“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 6: Brooklyn Shaffer, AJay Strong, Wesley Ware, Katy Reckdahl on transgender issues

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For Episode 6 of “PopSmart NOLA” we focused on transgender issues in New Orleans.

Our lineup included:

  • Wesley Ware,co-founder and and co-director of BreakOUT!, which builds the power of LGBTQ youth most impacted by the criminal justice system to affect concrete policy change to fight the criminalization of LGBTQ youth in New Orleans.
  • Katy Reckdahl, New Orleans-based journalist who profiled BreakOUT! for the New Orleans Advocate.
  • New Orleans stage performer Brooklyn Shaffer, who recently transitioned from male to female and returned to the stage after a nearly two-year hiatus to co-star in “Steel Poinsettias” at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts.
  • AJay Strong, co-producer of Bella Blue Entertainment, which presents an average of 20 burlesque shows a month around New Orleans, including “The Blue Book Cabaret” at Bourbon Pub and the “Dirty Dime Peepshow” at the AllWays Lounge.

I profiled Shaffer and Strong earlier in the week with my “Trans, Planted” feature.

I also want to remind you that if you like what you’re hearing on this, the radio show version of “PopSmart NOLA” you can “like” us on Facebook. We’re also on Instagram at @popsmartnola, and I’m on Twitter as @dlsnola504.

Please join us next week for another edition of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM) — radio dedicated to human rights and social justice, and the end of all wars. You can also listen online at whivfm.org.

Trans, planted: Brooklyn Bhaffer and AJay Strong look back at a life in transition and toward an uncertain future (PopSmart NOLA)
New Orleans organization helps young LGBTQ people navigate legal system, life (New Orleans Advocate)
Galvanized by election, transgender activists rally in New Orleans on Day of Remembrance (New Orleans Advocate)
Hundreds gather to support trans and gender non-conforming youth of color at Congo Square (PopSmart NOLA)
BreakOUT! — Fighting the criminalization of LGBTQ youth in New Orleans (Facebook page)
Louisiana Trans Advocates — advocacy, education and support
Trans Lifeline — support and crisis counseling to transgender people. Call (877) 565-8860 or visit the website
A history of transgender health care (Scientific American)
The psychology of transgender (American Psychological Association)

“Boys and Girls,” Blur
“Born a Girl,” Manic Street Preachers
“Walk on the Wild Side,” Lou Reed
“De Camino a la Vereda,” Ibrahim Ferrer

Trans, Planted: Brooklyn Shaffer and AJay Strong look back at a life in transition and toward an uncertain future

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Holiday spook from the creative team behind “Ditzyland,” featuring Ricky Graham, Varla Jean Merman, Jefferson Turner, Sean Patterson, Brooklyn Shaffer and Michael P. Sullivan
Dec. 2-18
Rivertown Theaters of the Performing Arts, 325 Minor St., Kenner
Rivertown Theaters website

WHAT: This week’s show will focus on transgender issues, with guests Brooklyn Shaffer (“Steel Poinsettias”), AJay Strong (Bella Blue Entertainment), Wesley Ware (BreakOUT!), and journalist Katy Reckdahl
WHEN: Sat. (Dec. 3), 3 p.m.-4 p.m.
WHERE: WHIV (102.3 FM); www.whivfm.org

Sitting in between Brooklyn Shaffer and AJay Strong in the back of the CC’s Coffee House in the French Quarter this week was watching, and listening to, one of most bizarre and fascinating mirror images one might imagine. There sat AJay Strong, the co-producer of Bella Blue Entertainment who, after transitioning from a femaile during relocation to New Orleans a couple years ago, discussing how his transgender journey has finally helped him feel comfortable in his own skin.

Across the back table from him sat his friend, Brooklyn Shaffer, the actor who, just a few years ago as Brian Peterson, was one of New Orleans funniest and campiest performers — often in drag. And, after having transitioned to female at almost exactly the same time, Shaffer could only nod her head in agreement with Strong and expressed her own improving sense of self. She feels so comfortable, in fact, that Shaffer returns to the stage with her current co-conspirators that include Ricky Graham, Varla Jean Merman and Sean Patterson in the holiday spoof “Steel Poinsettias.” It’s got the same kind of campy fire that Shaffer used to produce in Running With Scissors’ annual “Grenadine McGunkle’s Double-Wide Christmas” as well as the Graham-Merman concoction, “Ditzyland.”

When one was speaking, really, the other would nod their head. For even though these are two people who have transitioned from exact opposite gender to the other — conjuring the image of two genders crossing in the night — they both appear to have landed in the same type of contentment one gets when they better recognize themselves in the mirror.

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