This New Podcast Will Change the Way You Think About Philly Teens

mouthful-podcast-stories-of-philly-teens

It seems that podcasts come and go from our cultural conversation. There’s no talk about them, and then something like Serial happens. Then they go away again until a series such as S-Town comes along, and once again we’re all taking about podcasts.

Well, it was around the same time that all of the controversy over S-Town was bubbling up that we learned about Mouthful, a brand new podcast featuring the real-life and often gritty stories of Philly teens.

And while Mouthful doesn’t have the tension of a Serial or the deep darkness of an S-Town, lighthearted it is not. These are moving first-person narratives that shed a light on just how difficult it is to be a teenager today.

Take, for instance, Mouthful, Episode One: One Hundred Sleepless Nights. This first episode is based on a monologue written by Hunter M., a trans high school senior in Philadelphia, and it focuses on issues surrounding trans and non-binary identities.

During the 21-minute episode, host and co-producer Yvonne Latty, a former Daily News reporter and current NYU prof, interviews Hunter M. and teens at Philly LGBTQ youth center The Attic, and transgender TV actor Scott Turner Schofield (you’d know him if you enjoy the guilty pleasure known as The Bold and the Beautiful) performs Hunter M.’s monologue. It’s an intimate, gripping portrait of a trans teenager.

The second episode doesn’t let up.

Mouthful, Episode Two: Comfort features a story written by Science Leadership Academy student Taytiana Velazquez-Rivera, who pens blog posts like “The School to Slavery Pipeline”.

Comfort is all about eating disorders and being an obese kid.

Taysha Canales

Taysha Canales

Noted Philly actress Taysha Canales (she plays Hermia in the Arden’s fantastic Midsummer Night’s Dream, which closes this week), performs Velazquez-Rivera’s sad, insightful monologue, and local clinical psychologist Samantha DeCaro weighs in with her experience treating teens with eating disorders.

By the third episode, we’ve arrived at an examination of race.

Mouthful, Episode Three: Pedestals tells us what it’s like to be a student of color in a school that’s mostly white. In Pedestals, Latty interviews high school students of color who attend private schools in the area, including Olivia Nelson-Haynes, a Penn Charter student who made a video called The Black Boy Project, in which she interviewed black male teens about their experiences.

Nelson-Haynes is also the daughter of Mouthful executive producer Lisa Nelson-Haynes, the head of Philadelphia Young Playwrights. That’s the organization behind the Mouthful podcast.

The episode also includes some perspective from Latty and her own daughter, Nola, a student at Friends Select School.

Yvonne Latty

Yvonne Latty

“As a parent, I am constantly amazed by the complexity of being a teenager today,” says Latty, who has raised two teenagers of her own. “It is not an easy time, filled with rapid change, struggle and awareness. Working on Mouthful has opened my eyes to so much. It has helped me be a better mom, because when you hear these kids express their joys, fears, and hopes so honestly, it opens you up. It makes you look at your own kids and want to listen, really listen, in a way you didn’t before.”

Mouthful officially launched on Thursday, April 13th on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and Soundcloud.

The first season of Mouthful is currently slated for ten episodes. Its launch coincides with Philadelphia Young Playwrights’ High School Monologue Festival at the Drake, which features performances of new monologues written by 18 high school students from across the region. Thursday’s opening night show is sold out, but it runs through April 22nd.

As for Mouthful, it will make you change the way you think about Philly teens — and teens in general — and if you have kids who haven’t quite hit those years, it may be a real eye-opener.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter

“Pop-Up Love Party” Counters Anti-Trans Bus’s Philly Stop

Sharron Cooks guiding people away from the anti-trans bus | Photo by Jennifer Bryant

Sharron Cooks guiding people away from the anti-trans bus | Photo by Jennifer Bryant

On Saturday, the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, in collaboration with GALAEI, Trans-health Information Project (TIP), Attic Youth Center, William Way, ACLU, Mazzoni Center, and other community organizations, held a “Pop-Up Love Party” to protest the anti-trans “Free Speech Bus Tour” that was scheduled to appear. The National Organization on Marriage (NOM) has been driving across the East Coast for several weeks in a striking bright orange bus with transphobic messages and images, which has been met with protestors and vandalism. Read more »

LGBTQ&A: Aamina Morrison

Aamina Morrison

Aamina Morrison

Aamina Morrison is a long-time black trans activist and local HIV-prevention specialist. We got the chance to chat with her about the recent string of black trans murders and how the Gayborhood can be more inclusive of gender- nonconforming LGBTQ individuals. Read more »

LGBTQ&A: Julie Chovanes

Julie Chovanes photographed by Amanda Swiger.

Julie Chovanes photographed by Amanda Swiger.

