TIKTOK viral trans icon, Carter Ray is a cinematic raconteur, colorful with charisma and entertaining as all get out, is kicking off WEHO Pride with the release of his proud single, “Wait For You,” ft. trans icon, Alexa Aabraxas on June 3, 2022. A love worth fighting for is a love Carter Ray is willing to wait for. A perfectly-imperfect relationship is only strengthened by its “imperfections” and more meaningful because of the unwavering willingness from both partners to make it work. “Wait For You,” is driven by fun basslines bopping along a delicate piano melody and topped with a passionate, 90’s inspired vocal. This cover of Elliot Yamin’s original maintains the song’s emotional brilliance but dabbles in experimental synth sounds and electronic elements, putting an EDM spin on an early 2000’s classic.
In 2014, Carter Ray began documenting his transition from female to male on the internet in hopes of raising awareness, and to help spread a message to young trans folks of love, validity, and the belief that no dream is too big: a message he so badly needed growing up. 300,000 TikTok followers and over 35 Million views later, he stands as a beacon of light and an incredibly influential advocate for the LGBQ+ community.
Carter Ray transcends what it means to be an artist by today’s standards. An experienced filmmaker and tv persona, with the title of ‘Best Drama’ at the QueerX LA Film Festival for his debut short film, “The Change Up,” and appearances in the infamous MTV’s FAKING IT and Tool of America with John Cena, Carter Ray is expanding his artistry with his next statement piece, single “Make a Man,” set to release this summer 2022.
Who is Carter Ray and how do you identify?
I grew up in Glendora, a small religious suburb outside Los Angeles. My father is a bible ministry leader at the church I was raised in, and my mother is a devoted missionary. My family is heavily involved with their community so growing up, everyone in our town knew me and my three siblings. Growing up was difficult due to the fact that I struggled internally with my gender identity, and had no idea that transgender people even existed. I attended a Christian High School, where bible study was at the forefront, education was secondary, and that being anything outside of society’s norms was unacceptable. The people around me made me feel like there was something wrong with me. Fear kept my secret buried, until I graduated. I reached a point in my life where I could not continue hiding in the shadows of who my parents, loved ones, and the world expected me to be. I worked up the strength to set myself free, and live a life of authenticity. My family did not take any of this well. My mother told me she would never see me as her son, nor would I have her support. I was heartbroken, but I knew I had to do what was best for me, regardless of the trials I would face. There was a period of time where I did not speak to my parents. Over time, my family did the work and got educated. Now I am overjoyed to say that my family fully accepts me, ‘Carter Ray’ as their son. I know my parents wouldn’t have struggled as much as they did if there was transgender awareness and real and true stories told in film and television. After realizing how much of an impact visibility can have on a person, I knew I was going to use my platform to bring awareness to those who need to be and feel seen. My passion is acting. It’s the best way to share stories. We turn to characters in film and television to connect with, and I hope a trans person somewhere sees me doing what I never thought I’d be able to do, and decides they too can do anything they set their minds to. Music is my creative fun space. I have so much fun making music, it constantly reminds me that I am capable of living a life of color.
How did you manage to become a TIKTOK viral trans icon?
Haha! Icon, huh!? I was pretty bored during the pandemic, so decided to hop on the TikTok bandwagon. I made light-hearted, trans comedy videos about experiences I’ve had as a trans guy, and people really enjoyed the stories, the delivery in the jokes. If I didn’t post for a week, my followers would demand a new video. After some time I really developed a bond with my followers on Tiktok, and got to know quite a few of their stories. Connecting with young trans kids is so rewarding, and I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve started with Tiktok.
When did your music career start?
I started taking music seriously in 2019. I always had a love for music and always wanted to give it a go. As a kid, I never thought it would be possible to be trans, and be successful. That thought stemmed from the what I took from what society put on me as a trans individual. When I became more in touch with who I am, and became more confident, I realized how ridiculous that thought was. I started chasing my dreams, and soon made them into a reality. I hope someone who has the thoughts I used to have, sees my work and puts that feeling to rest. You can do anything as long as you are your authentic self. People love seeing others be who they truly are, it can give other people the freedom to be themselves too.
Who are your inspirations?
I am inspired by watching trans people succeed in the entertainment business. Our Lady J has been someone I’ve admired for many years. She has made such an impact in TV, making sure the trans narrative and trans stories authentically portrayed. When I think of her, I think of courage, strength, and perseverance. I am honored to now call her a dear friend.
Is there enough trans representation in your field? Have you ever faced any issue because you are trans?
There is a lack of representation in the entertainment industry. The stigma surrounding trans people needs to change. There is this stereotype society has created that “trans people aren’t talented”, so we are overlooked without being the opportunity to show people who we are and the art we create. I’ve met so many talented trans artists, and I’m like, “How have you not been noticed? You’re amazing!”. Trans people, have been marginalized, and still overcome so many obstacles. Artists that turn personal stories into art, or take their emotions and reveal them through a character on screen, those are the artists I want to see. The issues I’ve faced in the industry because I’m trans, are definitely based on being typecast. Some casting directors have sent me breakdowns for trans women roles, or for a trans individuals who haven’t begun their medical transition yet. They will just read “trans” and send it out to any actor who is trans. Just because an actor is trans doesn’t mean they fit those roles necessarily. I’d also love to see more casting directors cast trans individuals in roles that have nothing to do with being trans, that would be amazing. That’s what is cool about music, it’s no image, no face to judge, just the sound of your voice, and the story behind the lyrics.
When did your transition journey start?
I began my social transition in 2013 when I came out publicly right after graduating high school. Then I took the first steps in my physical transition on November 5th, 2014 when I began hormone replacement therapy. Now I’m coming up on my 8th year, or what I like to call my “manniversary”, and I’ve never felt more in touch with myself. I am very proud of the man I am today. Looking back, I am so grateful for every hardship and triumph that has come my way, as they shaped me into the man I am.
What advice would you give to young trans people who look up to you?
Go at your own pace. Not everything is black and white, some things take time to figure out. So be patient with yourself as you sort them out. Everyone’s experience is different, you don’t need to follow someone else’s journey to fit into a specific label. Do what feels comfortable for you, and what makes you feel your best. Above all else, never forget how valuable you are. I know at times things may not make sense, but I promise, you are loved and special. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You matter. We need you here.
What are your future plans?
When I think of the future, I feel very excited and hopeful. My plans are to keep focused, and working on my craft. I’m working on a few projects currently that I can’t wait to share. I plan on continuing to work hard in my acting classes, and I hope to tell stories in film and television that other’s connect with. It’s important to me to continue music that lifts spirits. I also desire to stay active with my community, and pursue all activism possible.