At 6:30PM tonight, Jazzmun Nichcala Crayton will speak to members of the local transgender community, during a Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony at Harvey Milk Promenade Park.
She is a passionate member of the community, working as a health educator with the organization, APAIT, which provides relevant news, free HIV testing and educational resources for the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. She’s appeared in films such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, NYPD Blue, and CSI-New York.
On a day set aside to somberly remember transgender individuals killed by acts of anti-transgender violence, Crayton reflects on her life and work for the transgender community.
In conversation, she peppers her sentences with words like “honey,” with a reverence for the feelings of those with whom she is conversing.
“I’m in awe that I’m still here, that I have authority to make decisions in this life,” Crayton said.
However, while Crayton said she always knew she was “extraordinary,” she’s been through an alternately colorful and emotional journey to become the energetic force she is today.
She’s been a victim of anti-transgender violence herself, getting “cold-cocked” on Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood.
“I did not know him... I didn’t even see him. He hit me from behind,” said Crayton. “It was just my appearance. He obviously did not like my energy and obviously thought it was ok to hurt me. It was like, who am I not to have pain?”
But Crayton said she was actually lucky, given the history of transgender violence.
According to statistics released by the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, transgender women of color are especially vulnerable. A release stated a total of 21 transgender women have been murdered this year in the United States—a disproportionate number of them being transgender women of color—more than the total murdered in 2014.
“He could have killed me,” she said.
Crayton was born to a 19-year-old mother in Bakersfield, California, before moving to Oceanside. From a young age, she said, she would dress up in her mother’s clothes, while her sisters would threaten to tell on her.
At the age of 14 and 15, Crayton wanted to dress up as Tina Turner to audition for the lip-syncing game show Lip Service.
“My mom said, ‘No son of mine is gonna go as Tina Turner,’” Crayton said. She went anyway.
“I was a bundle of joy and a heartache at the same time,” said Crayton. “I knew my mother didn’t know what she was getting into.”
When Crayton reached her late teens, working as a stripper in Hollywood, she hit rock bottom, getting caught up in drugs and alcohol. At that point, she met a group of transgender women in Hollywood who helped her fully embrace herself. She tried hormones for the first time.
She accepted fully who she was, though she has never transitioned, calling herself a “human being,” above all, not confined to one label.
“I had to fall in love with me again,” she said. She said it’s not about the clothes or the makeup, for her. “My woman is inside my head and heart.”
Today, Crayton has lived all over the world, but considers Los Angeles home. Through her work at APAIT, she considers herself a “fairy godmother” to other young transgender women in Los Angeles.
She notes that many young transgender women are “shipped to Hollywood” on buses by their parents, who neglect to “stuff their pockets” with change or show them how to obtain public housing, once they arrive.
“They toss them to the streets,” she said.
So Crayton arrives to offer support, show them how to do makeup, find housing, urge them to be safe, engage in HIV testing and work hard. She said she’s there, to help them “figure it out.”
“I tell the girls—don’t be doing that shit in the street,” she said. “Because I know. [...] I know a lot of us live to die, but some of us is dying to live.”
Her passion for her community led to her co-producing the documentary In Full Bloom, which shines a spotlight on the transgender community in Hollywood.
At the end of the day, Crayton’s most passionate about her mission: helping her community and spreading awareness. She wants to help end anti-transgender violence.
“Anyone that died, I’m affected by,” she said. “I’m affected any day, anytime I hear something. I’m affected by transgender men, transgender women, cross-dressers and cross-dominatrix... transgender is an umbrella term. I identify with each and every one of them, because [they’re] human.”