having to keep the my composure like, lady, you don't even know.

Dalia Kinsey: This is wild. It's like the way the transphobia becomes so violent so quickly.

I don't think people are, I don't think people are getting it. Like how is it that a paying client, a paying patient can come into your facility and experience this kind of abuse. And I know they still sent you a bill. I know they didn't say don't worry about the bill because we were assholes while you were here.

2AM Ricky: Oh, no, not at all.

Dalia Kinsey: They never do that. That's just...

2AM Ricky: Like, I've, I've literally, like, any doctor's office who I have, when they give me any little bit of experience the person who runs this knows who I am. Because... I will go to every power that be and let them know not only this is what's been wrong. I'm actually a professional and an expert who gets sent out to go consult to people.

So let me explain to you what trainings you need, who you can call, and where you can find these folks.

Dalia Kinsey: I love that. It's every, you're always ready with the reframe. Is this a learned skill or is this something An adult taught you, like, do you remember a role model who's always like, that's all right

I know exactly what we're going to do with this lemon.

2AM Ricky: It's really a survival technique. I think, like, if you're trans and being masculine. I think the masculinity plays into it too, like learning to and having no other choice but to have to constantly know how to navigate, how to flip a situation, how to get yourself out.

And whereas a lot of people may try to respond with aggression and frustration, I get frustrated too, I get angry, I get all of those things. Y'all ain't gon see it. I got my core people who I feel safe if I need to throw something at a wall in front of them. Right. They gon hand it to me. But besides that, I've just learned that, like, the safest way to protect myself and protect others in my identity

it's quick conflict resolution and quick de escalation. As a black transmasculine person, I'm constantly being stigmatized as aggressive. So if I'm the person who's trying to de escalate, you can't say I'm aggressive. If I'm being stigmatized as the person who's trying to be overpowering but not coming in kind, not coming in, Hey, friend!

You know what I'm saying? Like... Then that stigma can't be placed upon.

Dalia Kinsey: Yeah. Oh, someone was telling me, I, I just, because I present as femme, no matter what I've tried I keep trying to radiate neutral, but I don't guess I really know how to do that. But people basically generally regard me as Black femme, and I get that having to control your reaction because everyone already thinks you're going to be aggressive, but a trans masculine Black friend of mine was saying that I have only seen a fraction of what it is to not be able to speak your mind because people assume masculine Black folks are even more aggressive.

I was assuming y'all are out here living like a better life, a freer life, being able to say what you wanted to say, not realizing that that pressure to keep making yourself palatable is on all Black folks, regardless of gender presentation. And that it actually gets worse, the more masculine you are.

2AM Ricky: So I would say, honestly, people say that passability is a privilege.

I say passability is a pressure. I have this expectation to now live up to the standards of what they think I'm supposed to be, live up to your standards of what I think you think I'm supposed to the standards of my past, so why are you having these problems? Like there's so much that comes into it. And then there's also the pressure of, I don't want to say, like, there's a pressure to be the superhero.

There's a pressure to make sure that you fix the problem because you're viewed, always viewed as the person that everyone expects is going to get listened to anyway.

Dalia Kinsey: Wow. That's, that's seriously, that's something for everybody to... Take in this is a wild thing about systemic oppression is that it even hurts the people who look like they're benefiting from it, but I keep being surprised when I hear about it from the masculine standpoint, because we hear about the patriarchy and obviously the patriarchy sucks but still

in broken systems, where someone has to be small or less than for someone else to be powerful, everyone's being hurt. I feel like that's the, that's the lesson. It's just hard to remember. So if there was some parting piece of wisdom, you could leave with everyone. And I'm assuming we have some trans babies in the audience.

I know we have some non binary babies in the audience. What's a bit of advice you would give them if they magically could internalize it, even if it's one of those things that you know, it actually takes years to learn, but let's just pretend what's a piece of wisdom that you would want everyone to internalize and understand for themselves and carry with them through life.

2AM Ricky: For one, write everything down. Every dream, every goal, everything that you hope to become that feels impossible. Write it down. And revisit it. Update it. Because when you write it down you begin to manifest that and turn that into reality. For two, I would say, find your, find that happy place. And for some people that happy place is a place of faith, it's meditating, it's whatever it is, find that happy place.

And make sure that that is not something that is another person, it's not something tangible, it's something that you can hold on and you can access at any given moment that you need it, that you need to feel protected, um, because that's something that no one can take away from you. And three, remember that every influence and inspiration and icon that you have is a human too.

And a lot of us have experienced a lot of the same things and probably experienced some worse things that you probably don't even know about. And knowing that, know that if we can do it, so can you.

Dalia Kinsey: I love that. Oh, that's such a beautiful note to leave it on. Can you tell us where we can find your most recent album or honestly, just any find you period?

2AM Ricky: Y'all can follow me on all social media platforms @2amricky, it's number two AM like in the morning R.I.C.K.Y. Make sure y'all go check out my new album. Listen if you lonely, it's available on all social, all listening platforms. My single Cream was actually just up for Grammy consideration, so we'll see what's happening next month.

 And yeah, I just, I really appreciate you bringing me on board and just let me talk to y'all.

Thank you so much for joining us.

Body Liberation for All Theme

They might try to put you in a box, tell them that you don't accept when the world is tripping out tell them that you love yourself. Hey, Hey, smile on them. Live your life just like you like it

It’s your party negativity is not invited. For my queer folks, for my trans, people of color, let your voice be heard. Look in the mirror and say that it's time to put me first. You were born to win. Head up high with confidence.  This show is for everyone. So, I thank you for tuning in. Let's go.

Body Liberation for All
Body Liberation for All
Holistic Registered Dietitian Dalia Kinsey created Body Liberation for All as a resource for QTBIPOC folks who are ready to become the happiest version of themselves, using healing tools tailored for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ folx. Since wellness is multi-factorial each season covers a broad range of tools (sexual expression, indigenous medicine, mindfulness etc.) for the pursuit of happiness. Special guests and healers join throughout each season to share their journeys to inner peace and fulfillment.