I AM OKAY
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEREMY GOLD
In April of 2015 I was particularly reactive to an anxiety about the future sparked by melting snow and a sense of the coming of
an unknown something. Volatility as lightness, or a huge capacity for change.
I was nearing the end of a solid semester at The New School prolonged only by the daunting task of applying what Iʼd learned in Filmmaking Studio 1 to complete a final project about anything, 3-5 minutes in length with a semi- complex sound design. Those were the guidelines to follow. I decided Iʼd make a narrative portrait. I wandered around East Village most of the time keeping an eye out for subjects Iʼd found “interesting,” which, at that time meant, whether I was conscious of it or not, anyone non-white. Dissociation in its most consequential form. I met Nashanti on the train platform, waiting for the 6.
We left the train station and walked to a park in the area where I took out the equipment Iʼd rented from school: a small shotgun mic and a Bolex film camera. I hadnʼt prepared any prompts or questions, so I said “tell me about yourself” after “and...action.” Throughout our interview, Nashanti was intent on communicating hopefulness. As a trans woman, she had moved to New York to live according to her own terms after having grown up in a rough, religious household that perpetuated fear of the judgment of her parents and their God. She expressed how her friends provided her with the support she needed to begin to develop comfort in her identity and body.
Nashanti had guts. Reflecting on that Spring, I see now that Nashanti created for herself a certain empowerment that Iʼd been looking for in inappropriate ways, perpetuating a division between myself and the “compelling” Other, the unknown. Nashantiʼs unknown was moving out, pursuing independence and liberation. She had no choice. My privilege was that I did, and I chose to elevate her voice, helping to communicate her message.
Now, Nashanti makes music and wants to help pioneer a path for other transgender people to succeed in the music industry. Her message remains positive in an otherwise discouraging and harmful climate. Nashantiʼs strength and resilience makes the unknown less scary and helps replace hostility with composure. Volatility as lightness, or a huge capacity for change.