When Kye Allums told his fellow players on the women’s basketball team at George Washington University during his sophomore year that he wanted them to start using male pronouns and his new name it took a little time for them to get it.
“They laughed at first,” the 23-year-old St. Paul, Minn., native says. “They were like, ‘Yeah, you woke up, now you’re a boy, whatever,’ but when they knew I was serious, they didn’t understand it at all, but they started seeing how it was affecting me. I was smiling then. In the end, they started to switch because they could see using the appropriate name made me happy and in the end they wanted to support me.”
Allums says the issue of being male on a women’s team “didn’t bother me at all.”
After graduating, Allums (imenough.org) parlayed his career into trans advocacy work — mostly visiting college campuses where he spreads his belief that “I am enough — what I say, what I feel, that is enough. You shouldn’t have to tweak yourself to make somebody else happy.” He splits his time between New York and Washington when he’s not traveling (which he says was about 93 percent of the time in the last year). He just got back from London and Scotland where he worked on a documentary about the experiences of trans people around the world. He hopes to finish it with a trip to the United Arab Emirates and Thailand in December.
Allums is single — one of the downsides of constant travel, he says. He enjoys writing, shopping for shoes, Netflix and traveling in his down time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve always known who I was. However, I didn’t always have the vocabulary to describe myself. When I was 14, I came out to my friends as a gay female. The hardest person to tell was my best friend at the time. In the end I never told her. I let someone else (who loved to spread other people’s business) tell her for me. When I was 18, I found out what being a trans man meant. Then I came out to myself. Honestly I’d say coming out to myself was harder than coming out to anyone. I had these negative views of trans people and what I thought it meant and I hated that I fit under that “label.” Little did I know that being trans is simply customizing my identity to what I want it to be. Not my parents, friends or society. Me. I get to be who I choose to be and I love everything about that. Oh yeah, and I recently came out as a gay man!
Who’s your LGBT hero?
That’s difficult. There are so many people in the LGBT community who have helped me get to where I am today, and are still doing so as I write down these answers. The first people who come to mind are:
L: Pat Griffin, Sue Rankin and Helen Carroll
G: LZ Granderson and Cyd Zeigler
B: Anna Aagenes and Robin Ochs
T: Laverne Cox and CeCe McDonald
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I love a crowd and I love to dance. Town nightclub (on a Friday) has yet to let me down.
Describe your dream wedding.
Marrying my best friend and love of my life, all my friends being there and my mother in attendance with love and support.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
What historical outcome would you change?
Slavery and all of the deaths that occurred/are still occurring because of the “color value system” we have been taught to embrace.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Seeing Usher at the Verizon Center.
On what do you insist?
Do what makes you happy. Life is too short.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I was in London for the first time working on a project so I asked this of my Facebook friends: “For those of you who have been to London before where exactly is the gayborhood?” It was well worth asking.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“It’s Not a Guy Thing, It’s a Kye Thing”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Continue to be the person I worked so hard to love unconditionally — a black gay man.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe there is something greater than us and this world we live in.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Don’t reinvent the wheel. I’ve seen many people go into this work, myself included, making their lives harder than it has to be. Many times, something that we are thinking of doing has already been done, or is being done right now. Look to collaborate with others and take your leadership and efforts to the next level.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
I would walk across hot coals for my family, a pint of Magnolias banana pudding and Hugh Jackman.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
I don’t know which is worse, assuming that all trans people are straight or that all trans people must have surgery or take hormones to complete “the” transition. Life is a transition. We all transition. Not just trans people. Remember that.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Noah’s Ark: Jumping the Broom.”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Men opening doors for women.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
My siblings loving me as their brother is a trophy and prize in itself. Without their love I don’t know what I would do.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Everything I know now. College would have been a lot different if I had this focus and drive that I have at age 23.
It was the farthest place from Minnesota, and at the time I thought it was cool to live right down the street from the White House, which gets old pretty fast. I have grown to love it though. It’s not as fast as New York and not as chill as Chicago. It’s perfect.