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Can This Trans Singer Parlay Reality TV Into Real Success?


America's Got Talent's Brody Ray is ready to bring his dreams to life with a new album.

"The first time I heard that song ... [it] just kind of stopped me in my tracks and it really got me thinking about being an example and inspiring others with my story and my music," Brody Ray says, reflecting on his cover of Jordan Smith's "Stand in the Light" on NBC's America's Got Talent this summer. "I don't know how it happened but every single word in that song matched perfectly with my life and that situation and the moment on that stage."

The musician has a lot of support but acknowledges that being trans may be an added hurdle breaking into the music biz.

"Maybe people are just closed off to me as a trans artist. I have had difficulty finding guitar players. ... There's been a handful that have jammed with me, but then I'm like 'Hey, I got these Pride festivals coming up, and they're like 'Oh well, you know, I'm actually like really booked now.'"

The singer is originally from Kearney, Neb., but moved to Nashville in May 2017 to pursue his dreams. "I moved down here to join a band and it was like a really bad experience," Ray laments. "I got an apartment and I picked up three jobs because I had to make ends meet. I was barely surviving. ... I kept asking myself if it was me or if it was the industry. Like, is everybody crazy here, or am I losing my mind?"

Ultimately, as a pop artist, Ray isn't sure Nashville -- best known for country music -- is the right place for him. Perhaps Los Angeles would be a better fit.


In May 2011, long before his career-making moment on America's Got Talent, the singer was featured on an episode of TLC's Strange Sex. When opportunities came for him to share his story to a national audience, Ray says his family was completely on board: "Let's just do it. ... we're going to help people. ... We're going to help you help other teens that are struggling."

The trailblazer came out to his parents when he was just 8 years old. He remembers standing in their bedroom and being asked, "'Do you feel like you should be a boy?'" he recalls. "I would fight like hell to get my hair chopped off, and I would fight to wear the boy clothes. When they'd try to put a dress on me, I was like, 'No! I'm a boy! You guys don't get it. I'm in the wrong body, something's wrong.' And I was so angry at the world and angry at God."

He was eventually diagnosed with gender dysphoria and began transitioning, getting gender affirmation surgery with the support of his parents in 2010. Today, he feels it's his mission to help people stop "putting labels on things and just let people be people."

During the Judges Cuts of America's Got Talent, Ray sang his original song "Wake Your Dreams" while playing the guitar, but his performance wasn't strong enough for him to advance to the Quarterfinals. Still, he says, "I couldn't be more grateful to have had such a successful and emotional first performance and to meet and make such an impactful connection with Simon, Heidi, Mel B, and Howie. Their responses made me feel really validated. ... In that moment, it felt like everything had come full circle."

Ray recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to help finance his upcoming album Wake Your Dreams, which he says "is important, not [just] for me, but for the entire LGBT community." Currently, he's back in Nashville working hard on the EP because "it's been my dream, man," he proclaims proudly. "My biggest and sole dream!"

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