Mason Jairo Olaya-Smith

Mason photo by Meg Allen.jpg

Q: Where do you currently live/reside? I live on Ohlone land and split my time between San Francisco and Oakland, California

Q: How do you self-identify? My pronouns are They, Them, Theirs and identify as Afro-Mexican, Native American, and Creole (Yucatan Penninsula, an unknown Matrilineal Tribal Affiliation, and Cabo Verde) I also label myself Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit, Bruj@, Healer, Intersex, Disabled and Low-Income

Affiliations: Save Midtown, Still Here SF, VONA Voices, San Francisco Public Library


Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired the poem above? I grew up in San Francisco, specifically The Fillmore (think a West Coast version of NYC’s Harlem or Chicago’s Southside in the 80s/90s) throughout the time between my birth in 1988 and before 9/11 the HIV/AIDS and Crack Epidemics were ravaging my the city and helicopters were as common as pigeons. I didn’t know this was unusual till I relocated to Portland, OR and began to reflect on my “urban” upbringing

Q: How did you get your writing/performing start? I started writing at age 3, by dictating the stories in my head to my adoptive grandmother who had always stressed literacy because she had been asked to leave her English Lit program in college due to being an Asian Woman from Hawai’i.

Q: How would you describe your writing style?  Radically Flippant Social Criticism and Sensual Wordsmith

Q: How does your identity shape or influence your work, writing process, or writing life? My identity IS my work. As someone inhabiting a trans body viewed by the outside world as black and male my black, latinx, and female-viewed history are often subjects of my work to remind my audiences that though I look like any ol’ banji boy I was actually socialized mostly female and am also latinx.

Q: Can you tell us about a time you think your identity helped or hindered your writing or writing career? Well despite being half-brown I’ve only ever been asked to participate in an all-latinx or brown-centric show twice in my 14 years of performing. My guess is it’s because I am medium brown with curly hair and speak more French than Spanish and event organizers often assume I’m not down when in reality I was born at home in the Mission to a Chicana/Indigenous woman who was the daughter of an immigrant which is about as Califas/Chican@ as it gets.

Q: Tell me about your new book/current project: I am currently working on a memoir about the history of displacement in San Francisco as well as growing up on the front lines of the HIV epidemic as a young child whose mother worked as a care provider for men dying of AIDS.

Q: What else are you working on or what future projects do you have in mind? I’m also working on a project that investigates the LGBTQIA connection to the People’s Temple. I have been obsessed with Jonestown since I was 9 years old and interviewed my then-neighbor Ms. Beverly Oliver who was a concerned mother that accompanied Sen. Leo Ryan, Jackie Speier, and the NBC crew to Guyana which ultimately led to Jim Jones killing 900+ men, women, and children, the play or short story (not sure which it is yet) focuses on Vernon Gosney, a gay cisgender male hippie and Monica Bagby a butch cisgender lesbian who were some of the first to openly express interest in leaving Jonestown.

Q: What have been some of the highlights/defining moments of your writing/performing career? Probably, my participation in the Justin Chin memorial reading, I was the only person my age and without a book out invited to participate alongside many of Justin’s friends and contemporaries in a celebration of his work and life.

Q: Who are some of your biggest influences and/or mentors? Influences: Jewelle Gomez, Pat Parker, Richard Bruce Nugent, Assotto Saint, Michelle Tea, Justin Chin. My current unofficial mentors/folks I am studying are legendary SF drag queen Juanita More!, Kevin Simmonds, Randy Burns co-founder of the Gay American Indians,

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you would give new writers/performers? Writing your life is an act of resistance and resilience. Trust your story.

Q: Who/what are you reading now? I am currently re-reading Tayari Jones’ “Silver Sparrow” and Hampton Sides’ “Hellhound on his trail”

Q: What’s your favorite platano dish/recipe? Arepas de Plátano. I’ve also recently taken to making what I call platano sliders, long story short I’m allergic to colonialism (wheat/gluten allergy) so I often use bread alternatives and one day I decided to put beef meatballs between two plantains

Fun Fact 1: Before writing was my main squeeze I worked as a child model/actress and there is a cabbage patch doll named after me

Fun Fact 2: I’m prone to first’s I am the first Fellow of the SF Public Library’s LGBTQIA Center and the first and only Mr. Trans Man

For More Info and Work: find me at @crashtwitty on twitter or online at (Not Safe for Work)