For Transgender Singer, It's All About the Music

The first transgendered artist at a high-profile label talks about life, music.

ByABC News
July 17, 2007, 11:48 AM

July 18, 2007— -- Lucas Silveira has always been different.

Growing up as Lillia Silveira, she always felt as though she were a man trapped in a woman's body. Now, as the lead singer for rock band the Cliks, Lucas Silveira is one of the first transgender artists to sign with a high-profile record label.

Although born in Canada, Lucas Silveira spent much of his childhood in the Azores Islands of Portugal. The village she lived in as Lillia Silveira not only had a population of 600 but was also conservative and Roman Catholic. The idea of being transgender was inconceivable.

"It was a very patriarchal society," said Silveira. "Women conformed to certain roles, and so did the men."

Settling in Toronto eight years ago, Silveira began to perform around the city, identifying as a lesbian. The mixture of blues and folk Silveira played was partly a response to the pressure he felt to fit in.

"Unfortunately, women tend to impose these ideals on themselves of being meek and subdued," said Silveira. "When you look at Sarah McLachlan and Courtney Love, who's referred to as a bitch?"

The end of a six-year relationship and the death of Silveira's grandmother brought on a deep depression. Two and a half years ago, Silveira broke down and finally accepted that he was a transgender male. Silveira was content with the thought that this would mean the end of his music career.

"I made a clear decision that this is how I had to live, or else I would perish," said Silveira. "I thought I would get a day job and play music on the weekends, but that I was never going to make it big as a musician."

The decision not only improved Silveira's quality of life but also his craft. He ditched the mellow folk music he had been writing and switched to the rock and roll sound that he'd always loved. The music became stronger and more personal.

Rosie Lopez, vice president of Tommy Boy Entertainment, passed on the Cliks' initial album. She received its second album after Silveira had undergone the transgender change and promptly signed the group after hearing his reggae-rock inspired rendition of Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River."