Colorado’s Trans Community Choir
and Arts Collective
Phoenix, Colorado’s Trans Community Choir was founded in September 2015 by Sam Bullington as a fully collaborative grassroots community of individuals who believe in the transformative potential of the arts for personal empowerment and societal change. Although many of its members are trans-identified, the choir is home for anyone who does not fit neatly into the gender binary, as well as all those touched by trans issues, including partners, parents, friends, and allies. The chorus is based in Broomfield, with singers from all over the Front Range, and performs frequently at community events.
WHO: A choir for anyone who identifies along the trans spectrum
+ partners, family, friends, allies …
anyone touched by transgender issues
WHAT: Singers (all levels of experience), musicians, poets, storytellers, visual artists, multimedia, cultural workers of all kinds are invited!
WHY: Exploring Community, Voice, Self, Activism, Creative Expression, and Fun!
WHEN: We rehearse every Tuesday from 7-8:30pm
WHERE: 3078 W. 134th Place, Broomfield 80020
Read all about us in these 3 blogs:
Friday, November 16, “Raven’s True Self,” Nederland Elementary, 2pm
Sunday, November 18, Namaqua Unitarian Universalist Church, Loveland, 10am
Tuesday, November 20, Trans Day of Remembrance, East High School, Denver, 6:30pm
Saturday, May 12 noon, Bridging Generations: A Queer and Trans Story Telling Gathering, Boulder Public Library Meadows Branch
Saturday, April 14, Transgender Voices Festival, Macalester College, St Paul, MN
Thursday, April 12, Phoenix On Tour, collaborative concert with the River City Mixed Chorus, First United Methodist Church, Omaha, Nebraska
Saturday, March 17, PFLAG Gender Expansive Youth Fashion Show, Cairn Christian Church, Lafayette
Sunday, February 25, 2018, PFLAG 25th Anniversary Celebration, 3-5pm, Longmont United Church of Christ
Sunday, February 4, 2018, Trans/Actions, Dairy Arts Center, Boulder, noon
Friday, December 8, 2017, 8pm: Do You Hear What I Hear collaborative concert with the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus, First United Methodist Church, Boulder
Debuting original songs by Angela Galik (Come In), Katie Woodzick (From She To They), and Sam Bullington/Selena Wellington (Another Sunny Morning, Another Black Man Killed)
Video of our set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNWkUwXI08k&feature=youtu.be
Monday, November 20, 2017: Trans Day of Remembrance Denver gathering, East High School
Sunday, November 12, 2017, 10am: Trans Day of Remembrance service, Cairn Christian Church, Lafayette
Friday, October 27, 2017, 7pm: Songs for Peace and Protest, Izaak Walton Clubhouse, Longmont
Saturday, August 12, 2017: TYES Family Camp, Camp Santa Maria, Bailey (reprise of Raven’s True Self with audience members participating)
Saturday, May 13, 2017, noon: Flash mob for Peace, Pearl St Mall, Boulder
Sunday, April 30, 2017, 5pm: Collaborative concert with Mosaic Gospel Choir, Boulder
Here’s the video of the concert (Phoenix takes the stage about a half hour in): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gViYxAFANXc&feature=youtu.be
Making signs for our performance of Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout”
Thursday, April 13, 2017, 5:30pm: Take Back the Night, Front Range Community College
Sunday, March 12, 2017: PFLAG/TYES Gender Expansive Youth Fashion Show
Saturday, March 4, 2017, 2:30pm: NoEnemies March Forth, Youth on Record, Denver
Friday, February 3, 2017, 9am: “Raven’s True Self” for First Friday, Boulder Community School of Integrated Studies, Boulder, CO
“What a great performance and thank you and Phoenix for all the time, effort and love put into the performance. It was completely moving and I am sure will be talked about for a couple of days. The costumes were amazing and so were the songs. Thank you all again!!” –Teacher
“Artistically, it was incredibly organized, aesthetic, and flowed beautifully. On a deeper level, I thought it communicated such a powerful, meaningful message that was developmentally appropriate for our kids. The work you all put into it shined like a beacon!!” –Teacher
“I just wanted to write to you to say THANK YOU for hosting the Phoenix Trans-Community Choir at BCSIS for First Friday. Doing so exemplifies one of the biggest reasons I love BCSIS and am so happy M is learning his place in the world at this school. Particularly in this political climate, having a First Friday experience like that one is so incredibly important for our young kids. And M absolutely loved the program. He doesn’t often hop in the car and launch into stories about school but on this day he did. And thanks to your email, I was ready to participate in the conversation with him. His conclusion after the program is that he is “medium” – which he explained to mean sometimes he feels like a girl and sometimes he feels like a boy. That sort of non-binary approach to gender is so wonderful to witness, and has been a part of his experience since he was little. But it meant a great deal to me to hear him describe it in his own words.” –Parent
Wednesday, January 25, 2017, 5:30pm: BuffsUnited, Old MainChapel, CU Boulder campus
Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 6pm: Moving Toward Collective Liberation (organized by Out Boulder), Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum, 400 Quail Road, Longmont
