Xavier Rizi Timane's video "Love Is All We Need" has more than 1 million YouTube views since it was published in late February.
Filmed outside Los Angeles, the video promotes love, strength, tolerance and unity amid President Donald Trump's divisive policies and rhetoric, and features a diverse group of people representative of United States society, including immigrants, LGBT people and those of various racial and religious backgrounds.
Windy City Times had the opportunity to interview Timane about his video and personal background as a trans male African immigrant who became a U.S. citizen.
Windy City Times: Tell me a little more about your video, "Love Is All We Need."
Xavier Rizi Timane: It was inspired just by the Trump win, and all the comments that were very anti-women. I was very surprised he won, but in the interest of the country I was hopeful that he would somehow be able to do something good. I wrote the song right after I started seeing things like the Muslim ban, which they tried to call it a travel ban … and next was the transgender bathroom situation, because I also work as a coach and a licensed psychotherapist with trans youth.
I was just inspired to write the song because it seemed like every demographic, other than possibly white Republican males, [was] not going to be embraced.
WCT: What kind of feedback have you gotten from it?
XRT: Most of the emails as well as comments on the page have just been saying, "Thank you for expressing exactly how I feel as well."People have said, "Thank you for embracing all walks of life in America," because we're starting to forget that.
WCT: And you talk a lot of promoting love and acceptance of everybody, especially now in the era of Trump.
XRT: A lot more compassion and understanding is needed. I encountered that when I was working on some of the states that are repealing the bathroom laws.
You always have to imagine how it would feel if it was on your foot. Try to put that shoe on your foot and act from a place of compassion. We really do need it now, more than ever.
WCT: You were born in Lagos, Nigeria, and in a 2015 interview in Ebony you talked about growing up in male-dominated patriarchal Nigerian society. What are some of the challenges you've faced as an immigrant, trans-identified person from Africa?
XRT: Oh, goshit was extremely challenging. Just because there is a lot of patriarchy in the culture, and then couple that with extreme religious beliefs that are anti-gay and anti-trans.
Eventually, yes, I was very happy to get an opportunity to go to school abroad, so I went to London first for some years and then had to transfer to the Los Angeles campus of the same school eventually due to a threat of being dragged back home to get into an arranged marriage at the time.
I've been here [in the United States] since 2000, almost 17 years. I got my citizenship, which is awesome.
But then [the citizenship] also coincided with…the time when, yeah, I was on the brink of being male, and being on hormone therapy, having had all my surgeries, and then it was the era of a lot of black men being targeted by police, and I thought, "Oh, my goodnessI finally transitioned to be who I have always wanted to be since I realized I was trans at 8," and seeing how people reacted with a lot more, like, fear and suspicion, as when opposed to when I was female-identified, so there was an adjustment period with that as well. As far as my family, I'm happy to report that we did reconcile, and I got apologies from them for the exorcisms and all the emotional trauma I went through. We're doing great.
WCT: What kind of things do you see that are positive despite all the negativity of Trump and his government?
XRT: The thing I see is the hope [of] the people, the majority of American citizens. Hundreds of thousands of women who have marched wearing their pink outfits. It's the LGBT community who is very aware of what's going on, and continuing to act for equal rights. People really have bonded together and are supporting each other.
The good thing with this administration is I feel people were separate before. Black Lives Matter [was] over here in this corner, and then the women's rights were over in this corner, the LGBs were in this corner, the trans were separate, the Muslims were elsewhereand with Trump and everything going wrong, everyone has come together. Finally. Like we've come together as a team.
"Love Is All We Need" is at www.youtube.com/watch .