Finding Brotherhood in a Trans Motorcycle Club

A group of mostly bearded and tattooed motorcycle riders rolls through downtown Kansas City, turning heads with the braap-braap noise of their exhaust pipes. It’s the sound of ultimate freedom on the road, and it ripples deep in the chests of onlookers. Emblazoned on the back of the riders’ leather vests is their club name, Original Gents, and a logo of a skull with a pipe and top hat. The bottom rocker patch, which traditionally notes a club’s location, simply says ‘Brotherhood.’ It’s a word with added significance for the Original Gents, the first and only motorcycle club, or MC, by and for transmasculine people. 

Dakota, one of the founders of the OGMC

The Original Gents MC (OGMC for short) was founded in November 2020, by presidents Dakota Cole and Jami Ryan, and their name alludes to a common experience among its eight members: They were originally men or masculine of center from the beginning, regardless of how society viewed them. The club hosts a regular schedule of rides (including some that welcome non-members), supports LGBTQ+ events, and leads an annual Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) ride, one of Kansas City’s few TDOR events. “That ride was something we all agreed on that we wanted to do every year,” Cole said. ”No matter how many people turned out, no matter how many people came. That was something for our community.” 

This year’s TDOR ride started and ended at LGBTQ+-owned Big Rip Brewing Company, with a group of over 50 allies and supporters riding along on motorcycles or in cars. While it’s not readily obvious that OGMC is a transmasculine club, its TDOR ride is one example of being intentionally visible for those who can’t be: Cole rode with a trans Pride flag mounted next to the OGMC flag on the back of his 1998 Honda Shadow 750 ACE. At the closing ceremony, the club read aloud the names of trans people murdered this year, followed by a moment of silence. Later, they hung out with supporters, drinking and chatting until late. 

Jami, one of the founders of the OGMC

Cole had always wanted to be part of a motorcycle club, but he wasn’t OK with the toxic masculinity biker culture is known for, and he didn’t like feeling that joining an MC meant he had to be stealth—not out about his trans experience. In 2020, he floated the idea of an all-transmasc MC on some local trans groups on Facebook, and his friend Ryan, who works at a local hospital, quickly got on board. Engineering technician Hunter Wills—now the OGMC Road Captain—and Ruben Castillo joined shortly after. Today, the club’s members come from different backgrounds and lived experiences, with an age range from 22 to early 50s. Some members are queer or nonbinary. Some are married, some are parents, and they all hold a wide variety of jobs.

“We have different lives,” said Ryan, who rides a 2001 Honda Shadow. “But we connect in being trans and loving motorcycles and loving being out on the road. It’s incomparable to anything else… We’re just brothers. We show up for each other. It’s a brotherhood and a family.”

Hunter with some of the riders

Saxon Funk is a Jr. Road Captain, a role responsible for planning and leading the club’s rides, and the only one who rides a sport bike, a Honda CBR 500. Funk was part of another riding club in the past but never quite meshed with the other riders who were straight and cisgendered. Being part of OGMC makes an “astronomical” difference, they said: “You don’t have to worry about feeling uncomfortable or worry about getting misgendered or somebody using your deadname. You have things in common that you don’t with other people, like T [Testosterone therapy] and surgeries and just being able to talk about hardships.”

“There have been moments where I’ve dropped everything that’s been going on just to make sure someone’s OK,” Cole added. “That was more than them just being a member of the club. They really are my family.”

OGMC isn’t an outlaw biker club like those portrayed in movies and TV shows, but given the current political climate, they might be closer to a different kind of outlaw than they intended. Violent anti-trans propaganda was part of a number of GOP candidates’ campaigns in the recent midterms, and that vitriol has real-life impacts. The number of reported transgender killings in America—the overwhelming majority being Black trans women—has doubled in four years, with 32 murders to date in 2022. “Honestly, I think that’s partly why we don’t have more members. There are people around here who are scared to be out,” Cole said. 

Jami

Jordan Ecclefield, an OGMC prospect with a long salt-and-pepper beard, has endured transphobic harassment for years. “They broke me with the Trump shit. People have been like, ‘We love you. We will still hang out with you. But we’re gonna vote against your rights.’ Well, I’m tired of pretending like that doesn’t matter because it does … It seems like we’re [the] punching bags lately.” Ecclefield rides a matte-black Harley-Davidson Iron 883 Sportster, and has worked in a factory for 22 years. He came out as trans 16 years ago and faces frequent misgendering and harassment at work. “My goal is to not speak to anyone for those 10 hours and go home and hope, you know, nobody’s waiting for me in the parking lot,” he said. 

For OGMC, though, the rewards of visibility outweigh the risks. Thinking back to when he came out in the early-2000s, Ruben Castillo remembered the profound inspiration he got from simply meeting older trans men. “Seeing some of the older trans men living happy lives and doing what they loved was like, I can have that at some point, you know?” he said. Now, with OGMC, “We’re able to paint that picture [for a new generation].” When he rode his Honda Rebel in this year’s Kansas City Pride parade, he said, “There was this younger trans kid who found out we were an all-transmasculine group, and he was like, ‘Wow, I can’t wait till I’m 18 and I can join.’ Just seeing that light in his eyes, this is why we do it.”

Riding in bliss

On Instagram, the club shares photos of its events, rides, and supporters. Cole estimated there have been trans people from almost every state, and from other countries like Scotland, that have reached out through Instagram, sometimes expressing interest in starting an OGMC chapter of their own. It’s an idea the members are already on board with. Wills is in the process of moving to Colorado, where he’s already in talks with friends about starting a chapter there. “I’d like to see it become a national motorcycle club, if not international,” said Wills, who rides a Harley Street Glide Special. “I want the club to be there for people who need it, who need somewhere to go and where they can be themselves even if they don’t have anywhere else in the world.”

Follow Mark Van Streefkerk on Twitter or at his website.

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