Photography by Jeff Hunt
Note: Our guest this week raises issues, true stories from their own life, of sexual and gender-based violence. Listener discretion is advised.
This story starts in 1978. A young San Francisco punk rock woman with two kids saw that many of her peers were getting hooked on drugs. Suddenly, there was an influx of abandoned children and she decided to do something about it. She established a foster home.
Fast-forward 10 years and newborn Mason (not known by that name at the time) comes around and ends up at said foster home. Born to drug addicts, Mason entered this world addicted themselves.
Mason ended up being raised in that one home, and only that one home. They've never been in a shelter system or homeless.
From a very early age (four or so), Mason was acting, doing voiceover work, and modeling. Around age eight, they noticed that things were starting to get gendered and that they didn't fit either mold—male or female. Producers also told Mason that they sounded "too white" (they're Black, indigenous, and Mexican) and that they should try sounding "more Black." But at home, Mason's mom supported their being gender non-conforming at that time.
Around 12, they were waiting for puberty and playing lots and lots of soccer. Other coaches were suspicious enough to investigate whether Mason's coach was disguising a boy as a girl on the girl's soccer team. That fizzled, but Mason kept playing. They were competitive and good enough to be scouted by some colleges while in eighth grade. But a torn ACL when they were 13 dashed those dreams.
They spent that summer recovering, lying in bed waiting to get their period so they could get surgery for the torn ACL. They went back to art and started writing and building up a portfolio, which helped them get into Ruth Asawa School of the Arts.
Mason thrived in high school. They talk about all the guest speakers and various programs and internships students at SOTA were involved in. They also mention, laughingly, some of the more savory elements of arts high school in San Francisco in the early 2000s. Inspired by teachers and an intentional immersion in The City's various art worlds, Mason left high school aimed toward an artist's life. But there were issues along the way, which they delve into in the podcast. Eventually, through that struggle, they landed on photography, opening their own photo company in 2007.
We end Part 1 with Mason struggling to find identity and purpose as they entered adulthood and their hometown was changing rapidly. Check back Thursday for Part 2 and the conclusion of Mason's life story.
We recorded this podcast at Jefferson Square Park in March 2022.