Jim and Sasha Allen
Before taking the stage with his father, Jim, for the blind auditions prior to Season 21 of NBC’s The Voice, Sasha Allen had already made history as one of only three transgender performers in the history of the Emmy-winning reality competition series.
In a video segment about his musical and family background, the 19-year-old vocalist and guitar player revealed that he had transitioned while in high school in Newtown, Conn.
For Allen, sharing such personal information with millions of television viewers was an act of courage because he had received so much negativity when he had originally come out as trans just before his sophomore year.
In a phone call squeezed in between rehearsals for the live shows of The Voice, where he and his father are on Ariana Grande’s team — and, at the time, among the top 13 finalists — Allen reveals that not only was he bullied in high school, but he was threatened with violence.
“I never understood that, because it was so weird and aggressive,” he says. “Also, the school administration was not in the least supportive, which I did not expect.”
Allen says he felt uncomfortable with himself as early as preschool. As a seventh grader, he realized he was trans but tried to suppress those feelings, to no avail.
“Finally, because I couldn’t take it anymore, I started dressing masculine while still identifying as female, but it didn’t work,” he says.
After his transition, “I had to go through the whole process of finding myself in a new identity, navigating a new time in my life, in high school and growing up,” he says. “It took a while to get comfortable, and it was a long journey — but definitely worth it.”
A tight group of supportive friends and a loving family eased the way for Allen and gave him confidence to reveal his true self on The Voice. He also appreciates the way the show has presented being trans as one facet of him as person and a performer, not his entire identity.
“Once I told my story on the show, it was stressing me out, and I was still wondering if I wanted to share this much,” Allen says. “Looking back, I’m so glad I did. We don’t see as much trans representation in the media as we should, and given that moment, it’s important to use it.”
Allen braced himself for a wave of negative comments that he felt sure would result, but instead he has received countless messages of support from people who have said he has inspired them, and some who have said they have come out because of him.
“I can be a positive influence for young people or anyone who can connect with my story,” he says. “Seeing it is so important, and it makes you feel not so alone and opens up a conversation.”
The progress in the representation and acceptance of trans people should be celebrated, he says: “It’s amazing — now more than ever, you see trans kids finding and accepting themselves. You see more trans people in movies and on TV shows and doing it in ways not making the front pages of the tabloids, just living their lives as trans.”