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Indie Artist Nails It: “Being Trans Does Not Have To Hold Us Back”

By: Audrey Cole/Trans Headlines

LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Recently, indie artist Ryan Cassata received ASCAP’s “Sunlight of the Spirit” Award, an honor given to an artist who is “under the age of 30 who is exemplary in recovery and in music creativity,” according to ASCAP’s website.

“Singer-songwriter and transgender activist Ryan Cassata, was the 2019 Mariana & Paul Williams ‘Sunlight of the Spirit’ Award honoree, performing his popular song ‘Jupiter,’” according to a recent post by ASCAP on their FB page.

ASCAP is a professional organization of 725,000 songwriters, composers, and music publishers, owned and run by its members, and the world leader in performance royalties, advocacy, and service for music creators.

According to Cassata, being the recipient of such an award is a clear demonstration that the music industry is on track to equally recognizing trans artists as artists, where gender identity takes a back seat and the music takes center stage.

“I think it shows that the industry is moving to a place where trans artists are getting closer to equal opportunities,” Cassata told Billboard. “A trans artist winning an award that is unrelated to being LGBTQ … I think it shows young trans people that they can accomplish anything, regardless of being trans.”

Members of the LGBTQ community are disproportionately affected by drug and alcohol dependence, according to studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others. Cassata often references his struggles with addiction and overcoming it within the pages of his music, which in turn has led him to success in the industry.

“I wrote ‘Jupiter’, originally titled ‘Jupiter, It Won’t Be Long’ when I was in college,” said Cassata in this exclusive to The Rainbow Times. “I wrote it about my teenage years. I spent a lot of them struggling with addiction and watching a lot of my friends do the same. The song is about taking things too far, not being able to communicate effectively, and feeling on the edge, not knowing if you’ll live or die. It is about the experience of ‘partying’ being fun initially, but then turning into something really frightening.”

Though through no small feat, he has overcome addiction personally, Cassata also uses his music, success and online reach to provide others with messages of hope and solidarity. Without coincidence, last Holiday Season Cassata released “It’s Christmastime,” a song written by George Danno Jr., but with his own “modern twist and some new lyrics,” The Rainbow Times reported.

“As you probably know, the Holidays are one of the hardest times of the year for trans people to get through,” said Cassata to the LGBTQ New England publication, as he further explained the dangers and burdens that the season can bring upon members of this community. “It’s hard to sit around the family dinner table and not feel welcomed as relatives are calling you the wrong name and pronouns non-stop and totally ignoring your significant other.”

Although talent is often overshadowed by gender identity for trans people, acceptance of the totality is on the rise in music culture.

“Navigating the music industry as a trans person hasn’t been easy and it’s been difficult to get more into the mainstream,” he told Billboard. “I feel like this award is a huge step towards trans artists being more accepted in the music industry especially since the award has no connection to being LGBTQ. I hope this award shows other trans people that we are moving closer to equal opportunity and consideration. We can meet our goals too. Being trans does not have to hold us back.”

And, in a true Cassata style that often shines the spotlight on others instead of himself, he offers words of inspiration to others struggling with addiction like he once did.

“The opiate epidemic has taken so many of our friends this last decade and I cannot accept this award without bringing awareness to the epidemic,” Cassata wrote on his blog. “Let this award be a symbol that we can be drug and alcohol-free musicians and live out our dreams. I’m proud to be a sober songwriter!

“I am so grateful to accept this award from the ASCAP Foundation. Thank you to the ASCAP Foundation for this huge honor. Thank you to my family and friends and the dedicated fans that listen to the music. Thank you to my sober family. I wouldn’t be here without you.”