Julie Chovanes is the executive director of Trans-Help, a legal service provider for trans individuals. The lawyer and trans rights advocate talks to us about seeking justice for the late Nizah Morris, participating the PCHR Gayborhood racism hearing, and what the city can do to better serve the LGBTQ community. Read more »

Hahnemann to Offer Gender Affirmation Surgery

Photo from Hahnemann University Hospital's Facebook page

Photo from Hahnemann University Hospital’s Facebook page

Drexel University’s teaching hospital, Hahnemann University Hospital, has launched a new gender affirmation surgery program for transgender patients.

Hahnemann is the first academic medical center in the Philadelphia region to launch such a program, according to the institution. It will offer both female-to-male and male-to-female gender confirming surgeries. Patients will have access to face, breast, chest, body contouring, and other related surgeries.

The program will be directed by plastic surgeon Dr. Kathy L. Rumer, of the Ardmore-based private practice Rumer Cosmetics. Rumer’s practice already offers procedures for transgender patients, including facial feminization surgery, breast augmentation, and chest masculinization. Read more »

Black Trans Demonstration Planned for Creating Change Conference

The demonstration, led by black trans individuals, is calling out the conference for lacking their representation.

The demonstration, led by black trans individuals, is calling out the conference for lacking representation.

A collective of black transgender demonstrators is planning to stage a direct action at the Creating Change conference at 1 p.m. on Friday. The demonstration, initiated by activists Max T. Isaac and Lourdes Ashley Hunter, will center black trans individuals’ concerns around the nation’s largest LGBTQ conference. Read more »

LGBTQ&A: Naiymah Sanchez

Naiymah Sanchez

Naiymah Sanchez

Naiymah Sanchez is a trans-Latina community activist and transgender advocate coordinator for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. We caught up with her on serving the community, being outspoken, and being one of the co-chairs of the nation’s largest LGBTQ conference, Creating Change. Read more »

Sharron Cooks on What the U.S. Transgender Survey Means for Philly

Sharron Cooks

Sharron Cooks

On December 8th, the National Center for Transgender Equality held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to release and review the findings in the latest U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS). More than 28,000 trans-identifying Americans participated in the largest-ever national study on transgender experiences, which covered issues including discrimination in employment, education, health, housing, and family life, and the criminal-justice system.

G Philly spoke with Philadelphia trans advocate Sharron Cooks, who had the opportunity during the press conference to share her personal experiences with discrimination as a black trans woman.

What would you describe as the key factors shaping the recent U.S. Transgender Survey?
Discrimination exists in many areas of my life and has throughout my lifetime. The U.S Transgender Survey is a data report that discusses the pervasive mistreatment and discrimination of transgender people in America. The U.S. Transgender Survey is the largest data report of its kind. Violence, sexual assault, unemployment, sex work, lack of medical treatment, homelessness, poverty, and racial bias are examples of some of the areas that were examined.

What stood out to you?
As a black transgender woman who is an advocate, community organizer, and consultant, the U.S. Transgender Survey acknowledges and affirms my experiences of discrimination as well as provides statistical data from nearly 30,000 transgender Americans who have shared similar experiences with discrimination. The finding in the report show that transgender women of color tend to experience higher levels of racial bias, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, harassment, violence, HIV/AIDS rates, inadequate healthcare, and run-ins with law enforcement than respondents who were not of color.

What was it like being one of the few trans people of color speaking at the press conference?
During the U.S Transgender Survey press conference, I shared very personal examples of discrimination that connected my experiences to the numbers in the report. In order to advocate, educate and policy-make, it is important to have both data and personal experiences to help people understand the high levels of inequality and lack of opportunities people in the trans community face, especially trans people of color. The U.S. Transgender Survey also includes findings of the discrimination non-binary people experience, which I think is great and ground-breaking for those who identify as non-binary. The U.S. Transgender Survey data report is a very useful tool that I will be utilizing in my business and community work, and I would strongly encourage all people, businesses, and organizations to read and use the U.S. Transgender Survey in a positive and transformative way for the betterment of all our community members.

What are some motivating factors in your life that keep you optimistic despite many of these statistics?
My life was enriched greatly with the support of my family, friends, and community. I have a B.A. in philosophy with a focus on ethics from Arcadia University. I created my own company, Making Our Lives Easier LLC, that is a consulting firm that provides quality resources and information to underrepresented communities, particularly trans women of color.

What is your advice to other transgender Americans facing the issues highlighted in the report?
I know what it’s like to feel rejected and unsupported as well as the feeling of being respected, accepted, and supported, so in my role as a visible member of the transgender community it is my responsibility to bring awareness and attention to the overwhelming rates of discrimination members of our community deal with daily. I firmly believe that transformative change begins with self, but it is our job as a community and the responsibility of people in leadership to relentlessly and persistently advocate for diversity, inclusion, economic empowerment, and equality in all areas of public life for all people. Using the USTS is a great starting point.

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