Black transgender artist Nahshon Dion draws inspiration from her home in the Bronx

Nahshon Dion (main)
Artistic representation by Sandra Mateo of Nahshon Dion, a Black trans artist living in the Bronx.

Nahshon Dion, a Black trans writer and filmmaker living in the Bronx, knows where to find her happy place — one that unexpectedly reminds her of seeing mountains, waterfalls and horses while growing up in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley, Calif.

For Dion, walks around Crotona Park and Indian Lake bring her back to her youth in Pasadena and Altadena in Los Angeles County. While Dion, 46, said her early childhood was “tranquil and quiet,” her life since then has seen turmoil.

For one, it took a few tries over several years for Dion to get and keep a home in New York City — but her home here has always been in the Bronx. She first moved to the borough in July 2013, and now, on her third Bronx apartment, she has finally planted roots here. 

“I like the Bronx, I like the excitement” and “all the different flavors,” Dion said. “Living in the Bronx, you’re not gonna be bored.”

Dion said she loves having friends of all different backgrounds and almost feels the Bronx is a different country. “There’s no other place where you have this amount of diversity,” she said. “It’s the richness of all the cultures.” 

Dion said that for her safety as a Black trans woman, she avoids certain places — especially bodegas — because of the drama that can pop up at these places. But she said she’s “learned how to navigate the Bronx.”

“Despite the violence, I still feel the Bronx is a beautiful place,” she said.

And even though many Bronxites don’t have material wealth, “These kids don’t seem mad. I see people smiling, barbecuing in the parks.”

The people and scenery of the Bronx provide constant inspiration to Dion, who works in film production and creative nonfiction writing. Her work centers her own experiences including growing up as family friends with the family of Rodney King, meeting Tupac in high school and becoming a victim of gun violence at age 25. 

Dion recently returned from a two-month artist residency in California working on a documentary that she hopes to complete by the end of 2025. She’s also keeping up with her YouTube channel called Transbrations and seeking a publisher for her memoir that has been in the works since 2013.

“I used writing to create the life I wanted to live,” Dion said. 

Transgender visibility 

The Bronx, and the rest of the country, has come a long way when it comes to treatment of gay and trans people, according to Dion, but more importantly, she is now fully comfortable being herself.

An important step for the borough came recently when Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson raised the pastel blue, pink and white flag at Borough Hall on April 1 for the first time in honor of National Transgender Day of Visibility.

Even so, Dion takes a logical approach to how she is viewed in society.

“You’re not getting an award for being LGBT,” she said. “You can’t force people to be interested in you.” 

Dion also pointed to “jealousy and discrimination” that exists within her own community.

“So much of the LGBT community talks about tolerance and acceptance, and I find a lot of them are actually the ones who are the least tolerant and accepting,” she said. “You can pull the screen back and it’s just like, ‘Oh, that’s what’s going on?’”

Dion said she has memories of outward harassment — kids throwing bottles at people they thought were gay or transgender and hearing slurs like “f*****” all the time — but things have changed.

“People are much more respectful” nowadays, Dion said. “I’ve come across a few a–holes” but “I haven’t had one scratch on me in the Bronx.”

Even so, she doesn’t  expect my neighbors to invite me over for dinner and stuff” — not because people are hateful but because they simply have their own family and friends that come first. But when Dion sees trans people walking around the city nowadays, they’re not being harassed — and that seems like progress. 

“Times have really changed,” said Dion — but so has she. Dion said she is more confident now, having gained more wisdom and perspective that comes with maturity.

“I’m 46 years old now. I’m not changing. I don’t expect the world to change, but I’m also not looking for anyone to accept me, because I’ve accepted myself,” Dion said. 

“Acceptance? I’m looking for a grant,” she said with a laugh. 

Dion hopes that some of those grants may enable her to do more work in the Bronx soon. Locally, she has worked on projects with the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Bronx Academy of the Arts and Dance. 

To Dion, it’s all about finding a circle of like-minded people who accept you as you are — and she has found that in the Bronx. 

“I don’t necessarily want a seat at anyone’s table,” she said. I know how to make my own.”

Reach Emily Swanson at or (646) 717-0015. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes