The first transgender graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, a young woman named Breanna Sinclairé, has begun to attract attention for her soaring operatic notes.
Tomorrow, (Saturday Nov. 12th), Sinclairé will be seen in Mezzo, a 14-minute documentary short about her life that screens as part of the 2016 San Francisco Transgender Film Festival, which runs this weekend at the Roxie Theater.
"The need of the Transgender Festival is significant," Sinclairé told us. "There are so many stories to be told and the world needs to see them. I am so happy [festival programmer] Shawna Virago created this opportunity for filmmakers across the world to share remarkable stories and the beauty and struggle living as trans, gender non-conforming, queer and trans women of color."
Sinclairé has earned acclaim for her musical appearances at a variety of LGBT events. This past summer she performed "Somewhere" from West Side Story at the annual dinner for the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. In February 2015, she moved spectators to tears when she sang the hymn Amazing Grace on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, where people had gathered to commemorate the lives of trans women of color who'd been murdered. And Sinclairé's profile was raised even higher when she sang the Star Spangled Banner at an Oakland A's game.
"It was empowering," she said of her ballpark experience. "Sports caters to the hetero-norm and it was awesome to make history in an environment that's not too keen on the LGBTQ community. I feel grateful and honored to share my voice as a vehicle to represent the community as well as be who I am and not be ashamed of it."
Sinclairé shared that she was raised in a single-parent home—her parents divorced when she was 7. She said she was beaten by her abusive dad who said that he was going to "beat the gay" out of her.
"I wasn't gay," she says. "I was a girl trapped in a boy's body and my gender identity was a struggle. It disabled me until I decided at 19 I wanted to be my true self and transitioned to the woman I am today."
But more struggles were to come, Sinclairé tells us. "During my bachelors degree at the California Institute of the Arts—my third year in college—I saved my money went to NYC and was denied a voice lesson at the Manhattan School of Music because I was beginning my transitioning process," she recalls. "I was staying with a girlfriend of mine at the time and she had a roommate that did not accept the LGBT community! I came back to her place one day, and I saw all my belongings outside the house."
A period of homelessness followed. Her father refused to help, and they never spoke again. She slept in parks, and was sexually assaulted twice.
Then something changed.
"A gentleman, I will not say his name, saw me on the corner and I was singing an aria to myself from the opera Orfeo ed Euridice ," she said. "He stopped and put a couple of dollars in my purse and said can I take you out to dinner, you have a miraculous voice."
Sinclairé said she was stunned by what followed.
"We went out to dinner and I told him my situation and how I needed to return to Los Angeles to finish my bachelors degree, she said. "At dinner he writes me a check of $560 and paid my flight back to LA. He said 'Breanna, I don't want nothing from you, all I want is a call from you that you graduated college.'"
Eventually she found her way to San Francisco so that she could study at the Conservatory of Music.
Sinclairé said that she's excited about the screening ofMezzo, and regrets that she won't be at the screening. "I have so much work to do and performances to prepare for the next couple of months, but I will be there in spirit," she said. "I love my community. The film basically shares the story about a trans woman of color, myself, not giving up on her dream to become a successful classical artist, and that's all I'm going to share!"
Sinclairé said she loves living in San Francisco, but wishes there was more diversity. "The weather is beautiful here," she said. "It is a mesmerizing place."
Opera will remain the focus of Sinclairé's life, and she hopes to eventually sing at Carnegie Hall and open her own music school.
"Trans visibility is one of the driving forces that keeps me going," she said. "Seeing other trans and gender non-conforming folks succeed pushes me to move further and really show the world being trans does not make me disabled. I'm human with unique talents and gifts."
Mezzo will screen as part of a lineup of short films on Saturday, Nov. 12th at 7pm. Find tickets and more information here.
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