Celebrating Jackie Shane: Transgender Soul Singer

by Barbara

Pride month may be over, but for the LGBTQ+ community, the celebration of identity and acceptance continues year-round. This hard-won acceptance involved many individuals fighting for their rights and recognition, such as singer and entertainer Jackie Shane, who broke barriers in the 1950s in Music City.

Reading Jackie Shane’s journal entries about living her authentic life evokes a mix of emotions for her nieces, Andrenee Majors-Douglas and Vonnie Crawford-Moore. They shared several mementos, including never-before-seen items from Jackie.


Jackie’s journal entries, where she wrote, “I was born but I have never lived now I pray God will help me tell you what it’s like to be born into this nightmare,” and, “For me this is what is. To be born a woman in the body of a man. I will try to tell you what it’s like,” offer a poignant glimpse into her struggles and triumphs.


“Girl, you had my chest hurting,” Andrenee said, expressing the impact of Jackie’s words.


Jackie’s life story, documented in her own words, was meticulously preserved.

“She preserved everything. She wrote her own words. She laid her story out,” said Vonnie.

This story began in Nashville.

Many consider Jackie Shane to be music’s first Black trans star. She discovered her love for entertaining and singing early in life.

“Her energy was electric on those Jefferson Street days, and everybody was like, here comes little Jackie,” recalled Andrenee.

Jackie found success performing at nightclubs on Jefferson Street in the 1950s. Facing racism and transphobia, she moved to Canada.

“Here, you were worried about not only being attacked because you’re Black, but she was trans. In Canada, she could perform and sell out places and be safe,” Andrenee explained.

In the 1960s, Jackie achieved success, holding the number 2 spot on Canadian music charts with her song “Any Other Way.” Despite this, she remained true to herself, wanting only to “be who she was and left alone.”

By the 1970s, Jackie disappeared from the music scene, returning to Nashville to care for sick family members and becoming a recluse.

“She came back reluctantly and ended up being stuck here,” said Andrenee.

Jackie Shane passed away in 2019 at the age of 78. It was only then that her nieces fully discovered who she was.

“We feel bad that she was alone and didn’t have to be alone,” said Vonnie.

Her nieces inherited most of her belongings and are now ready to show the world the trailblazer their aunt was.

“All the hate and discrimination she was like ‘I am who I am. Take it or leave it,'” said Vonnie.

Andrenee added, “Hopefully her story and her strength and willingness to be who she is will help somebody else.”

Plans for a historical marker in honor of Jackie are in the works in Nashville.

Her documentary, “Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story,” will be airing in Canadian theaters this August, with special screenings in the United States.

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