Cleveland Transgender Choir provides a safe space for all ages

The Cleveland Transgender Choir welcomes queer individuals, gives them opportunities to express gender identity in a choir that requires no prior experience.

The Cleveland Transgender Choir, located on the Baldwin Wallace campus, welcomes non-cisgender individuals to a non-discriminative environment where they create music.  

Conservatory professor Tracy Grady, a cis-gendered woman identifying with she/her pronouns, is the director and co-founder of the choir. The CTC is a widely accessible singing group with a non-audition policy that accepts a large range of vocalists starting at ages 14 and up, with no prior experience necessary.  

The CTC is non-traditional and unstructured in comparison to a standard choir. Those involved with the choir can decide on the music choices through surveys as well as selecting their preferred vocal pitch they desire to sing in or switch to. Participants can try new names and new pronouns with the only requirement being that they bring their music. It is a space of zero judgment, Grady said.  

Lin Godsey, a newer addition to the choir, who uses they/them pronouns, learned about the choir from Grady, who had previously been their voice teacher.  

Godsey said: “The reality is that nearly every space is a safe space for non-queer people, and we finally have our own. It’s definitely a place where I feel more comfortable to be myself. It’s really comforting to know that I’m surrounded by people who have similar experiences to me and who are welcoming no matter what.”  

Rehearsals occur once a week for an hour and a half. If members feel dysphoric, they can step back mentally and physically and take the time they may need. The choir’s primary purpose is to exist for people who feel like there is not a safe place to explore their voices.  

“It is all based on vocal comfort and about making music with other like-minded people. It gives members the safest and healthiest option available for themselves and their voices” Grady said.  

The members and their well-being take priority in this space. Grady understands that what she is doing has helped many members who don’t identify with cis-gendered labels feel like they belong in a musical setting. She acknowledges her privileges and wants to use those privileges to help others in creating a safe space.   

Grady said: “Society tells us how we should be, but I don’t impose that onto others.”  

The choir’s current size is the largest it has ever been before and after the pandemic. A wide range of ages are represented amongst the members, from nineteen to early sixties. In an atmosphere based on music, membership in the ensemble offers queer individuals the opportunity to experience inclusion and to express their gender identities. The diversity and integration of so many ages allow for the youth to look forward to their futures all the while building connections.   

Godsey said: “It’s just a very open and welcoming space. It’s also really cool because we have quite a few members of the choir who are older trans people and I can’t even express how cool it is to be in close contact with trans people who are well into their adult life. And to just be able to see that and know that it’s possible for us to live full lives to older ages.”  

Grady hopes that a qualified trans individual will take over for her in the coming future.  

Prior to Covid-19, the vocalists performed at Pride Cleveland, Pride Youngstown, Pride in The Valley and even walked in the parade for Mansfield Pride. Along with this, they perform annually on Nov. 20 at the United Church of Christ in Shaker Heights for Transgender Day of Remembrance.