Tiq Milan is one hell of a force of nature. He’s a media maker. He’s a journalist. He’s a human rights advocate. He’s a husband. He is a vital voice within the trans community.
Milan has seemingly done it all, from big name interviews with Jay-Z and Cicely Tyson to penning articles for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Source, Vibe and others on issues facing the LGBT movement.
Together with his wife Kim Katrin Milan, the pair speak about creating love in queer communities of color and intersectional approaches to human rights activism in North America and abroad.
Below, we chat with Tiq Milan/@themrmilan.
What makes Tiq Milan tick?
Micro aggressions and willful ignorance.
When did you first realize you were transgender? Did you always identify that feeling as transgender?
That’s complicated. As a child, I didn’t have the language to say I was transgender or the space to explore the possibility of being a boy, but I knew the activities that were reserved for girls (Barbie dolls, doing hair, etc) weren’t for me. I never engaged in them at all. I was more of a matchbox car and Nintendo kinda kid. I didn’t come out as transgender until I was 24.
During your preadolescence, in what ways did you push up against the gender you were assigned at birth?
My family thought I was just a hardcore tomboy. My parents let me wear boy clothes as my “play clothes.” I had all the boy toys and was really athletic. I played football in the street and basketball in my backyard. It was during those moments that I actually felt like myself.
You’ve used the term penis-envy in the past? Can you describe what this is?
I have? [Laughs]. I’ve never had envy towards having a penis per se. But growing up, I always felt that the boys were given more freedoms then the girls and I hated that.
What’s one question people need to be more mindful of when it comes to transitioning?
Asking about former names or surgeries should always be avoided. We don’t ask married people what their maiden name use to be or non trans folks about their personal medical history like which surgeries they’ve had. The same goes for us.
What piece of writing of yours are you most proud of and why?
All my pieces have a special place in my heart. They all expand on different parts of my life, intellect and passions in unique ways. I’m in the midst of writing my book, Man of My Design, a memoir and an examination of system masculinity. It’s a challenge that has made me dive deep into my past and my future. It’s the most important piece of writing to date and I can’t wait for folks to read it next summer.
There’s an electricity about your relationship with your wife Kim. When did you know you’d found the one?
We met on Facebook and within two or three days we had 3000 messages between us! I got to know her so intimately before we’d even heard each other’s voices. Somewhere in those 3000 messages I knew I was going to spend the rest of my life with her. She’s magic.
What differentiates activism and slacktivism?
I think this idea of slacktivism is messed up and a bit ableist. Real change happens through social media. Black Lives Matter started as a hashtag. Feminista Jones galvanized protests all over the country via Twitter. There is nuanced and radical information and calls to action being shared via these networks. Also, everyone physically can’t get out there and protest or disrupt traffic or press conferences. For some folks who are disabled or chronically ill their participation is from behind a keyboard. For working parents or folks who just have too much on their plate but they care about the issues, signing an online petition or retweeting is all they have space for. It’s completely unfair to invalidate that.
Do you feel any certain way about the onslaught of media coverage afforded to trans women and not trans men?
Trans women definitely have a different set of issues to confront. Violence against black trans women is as high as it’s ever been and their gender is policed more than ours because that’s how systemic sexism works. Women are always interrogated more then men are. I also know that in terms of being spotlighted and having their narrative given more space than trans guys is not a fault of tran swomen and they deserve all the attention that they’re getting. The problem is that most media, 97% percent to be exact, is controlled by cisgender men. I think the presence of transgender men complicates, challenges and disrupts cisgender masculinity. It’s not admired the way trans femininity is and that’s a product of systemic sexism and cishet (cisgender heterosexual) patriarchy.
For any trans person struggling with coming out to their families, what piece of advice can you offer them?
I like to reframe it as not coming out but inviting in. Be confident in yourself and who you are and let them know that you are inviting them into a part of your life that’s amazing, complex and beautiful. Give them space to process. They probably will have awfully awkward questions but that’s okay at the beginning. It’s important to give them space to transition too. We go from being daughters to sons, sisters to brothers. Have faith and work through it.
We’ve all seen the popular hashtag #TransIsBeautiful. Tell me 5 other things trans is.
Trans is innovative.
Trans is ancient.
Trans is the future.
Trans is a model of all possibility.
Trans is the best thing to happen to me.
#wcw to my left is of course my beautiful brilliant wife. She loves her transman and respects the femininity that so many Black trans girls exude. #wcw to my right is the amazing @geenarocero international supermodel and producer of #BeautifulAsIWantToBe on #logotv. Life is better when you surround yourself with beautiful brilliant women. Take heed. #manofmydesign #themilans #out100 #transmodels #blackmalemodel
What’s one thing that you want people to know about you?
I want people to know that I work hard every day to be confident and be my best self. The man you see doesn’t just happen. I take time to meditate. I have mantras that I tell myself every day to keep me present and confident even where I’m overwhelmed. I visualize all that I want and I believe without a shadow of a doubt that it’s already mine. This is what my trans experience has taught me: Everything is possible.
Catch Tiq and his wife Kim on Logo’s Beautiful As I Want To Be.