Sunday, November 20, 2016, 5pm: Trans Day of Remembrance (organized by Out Boulder), United Church of Christ, 1500 9th Ave, Longmont
Sunday, November 20, 2016, 4pm: Trans Day of Remembrance (organized by the Gender Identity Center), West High School, 951 Elati St, Denver
Thursday, Nov 17, 2016, 7pm: Trans Day of Remembrance, University of Denver, Center for Multicultural Excellence, 2055 Evans Ave, Denver
Sunday, October 30, 2016, 3pm: Flash mob performance, 16th St Mall, Denver
Sunday, July 3, 2016, 12:30pm: GALA Festival, Buell Theater, Denver Performing Arts Complex: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_gYnBXmF1ybUmtIR1pPUXV4ZTg/view
We performed all original compositions written by choir members Angela Gayan Galik, Selena Wellington, and JaxZion Justice Deak
Sunday, June 12, 2016, 5pm: PFLAG Awards Banquet, First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St, Boulder
Tuesday, May 3, 2016, 5pm: Lavender Graduation, CU Boulder, Abrams Lounge, C4C
Saturday, April 16, 2016, 1pm: Fearless Feminist Festival, Wesley Chapel, 1290 Folsom St, CU campus, Boulder
Thursday, April 14, 2016, 6pm: Take Back the Night, Front Range Community College, 2121 Miller Dr, Longmont
April 16, 17, 23, 7pm: Each of Us: A Concert about Authenticity with Resonance Women’s Chorus, First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St, Boulder
Friday, November 20, 2015, 7pm: Boulder Trans Day of Remembrance, Pearl St, Boulder
Thursday, November 12, 2015, 5pm: Boulder Says No to Sexual Violence, CU Boulder UMC
In 2004 I was a founding member of TransVoices in Minneapolis, the second ever transgender choir on the planet. It was the brainchild of Jane Ramseyer Miller, the artistic director for One Voice Mixed Chorus, generated out of a Transgender Voices Festival that she organized after watching 2 FTM members of her choir transition and experience different singing challenges as a result. The weekend conference, the first of its kind anywhere, brought together a variety of singers, activists, and vocal specialists from as far away as California to talk about a range of voice issues for trans people—from what happens to your vocal chords when you transition to techniques for increasing pitch range to vocal care suggestions. At that Festival, Jane started a transgender vocal ensemble to sing in a collaborative concert with One Voice called “Blurring the Lines: Music and Gender”—which eventually became a freestanding organization called TransVoices, of which I was Co-Chair.
I was not planning to sing with the trans choir at all. In fact, I was so self-conscious about my voice that I nearly missed the entire Festival. Though I knew it would be perfect for me, I ended up being a half hour late because I sat immobilized on my bedroom floor, unsure if I could really coax myself into going. I went to the singing workshop at the end of the Festival really just to challenge myself, but ended up having such a good time that when Jane asked who wanted to join the chorus, I found my hand going up quite to my surprise and almost against my will!
During the eight weeks of rehearsal, in the safety I felt with Jane and the others in the choir, my confidence in my voice grew. Choir rehearsal was what I most looked forward to in my week and I began to feel more powerful and tapped into a reservoir of self-expression that I was not previously aware of. Voice is such a huge aspect of our gendered personas so the choir became an unexpectedly profound space as people got to sing in the vocal range that matched their internal sense of self for the first time in their lives. It was amazing to look around and see tall stunning women in dresses and heels at times singing bass, to see tiny guys with beards at times singing soprano, and everything in between. How refreshing to be in a group of singers not divided up into men and women—that dynamic had always left me wondering where I fit. Instead we organized largely into melody and harmony and from the beginning there was only one directive for the group: find your pitch. And if that changes day to day or between songs, just move around until you find your fit. If only all of life could be that way!
While the experience of the choir was extremely empowering for all of us, it was also a space of vulnerability that taught me a lot about new models of social change. For many of the cross dressers in the group, singing with TransVoices was the first time they appeared in public in the clothing of their choice. As the 12 of us stood there in front of the 80 member One Voice choir, audience members responded dramatically to our courage, repeatedly sharing how they were moved to tears and how much they’d learned from our presence. Concert surveys demonstrated how audience members, as well as One Voice and TransVoices singers, grew more comfortable with and accepting of their own and others’ gendered expressions. One Voice members and GLB audience members began to see their commonalities with transgender experiences. At one concert an audience member remarked to me, “Everyone always talks about trans inclusion, but this group really shows it.” The choir was a hugely important opportunity for visibility for trans communities in the Twin Cities and community education about trans issues, including within GLB organizations.
