March 31st is International Transgender Day of Visibility. This is a day to not only raise awareness of the discrimination transgender people face but also to celebrate their contributions! At Friends NYC, 10% of all sales this day will be donated to The National Center for Transgender Equality. And here in this blog, we put the spotlight on Soo Intoit, our amazing manager and host of drag show, Bad Taste. She is an inspiration to us all, and we were so moved by her candor while we chatted. Read on for the full conversation...
First, tell us a little about yourself! Your background, what you’re into, what you do, what you love, whatever! (and your connection to Friends)
Hi!! My name is Soo (pronounced Sue, she/her), and I am a trans woman, host, DJ, performer, jewelry designer, makeup artist, etc. I have a love for everything adorable and everything scary, and extra love for things that check off both boxes! I think this fascination with the cute yet creepy translates into all of my work--the music I play, the looks I do, the songs I perform, etc... I also love kawaii characters, video games, weird bugs, deep sea creatures, sci-fi/fantasy, horror, flowers and fungi, and kitsch home interiors. I moved to NYC to work in fashion (not sure how I feel about that right now), but ended up finding a retail job at Friends really shortly after moving. I'm glad I did! I've been here over two years now and have gotten to do so many unique things that a lot of other jobs do not offer, like Instagram Live drag shows (wink wink).
Tell us about the organization you chose to receive donations from sales on the Trans Day of Visibility. Who are they and why did you choose them?
I chose the National Center for Transgender Equality to be the organization that we donate to. They are a group, founded in 2003 by transgender people for transgender people, that seeks to change both policies regarding trans rights and society's perspective on and acceptance of us. They work at local, state, and federal levels to help change policies and make life for trans people safer and easier. They also focus on intersectional issues, such as the unique issues transgender people of color face, as well as those who live in poverty. The NCTE also provides legal services to transgender people who may need them, for things like name changes.
Let’s talk gender identity. What challenges have you faced & empowerment have you found in exploring and expressing your own gender identity?
So, I have definitely faced, and continue to face, a lot of challenges in both exploring and expressing my own gender identity. In terms of exploring, my upbringing was a major obstacle for me. I was brought up in an environment that mocked trans people (viral videos like the one mocking an upset trans woman being misgendered in a GameStop), and that was very attached to a binary, heavily gendered way of thinking (boys like fishing and girls like arts and crafts). This made it difficult to think that I could ever be trans myself, as that would have been a horrible thing in my eyes. But after dating a girl who came out as trans during our relationship, I had my first personal encounter with a transgender person, and it was a huge wake up call. I loved her, and she was trans the whole time (this isn't something you become, it's something you discover), so clearly it was much more normal than I could have ever assumed, it's just that trans people weren't visible to me. I only saw them in negative contexts, such as being the butt of the joke.
At this point in my life, I started feeling empowered while discovering my own identity. It took me a while, but I realized that maybe I wasn't just a "feminine man", that it was something much deeper, and honestly simpler, than that. I was just a woman. And that was perfectly okay, as I had learned from my ex-girlfriend, and of course the many more trans people I met along my journey to self-discovery. Most of the current challenges I face are with expressing my identity. Without the physical alterations I personally want, I often get very dysphoric about my physical appearance and don't feel that I'm presenting my true self to the world. There are several operations I plan to get in my life, but they will be so unbelievably expensive, and that's a challenge to me. But there are times where I can successfully destroy my deeply embedded binary expectations and feel confident in myself. I am glad, and empowered by the fact, that I can make myself appear and feel feminine when I have the time and energy. I just need to have the time and energy, and the upkeep of my appearance to feel feminine enough is exhausting. Ultimately, I am just glad that I am capable of getting to a point physically that I am happy with myself.
What can people outside the Trans community do to support visibility? (Realizing, of course, it’s not your responsibility to educate anyone!)
There are SO many things allies can do to support trans people, and although it is not the responsibility of trans people to educate you (please refer to Google), I am perfectly willing to do so today! And thank you for asking.
Some are super simple for you, but super helpful for us. If you're on social media, and especially if you're the type to be re-sharing content, re-sharing trans people is something major you can do! I always tell viewers of my show that a great way to support, if you can't do so financially, is just to share our content. It gets more eyes on us... which literally equals visibility. We need to see more trans people everywhere, not just in spaces specifically designated for trans people. As well as content, GoFundMe’s are equally important. There are a lot of financial barriers that come with transitioning (if a person chooses to do so), and any amount of help counts. It means a lot to know someone is willing to help you physically actualize the person you've always been.
In addition to aiding in transition funds, it is equally important to remove emphasis on transitioning as a necessary part of the trans experience. Recognize that you see trans people more than you realize; everyone does. There is no way to look trans, and you need to make sure you and your peers know this. And you need to correct anyone if they say otherwise, as well as any other transphobic language. As I mentioned, there are many huge financial barriers to medically transitioning, so a lot of people simply don't have the option to, but a lot of people also just don't want to. Regardless of the reason, the desire, or lack of desire, to transition does not define "how trans" you are.
The last thing I'll say is to never assume pronouns. Always ask if you must use them, and it's typically better to use gender neutral language (they/them pronouns, their name, describing them, etc.) if you have not. A lot of people have indicators (like pronouns on name tags, pins, and social media) that may be pretty easy to find if they are someone you know you will be engaging with.
Tell us more about Bad Taste, your Instagram Live drag show.
Before everything closed down due to COVID, I used to perform in drag shows and host techno parties at clubs and bars. Obviously, not having that platform anymore, nightlife workers acted quick and moved everything online. Twitch, Instagram live, Zoom, etc. There were shows every single night for a while... you could digitally barhop. It was wild. But then I realized how much easier it would be to curate a show if I did it all digitally, not having to book through a bar, figure out how they're paying us, make sure everyone can get there, and so on. The first one was super fun, I had a lot of time on my hands, and people were asking when the next one was. Flash forward over a year and I'm still doing it!
I always ask everyone I interview for these blogs since we are living in such a time of uncertainty… what gives you hope for the future?
My friends, our collective dreams, and my own personal endeavors give me hope for the future. I've fortunately been able to keep myself very busy, between work and my creative career. There is a lot of talent in my community, so even though I do not get to see my community members in the same capacity that I did before, being able to meet one on one in a safe environment and work on something together is enough for me. It inspires and encourages me. It's also reassuring knowing that when the world is open again, being reunited will have been worth the wait. Besides, my friends and I have major goals and plan to leave lasting change, so we are excited about the future.
Is there anything else you would like to share about you, your art, the world, or anything at all?
Honestly, I share all of my work through my Instagram. If anything, I have said remotely interests you, or you just want to see some makeup looks and cute outfits, following @iamsoointoit on IG is the way to go. I also express a lot of opinions on that platform, so anything I would have to say would best be heard there.
I want people to know I am on a constant journey of self-discovery and expression, and I am always learning new skills and taking on hobbies. I want you to follow along and to keep up with what I do. It's only going to get better from here. ;)
Thank you so much, Soo! We can't wait for the next Bad Taste, May 10th at 9pm EDT on Friends Instagram Live. In the mean time, get your shopping on with our PRIDE collection, and shop till you drop on March 31st to support The National Center for Transgender Equality!