Fabian Washington, also known as Graffitti Notez SP, is an entrepreneur that has great attributes to present to the LGBTQIA community, as well as the world. Fabian is a business owner and activist of many sorts to the community and its youth. He is the proud founder of the multimedia company IMAN MARC LIVE and an active affiliate of Freedom Overground & Transcending Barriers. He not only believes that equality is vital, but that to achieve this state, we have to knock down the barriers of categorizing ourselves aside from our allies. A part of the reason that IML was created was to bring an entertainment label to the forefront that is all-inclusive to the world, and in one step at a time breaking down the walls of segregation.
What made you decide to transition medically?
As a child, at the age of 6, is when I found out that I was not [anatomically] a boy. I had been a tomboy my whole childhood, and in my freshman year of college I had come out identifying as lesbian. It never really sat well with me, I knew that I was attracted to women, but it still was a very confusing and depressing time in my life. I knew that there was something missing and that I had to find myself. I had been asked quite often, respectfully, if I were male or female as I matured more into myself, even before I started transitioning medically. One day in 2008, my girlfriend at the time and I were in the store and an older woman stopped us and said, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to be rude. Can I ask you a question?” I responded and told her that that was fine and she then asked,”Are you a man or a woman?” I responded,”I am a woman.” After my response she said,”Well, you are very handsome, I just wanted to let you know that.” My heart was so touched, and that was when I realized who I was actually was—who I was to become. I didn’t medically transition until 2014. I had my first T-shot in June of that year. A couple of years later, I had top surgery with Dr. Pranay M. Parikh, MD at Baystate Hospital in Springfield, Ma. I just had been working to become the man I was inside, and now I see what everyone else saw in me. Through everything good and bad, I am the happiest that I have ever been in my life.
… When it comes to my craft, I don’t want to be recognized as a hip hop artist or music producer because I am transgender. I want to be recognized as an artist that is a transgender person.
What has been the most difficult and the most rewarding aspects of your transition?
In the process of transitioning, I faced some prejudice in the workplace. It was especially hard when the name and gender marker on my ID did not match my appearance and I dealt with discrimination. Not only in that but being a black man, there is a huge difference in how my interaction with people was pre- and post-transitioning. I remember I had a knee injury and I had to see the orthopedic surgeon. The pain was immense and I was on crutches barely able to stand. After my appointment I made my way to the elevator. There was a white woman getting on the elevator after me. She stopped and looked, grasping her purse and then stepped back to take the stairs. Prior to that, I could sit down as a complete stranger and talk for long periods of time with anyone. From there I knew that I needed to be more cautious. I felt she looked at me as a predator, but I would never harm a soul in my life. I love people, and I enjoy fellowship with folks from all different walks of life. That is the only way that we can understand the world in broader aspects is to be more receptive to one another for our differences; and there we will find our similarities and common ground. The willingness of understanding, communication, and overall knowing one another. So in the midst of the trials the greatest lessons I learn are through the obstacles that I have faced. To find understanding is a reward in itself.
How would you describe the intersectionality of being a black trans man in the South?
Coming from the Bay Area, it is very down south as well as north east. Not just being a black man that has to watch his step in the streets of the South, but as a black man in a very segregated community, and as a black trans man that is frowned upon by other black people. Being a public figure and appearing on national television on Jerry Springer, I had made a sacrifice. Under the circumstances on participating in the production I feel I still was able to show a positive example for members of our community as well as those that do not understand the reality of trans identifying individuals such as myself. I have been disrespected in public and have heard another ‘correct that’ person. People always look for something wrong with the next person regardless. There is always going to be someone that will have a problem with you based on the silliest assessments. The prejudice within the POC community and the racism that exists outwardly is a real tragedy considering that racism is taught. Back home, it is so much more diverse and so much more accepting that I miss it quite often, but I know there is something that I am here to do and I do it wholeheartedly! I am a part of an awesome non-profit organization called Freedom Overground, which was founded by Ky Peterson and Pinky Shear and is also affiliated with Transcending Barriers, founded by Zahara Green. These non-profit organizations focus on assisting trans people during and post-incarceration giving them the help they need to get on their feet. Especially with assisting trans men; and that is a big deal simply because there aren’t many organizations that help trans-masculine identifying people. One day at a time we can make a difference. The world is crazy in this time and age and it is the most importantly time for us all to be vocal and to influence and practice unity, awareness, and love.
