Malcolm Ribot is on an adventure with a social mission. Inspired by the sense of isolation he felt in his community as a trans man, Malcolm sold off most of his belongings and set out in his car to bring together trans men across America. With 48 states under his belt, Malcolm and his dog Grayson continue to meet new people and change their lives for the better by introducing them to neighbors and community members they never knew existed.
What was it like growing up where you grew up?
I would have liked very much to have been raised with the knowledge and awareness of the LGBTQIA community. I wasn't much aware of it until after college, when I finally came out with an attraction to women. I then entered the community, and learned about gender identity, when I was able to finally learn about my own identity. I learned that many of the thoughts I had growing up were common in other individuals, and I was able to meet and get to know, and develop friendships and community with many others who felt the same. This lack of awareness growing up, the depression I felt, and learning there are others who feel alone in these thoughts and feelings and with little to no support or community, has been the motivation to do the work that I do in traveling to connect others and spread awareness and visibility where I can.
What did you do for work before you began traveling?
I was a Packaging and Graphic Designer at a travel accessory and bag company for about 5 years.
In 2015, you started your GoFundMe to begin your huge adventure around the U.S. to bring communities of trans men together. Where are you at now in this journey?
The GoFundMe I had done during my travels actually was only for the car accident I had gotten into. The bulk of my traveling otherwise has been self funded with members of the community and allies generously providing places to stay and meals. I'm currently working on plans to travel to Alaska and Hawaii (as the last 2 states of the United States) to connect other trans men in each.
Who inspires you? Why?
I'm inspired by those with big hearts, open minds, drive, strength (emotional, mental, and physical), compassion...and those who put themselves out there to be their best selves, inspire others to be their best selves, and speak with love, kindness, and compassion working for the betterment of humanity.
After all your travels, what is your favorite city? Why?
I have a few favorite cities: Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, San Diego, CA, Ashville, NC, Burlington, VT, Chicago, IL, Bloomington, IN, Madison, WI - These are all cities I found to be especially LGBTQIA friendly, artsy, colorful, or outdoorsy.
What is one of your best memories from your journey?
One of my absolute favorite things about the work I've been doing, is anytime someone tells me they no longer feel alone, didn't know there were others/so many others near them, or when I see them click with one another right before my eyes, and then exchange contact information with clear interest in seeing one another again. I feel a huge smile take over my face, and fluttering in my chest. It shows me that what I'm doing is working exactly as I hope for it to.
What is the most challenging thing about bringing trans communities together?
Worrying about the safety of others has been one of the biggest challenges. Meet ups tend to be in public spaces that trans men in the area suggest, and others are informed of the specific time and location via word of mouth and individual texts or messages. Unfortunately, our community has has been dealt with a degree of hate and violence, so I worry posting the time and location publicly could attract someone who may have ill intentions. So far, we've had no issues with these practices in place (knock on wood).
What is the biggest misconception people have about you?
A lot of people who have seen my photos and then meet me in person, are surprised I'm not half a foot taller. I've been told I look taller in my photos and am "very proportionate".
Our political climate is very challenging right now. What do you do, personally or politically, to cope?
I try to think about what I can do personally right now, and I think helping others in this way is more important now than ever. I want others to know they are not alone. When I'm not actively traveling and connecting others, I've been spending a lot of time with my family here (my partner, his daughter, and my dog), some time with friends, and less time on social media. Someone wise once told me, "You can't pour from an empty cup", and this current climate can be very draining and make many feel hopeless or helpless, so I've been refilling my cup to come back stronger, full of light and love and hope for our future - to be able to give my best and do the work I'm passionate about doing to help our community and society move forward and grow. I've been a bit absent because of this, but I'm currently working on coming back stronger with the advocacy work I've been doing.
How do you think our society has grown in regards to understanding of gender?
Our society has come a long way in understanding gender. It can be difficult for many at times. Since this may be a very new concept to those individuals, and one of unlearning what many of us have been taught growing up that there are only 2 genders, and that those genders must stick to their roles and presentations, and deviation outside of these standards is "not normal" or "wrong". Some have a difficult time understanding that that isn't the case - that there are more than 2 genders, and that roles, clothing, and forms of expression aren't meant to be gendered, nor do they need to be. Anyone can wear nail polish, etc.! It's all so personal, and whatever makes us happiest and most comfortable in our own skin.
What’s next for you?
Tentatively - connecting fellow trans men in Alaska is in the works to be next, a move to California with my partner, his daughter and my pup, bottom surgery in San Francisco, CA in December this year, and likely the connecting of others in Hawaii will happen after surgery.