Transgender Cabaret Dancers Star In New Fuse Docu-series ‘Transcendent’: Interview

by Erika W. Smith

I Am Cait has given us a look at the life of America’s highest-profile transgender woman, but most trans women’s lives are very, very different. Enter Fuse’s new docu-series, Transcendent, premiering tonight at 11:30pm ET/PT.

The series follows a group of transgender performers at the famous AsiaSF Cabaret & Restaurant in San Francisco. Transcendent was produced by World of Wonder Productions – the team behind BUST favorites like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Big Freedia: Queen Of Bounce – so you know it’s gonna be good. 

We interviewed Transcendent star Xristina ahead of the series premiere.

How did you get into performing?

I started back in 2003, 2004, when I had just started transitioning. AsiaSF was the first place I hit up because I had heard so much about it in the community: “You should work at AsiaSF, it’s a place where trans girls are wanted.”

The misconception at the time was you had to be Asian, but I really wanted to find a place where I could be myself and be free to be, you know? So I thought, I’m not going to let that hold me back, I’m going to give it a try.

The first time I auditioned, I didn’t get in, but the second time, I got in and it was an incredible experience. I felt so welcomed and validated. I’ve been with Asia now for quite some time, and it’s been a second home to me.

How did you get involved with Transcendent?

World of Wonder saw potential with AsiaSF. I was featured in the first pilot back in 2008, so this has been happening for a while! It’s been a challenge, waiting for society to be ready for the transgender movement. 

Why do you think now is the right time for Transcendent to be on air?

There are so many trans women who are becoming visible. I think that’s the key word, visibility. You have Caitlyn Jenner, you have Jazz Jennings and there are many, many more ladies – Janet Mock, Laverne Cox. I feel like Caitlyn is targeting a certain demographic, and Jazz Jennings is too – Caitlyn is targeting a mature audience, and Jazz Jennings is targeting a younger generation. I feel like we transcend that.

There was the African American movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and I consider this day to be the transgender movement. It’s such an incredible, powerful thing to be a part of.

What was it like to be filmed all the time? Did you have any hesitations about participating?

At first, I wasn’t used to it. You prepare yourself mentally, but it’s weird having a camera on you at all times. Then, it becomes second nature and you forget that it’s there. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, how will I convey myself?

To say that I’m a role model for every transgender person, that’s a lot of weight on my shoulders. I don’t like to think of myself as an over-the-top role model, because I’m human, and I have imperfections. With this show, that’s the beautiful thing: none of us are perfect and we’re all just trying to live.

What will we see for you in Transcendent?

We’re not reality TV, we’re a docu-series. We’re more authentic, and you’ll see this in the show. I’m not trying to be someone I’m not. It’s not all glamour – though other people, when they look at me, might think I live in a golden world. But there is real authenticity.

I hear that you’d like to be a police officer one day. Can you tell us about that?

I have a passion to become a cop, but I have many passions. I would love to be an actress for Hollywood. I’m working part-time at the police department, but with becoming a cop, I have to look at it and see if it’s something I’m really ready for. Would they be accepting of me being a trans woman in law enforcement? Would I be treated as less than? I’m weighing my options and figuring it out.

In the first episode, there is such a strong emphasis on the friendship between the AsiaSF performers. Can you tell me about that relationship?

It’s really a sisterhood. With sisters, you have ups and downs and strong personalities, but you love each other and you try to be there for one another. If an outsider were to disrespect one of us, we’ll back each other up! At the end of the day, we really do love each other. 

For people who haven’t heard anything about Transcendent, what should they expect?

They should watch Transcendent because it’s empowering, and they could get a little bit more knowledge. Hey, this could be your kid one day, you never know! 

We’re trying to create awareness, and you should watch because you can learn more about what it’s like to be trans, and we’re also all representing our own ethnic backgrounds. It’s real, it’s women empowering other women, and that’s why you should watch it.

Photos: Aldo Chacon for Fuse


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