What challenges have you had as a trans man in the hip hop industry and how has this impacted your career?
As an artist I am known as Graffitti Notez SP. I have been well-rooted in the industry since I was a young child. I was a prodigy saxophonist. [I] played professionally and even had my own quartet in high school. We performed a lot when I was a kid. As I got older I got into music production and my network grew. When I began my transition I took a seat back from everyone because somehow I just knew that they wouldn’t accept me. So I thought! Since I have gotten back into music, my network has been completely supportive and this has helped me to regain my confidence and continue my work as an entrepreneur. I have been working on building my company I M Live for some time and now all the hard work is paying off. Must say, I have some amazing affiliates and individuals on my team. We are currently organizing a tour for the summer. Details will be released soon and we will begin moving forward. Through all adversity, I cannot wait to rock the stage again, vibe out with my fans, and enlighten the hearts of many. Through The Trees [an EP] has been released and available for stream on SoundCloud!
Is there anything you want people to know about transgender hip hop artists?
I can’t speak for everyone when I say this, but when it comes to my craft, I don’t want to be recognized as a hip hop artist or music producer because I am transgender. I want to be recognized as an artist that is a transgender person. One thing that I have noticed is that people in the community take advantage of their identity for publicity. My transition is not to exploit myself to create opportunity. What I do hope to accomplish through my visibility is to reach our LGBTQ youth and inspire them to go after their dreams and know that they can do whatever they set their minds to. The music and film industry is tough to get into as is, and though there is more acceptance in some aspects there is also still a lot of discrimination. It’s all about how you present yourself to the world. Put your best foot forward, first impressions really are everything.
Let’s talk surgery …
When it comes to surgery, I know that personally it has helped my dysphoria a lot. I have had top and look forward to bottom surgery sometime this year. The thought of surgery can be scary for anyone, and for others its the complete opposite. Medical transition is vital for me, and it is a part of my journey in who I have become and the man that I am being visible as to the world, not just in my head or on a piece of paper. I feel as though I have been set free. I would like to thank Dr. Pranay M. Parikh, MD, for an amazing job on my top surgery. I give him 5 stars and would not change a thing about it!
I have been told you came to Houston to assist with clean-up post-Harvey. What made you want to help all the way from Atlanta and what part of Houston did you assist?
I am a compassionate individual and I love helping people. When I found out about the devastation that Houston had faced, no questions asked, I was there. Though I struggled with some things while I was there I would not change a thing that happened for the simple fact that the things we go through in life mold and shape us into the people that we become. Seeing the wreckage alongside the streets and people’s homes was tough. My empathy goes out to all the people affected and the people who lost their homes. In my time there, I aided Woodbridge Apartments in maintenance for rapid repair of about 340 units. Some units weren’t affected while others were completely destroyed. People were in their homes with huge holes in their ceilings and no shelter from the rain droughts that continued after sporadically.I have to give it up for the Houston community for standing together to get through this hardship and coming together to make amends to there streets.There is still a road ahead, but the progress and the hard work that has been put into making Houston home again has been phenomenal thus far.
I would like to thank Dylan Wilde Forbes and the rest of the team at About Magazine for having me. And I would just like to close out with this: for our youth, if we don’t guide them, they will have no direction. Our youth will be our leaders one day, and it is up to us to set the example and show by action in which way they should go. To inspire their hearts to follow their wildest dreams and strive for nothing but EXCELLENCE. I love you, Houston.