CT teen uses “Voice” for the trans community. “I think it could help families a lot”


19-year-old Sasha Allen doesn’t flinch when recounting threats, harassment, slurs and bullying online after being transgender in high school.

Having been through all of this, I ask him if he has ever considered taking the easy way out and not sharing his story in front of millions of people while playing with his father, Jim, on NBC’s “The Voice”. The only person Sasha fears, it seems, is himself.

“My future self would have been mad at me now if I had been too nervous to use the platform the way I wanted. So I’m really glad I did, ”he says.

Not a bad song title, just kidding, “My future self.

Sasha and Jim, who live in Newtown, already see a future I can’t see as we chat via Zoom. Speaking to them with my fellow opinion writer Carolyn Lumsden after their debut in “Voice”, harmonizing on “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, earned them a spot on the squad of pop superstar Ariana Grande, but future episodes have already been recorded. Whenever there is an opportunity to reveal secrets, they reflexively revert to Mona Lisa’s smiles.

There is another future they could not have foreseen. Just days after Sasha accurately observed “you only get such trans portrayal on major television networks”, trans employees at Netflix provide for a walkout. Comic Dave Chappelle’s transphobic “jokes” in his new special prompted a muffled response from network co-CEO Ted Sarando, who noted that Netflix features lesbian comedian Hannah Gadsby. If he had actually watched Gadsby’s first special on his own network, he would have understood better. she promptly kicked both buttocks on Instagram.

Which only made me admire Sasha’s choice even more. He faced bullies. He knows the risk. So when he says, “I think this could help families a lot,” he thinks of the reward. Not for him or his father, but for strangers.

Jim Allen sits next to his son as Sasha shares ugly life experiences, including being ignored by educators who should have been the adults in the room. Sasha makes air quotes when remembering staff requests to “prove the existence of transgender people.” It would be difficult to share with anyone, let alone parents, journalists, the world.

“You meet all kinds of people in life and sometimes you have to go through these things,” Jim remarks.

They both seem to simultaneously recognize the absurdity of the abbreviation “these things”.

So they laugh.

Their body language is as synchronized as their harmonies. When Jim wants to thank the teachers who supported him, he asks for confirmation. Sasha gently nods.

There are also times when Sasha checks out her dad, like when we mention the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012. When they were introduced to studio audiences as being from Newtown, it’s not hard to imagine the thoughts. in the minds of audience members as they applaud. The Allens are clearly sensitive to the way their hometown is portrayed and appreciate the way NBC has responded.

“It didn’t turn into anything dramatic for the story,” Sasha says.

It’s not all drama. It’s a musical competition, after all. Given the stress of trying to hit the right marks in front of the judges (Grande, John Legend, Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson), it seems remarkable that Sasha, a visual artist as well as a performer, brought her drawing of the Allens. form a trio with Shelton to present to the country singer.

“It was like the icing on the cake,” Sasha says. “Stand there and sing and know I should deliver a picture to Blake Shelton.”

Things got a little easier during that blind audition when Grande and Clarkson turned their chairs around to move the duo forward.

Sasha acknowledges that they might not even have auditioned without the pandemic. They know their choice of John Denver’s sweet “Going on a Jet” was a gamble in this arena. Jim, a longtime performer and music teacher, notes that “it’s evocative and resonates through generations.” It also bridged their own gap as they’ve been singing it together for years.

Sasha beckons Joni Mitchell’s “Carey” like the first song his father taught him on guitar as a child (there’s been a Jonissance lately, but I haven’t heard a teenager mention it since … never). Then he learned the “Denver”Take me home, country roads, ”And that of James Taylor “Caroline in my mind.”

They are now passionate members of the Ariana team. “What’s really exciting for both of us is to find out how the process of working with Ariana Grande is really starting to push us to expand our lineup in terms of repertoire and… vocally in terms of pitch,” Jim says.

These days, they’re swapping songs from their generations, while writing their own. Jim is sort of a music journalist, reporting real events in the lyrics. Sasha described her own catalog as love songs or “teenage turmoil songs” with a “little bit of emo”.

What they haven’t done is write together.

“I don’t know why,” Sasha said, turning to her father again as if searching for a reason.

There is still time for that. Even its future itself cannot predict a story that is still being written.

John Breunig is editor of the editorial page for the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time. [email protected]; twitter.com/johnbreunig.


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