For 23-year-old performing artist DeJayé being creative isn’t just a hobby that you practice after work and then forget about the next day. The singer and dancer breathes and lives his creativity, mainly because it allows and allowed him to be his true self in a time where everybody seemed to be living through stereotypes. “I come from a small, rural town about 45 minutes outside of New Orleans. Boys and men there have two options: You either play sports or work in a chemical plant. From an early age, I knew I didn’t want to do either of those. Being and feeling different from the sports-enthused boys my age, I found solace in music and dance. It was like something clicked internally and I gravitated to immediately”.
Hearing DeJayé’s story, one can imagine the freedom he must have felt when moving to New York right after graduation in 2011, when he also first got in touch with the LGBTQ community. Identifying as a Fem-Men, “a Feminine presenting, gender fluid/non-conforming person who pushes the boundaries in beauty, fashion, and expression by exalting the feminine persona”, DeJayé suddenly was able to express himself through his art as freely as he wanted to. A development that suddenly got threatened by the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States back in November 2016 – but one that is more than worth fighting for to DeJayé and his peers in the LGBTQ Community.
“Being BLACK, a creative, and part of the LGBTQ Community under the Trump administration has made me push even harder for the things I want. If someone as inexperienced and blatantly disrespectful as that can hold the highest seat of office in the Free World, then I can without a doubt achieve the goals I have set for myself”. It has also made him and his friends stand closer together, he explains. “If one group of people in my community are affected, then we are all affected. It is extremely important to support one another and be a real community right now because if we don’t no one else will. It’s that simple. There is strength in numbers and if we all band together, we can accomplish and conquer anything”.
A task DeJayé finds especially prominent within his friends in New York, the singer tells us, as he experiences the city’s LGBTQ community as one of the most inclusive and thriving environments he knows. “NYC’s LGBTQ community is unique because of the complete freedom of expression it offers its inhabitants. The city itself is comprised of some the most eclectic and eccentric people in the world; therefore, it’s only right for its LGBTQ community to reflect that. Even within each group in the community, there are many different subcategories that showcase diversity and promote inclusion i.e. FEM-MEN and Gender Non-Conforming people like myself. I won’t say that ignorance and exclusion doesn’t happen within the community, but for the most part everyone is pretty accepting, loving, and supportive”.
A feeling the singer actively tries to maintain, with his own work, whether it be as a musician or dancer – and by just embracing the authentic self he has learned to be. “My art has always been about freedom and acceptance of oneself. I challenge society everyday just by walking out my front door and living in my truth. The work that I do is to shed light on the people like myself who have been oppressed, stigmatized, and used as caricatures in the mainstream industry. If I could change anything in the world, other than impeaching Trump’s entire administration, I’d want everyone in the world to be born more empathetic. Empathy is what’s lacking from interactions between the human race. If people felt exactly what the other person was feeling when being harmed or mistreated, I think war, poverty, and hatred would cease to exist. I want people like me to know that we are valuable, that we matter, and that we are just as important and influential as everyone else”. A message that might be even more important than ever, it seems.