My experience with TransVoices profoundly reshaped my vision of social change. Although I had been a queer activist, and political activist more generally, for well over a decade by this point, it was such a different experience for me—instead of endless meetings to talk about how angry and victimized we were—to come together with folks to create something really positive, from our vulnerability, from our hearts, from our creativity. Not only was it hugely personally empowering as I tapped into the power of my own voice—quite literally—and my creative expression, but I saw that it was hugely effective as a form of genuine social change. Contemporary activists talk about reorienting our social change models from “calling people out” to “calling people in” and the choir, for me, represented this paradigm shift. As a trans person, I see one of my roles in life as being a bridge and a bridge builder and I saw again and again the way this choir built various types of bridges—bridges that I needed for my own survival—and my vision for social change has not been the same since.
Since that time, I have sang with a variety of queer and other choirs—including One Voice in Minneapolis, Harmony Chorale in Denver, the One World Inspirational Choir at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, Mosaic Gospel Choir in Boulder, and the Second Baptist Gospel Choir in Columbia, Missouri—but in the back of my mind I knew someday I would start my own trans choir. The strong impetus for this came in 2012 when I attended my first GALA Festival, the gathering of gay and lesbian choirs from all over the country that meets every 4 years, and discovered, much to my dismay, that there was not a transgender presence anywhere at the 5 day event. Among the 54 choirs that performed, there wasn’t a single trans chorus, in the evening production “celebrating GALA’s LGBT history” there was no mention of transgender people, and, although there was a Festival Men’s Chorus, Women’s Chorus, and Mixed Chorus, there was no Festival Trans Chorus. I ended up setting up a table with a homemade sign outside Boettcher Concert Hall to gather trans folks attending the Festival and determined that in 2016 the erasure of trans singers would not happen again.
Although TransVoices, the choir I sang with in Minneapolis, was for singers anywhere on the trans spectrum (and at the time I was not yet on hormones), this new choir we are forming is for anyone touched by trans issues, not just trans identified people. I am extremely passionate about this aspect of the vision. As I went on hormones in 2006, I learned what a self-absorbed path transition can be and how instrumental advocates—the people we unfortunately refer to as SOFFAS (Significant Others, Friends, Family, and Allies)—can be to transgender survival. While the personal journeys of trans identified people are beginning to get more attention and support in the mainstream, the gender, sexual and personal journeys of partners, family members, and friends of trans folks are largely invisible—the needs of this diverse community oftentimes erased even to members themselves who are often so concerned with supporting the transgender person in their lives, they shut out the impact on their own experience.
In addition, where there are support structures in trans communities, they tend to be extremely segregated—such that those on the masculine spectrum meet in one room, those on the feminine spectrum meet in another room, and partners and family members meet in yet another room. While of course it is important for people to have a safe space to talk with others going through similar challenges, I wanted to create a space where everyone touched by transgender issues could come together as one family—and each aspect of the community could find its experience reflected back. In that vein, the organizing members of what is currently being called the Colorado Trans Community Choir and Arts Collective (until we meet and together choose a name that signifies the shared vision of members) reflect the spectrum: Sam Bullington, the Artistic Director, is trans identified, Angela Gayan Galik, the Executive Director, is partnered with a trans person and is bringing a song she wrote about that experience, and Jesse Maclaine, our Assistant Director and Accompanist, is a friend/ally to trans community.
In addition to the expansive vision of the choir regarding identity, we wanted an expansive artistic vision for the choir as well. While TransVoices was comprised only of transgender identified singers, this new choir welcomes contributors from the arts more broadly. In the decade that has passed since I sang with TransVoices, our engagement with multiple forms of media has increased exponentially, especially for young people (and the number one question I have received repeatedly about this choir so far is what is the age limit because there are so many transkids who are coming out and needing somewhere they can go for community and mentorship), so this Choir/Arts Collective welcomes not only singers of all levels of experience, but musicians of all sorts, poets, storytellers, visual artists, and cultural workers of all kinds. All of our performances will include some kind of spoken word and multimedia presentation as part of our presence.
We hope that you will feel inspired to join us for this initial season! Although forming this choir has been my vision for many years, it is meant to be a collaborative grassroots community project. I will provide the container for people to gather and grow in and will shape this container, but ultimately it is up to us as a community to decide where we want to take this project. As a founding member, you have the opportunity to help influence the direction of this venture. This Colorado Trans Community Choir and Arts Collective really began when I had the courage to get up off my bedroom floor and show up to the Transgender Voices Festival back in 2004. Although it was one of the most challenging and courageous acts of my life at that point, I found immediate and life changing rewards—and I certainly had no idea at the time where it would take me. Where is Life wanting to take you? Come join us and find out!