Shea Freedom | Instagram

Musician Shea Freedom has been around the block and back. By age 14 he had lost both his parents and went to to be placed in 28 different foster homes before, like 68 percent of foster youth, he was emancipated into homelessness.

"As a child I was often told what doesn't kill you will make you stronger," Freedom, 25, recently told Echo as he was preparing for his upcoming performance at Phoenix Pride. "So in early childhood I made that lifelong truth my mantra and combined it with my inherent obstinate nature. It also helped that at one of my very first group homes there was an on-site equine therapy program. The fact that I got introduced to horse medicine as a young child helped heal and shape my life. Horses are still providing medicine and a coping skill to this day – with hard work and a lot of faith nothing is impossible."

Photo courtesy of Shea Freedom.

The faith has paid off. Freedom has been a street performer since 2009, and an in-demand solo act since 2014. He spent a little over 200 days on the road last year, as he puts it, "performing, teaching, creating."

Freedom recently moved from Aspen, Colo., to Southern California where he lives on a sailboat and is currently saving his funds to secure top surgery.

Freedom explained the significance of his post-transition chosen name.

"Shea is a representation of both genders, i.e. he/she," he said. "As for Freedom, I received this name in 2012 during the Lunar Eclipse at the start of my Medicine Walk, or spiritual path if you will. I was dancing around a fire side with nothing on but a Bob Marley flag wrapped around my waist and it said 'freedom' beneath his smiling face. Now I strive to personify my own name – Shea Freedom."

Freedom, who plays the guitar and the Native American flute, classifies his music as "folk hop," folk meets hip-hop.

"My music predominately conveys perseverance and my experience in life thus far," he said. "I love receiving messages from folks who tell me that my music has helped them in some way. Sometimes its overwhelming – in a positive way, of course."

Run Deep - Shea Freedom

Freedom is also and in-demand inspirational speaker. His talks are born out of his own experiences as a trauma survivor.

"The objective is always the same," he said. "Engage, advocate, educate and activate change. I often speak on choice and attitude – victim or survivor, which mentality do you choose? I include bits of my story and harrowing statistics that haunt foster youth."

One example, Freedom tells us, is that 41 percent of transgender or non-binary persons have attempted suicide.

"Sometimes I speak on PTSD and how foster youth experience it at two times the rate of returning veterans," he said.

He also addresses how childhood trauma wires the brain into survival mode. "I talk about what you can do about it, ways to rewire your brain," he added.

Photo by Josué Rivas.

Currently, Freedom is in the recording studio, working on an album which will be available in July. He's also working on a DVD and a coffee table book.

Still, he said music and speaking are only the first stages of his long-term goals, which include building "transitional housing," healing and educational centers throughout the nation for former foster youth and and the trans homeless youth population.

"Call me crazy or overly ambitious but I believe with the formula of knowledge, strategy, execution and self-work, anyone can achieve anything," he said.

We assume that these are the messages he will bring to Phoenix Pride's Bistro Stage at 4 p.m. April 2, but he left that a mystery.

"You'll have to be there to witness the magic," was all he'd say.

For more information on Shea Freedom, visit or listen to his music at

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Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.

Michael Feinstein

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Gilles Toucas

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I think it’s fair to say we all want that #fitlife, especially with Spring around the corner — as well as Gaypril on the way. Whether it’s pool season yet or not, everyone would choose to look fit over not looking fit, if they could have it with a snap of their fingers. OK, the vast majority of us would.

If you’ve met me, or have been reading my articles, you know that I live, sleep, eat and breathe fitness; it’s my heart and soul. That being said, I’m here to tell you that the concept of “fitness” is oftentimes tragically misunderstood.

Before you get too aggressive with your goal for pool season, let’s dive a bit deeper into what fitness means on the inside versus what it looks like on the outside, and common misconceptions around this concept.

1. Beware of the cultural pitfalls and misleading information around fitness.

Most of the bodies you see in the media are probably not real, they just look very convincing. As a trainer who also moonlights as a photographer and Photoshop wizard, I’m telling you that it is incredibly easy to alter pictures in materially misleading ways. Once you know the tricks of the trade, the imposters are easily spotted. But that’s not what this is about.

The point is: to the untrained eye, it can be devastatingly defeating to see such impossible standards. It seems as though the cultural pressure to look a certain way, to look perfect, has spread all the way from runway models to fitness novices with the help of smartphone apps.

The truth is that we fitness models look that cut, and that lean for only a couple days at a time. That’s it! In many cases, months or even close to a year of training, dieting and programming all go into looking like that for ONE day. Let that sink in for a second. Day to day, I am less cut, less tan and much flatter muscularly than what you see in some of my pictures. That’s just the nature of the beast. So, when you have a bad day on the scale, in the mirror or in any other scenario, remember that we’re all human and that the most legitimate photos you’re comparing yourself against were from someone’s very best day. That should help to keep things in perspective.

2. Most people want the results, without actually doing the work.

Fitness is not six pack abs, it’s not superficial, it is not temporary and it’s not an isolated phase in your life. Further, fitness is not something you do for someone else, do to spite someone else or even to impress someone else.

Fitness is confidence, toughness, dedication, coordination, power, balance, speed, strength (both literally and figuratively) and persistence in the face of all obstacles. This includes control over your attitude, your mood, your sleep, your schedule, your diet and other aspects of your life. This means getting that workout in when you least feel like it.

It’s not easy, and it’s definitely a grind that has good and bad days. You must show up and keep working on the days you’re tired, stressed, rushed, defeated, doubtful, afraid and so on. The days you actually have to overcome something instead of just checking your workout off your to-do list are the days you have the greatest opportunity to really make progress, push your body and see the most improvement.

3. Fitness is really an internal mindset. The external physique is the fringe benefit.

I’ve said this time and time again, and it might sound strange coming from such an aesthetic-focused trainer, but you are not your body. Your body is a tool, it’s a means to an end, to express your internal mindset, belief system, discipline and dedication to your workout program. Your physique will come and go. Your strength will come and go. Your abilities will wax and wane depending on what you’re training for at the time.

The outside will, and should, be always changing, but the inside is what we’re really after here. Good trainers want to train you to believe in yourself when sh*t gets hard. We want to train you to be resilient in the face of injury, obstacles and other setbacks. We want you to set ambitious goals and shoot for the moon because you can get there with smart programming and relentless will (do yourself a favor and ditch the crash diets and the photo editing software).

So, as you make your spring preparations for swimsuit season, try focusing on developing a sterling, unshakeable internal character and the muscles will come along the way, this I promise you.

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