Sidney Yaphit finds his rhythm at Swissvale People’s Pride | Pittsburgh City Paper

Sidney Yaphit finds his rhythm at Swissvale People’s Pride

click to enlarge Sidney Yaphit finds his rhythm at Swissvale People’s Pride
Photo: Sidney Yaphit
Sidney Yaphit has always been a musician.

“I knew that before I knew that I was shorter than everybody else,” he tells Pittsburgh City Paper in a phone interview, “I knew that I wanted to dance and sing and that was always what lit me up.”

This weekend, he’ll light up the stage at Swissvale People’s Pride 2022 along with a roster of other talented artists, including Pittsburgh-based rapper and composer Manny Dibiachi, Pennsylvania-raised musician and multi-disciplinary artist Corinn Jasmin, and Pittsburgh-based DJ Regina Zehner.

SisTers PGH began organizing People’s Pride in 2017 to “uplift and celebrate Black and Brown trans and queer folks who have, for too long, been ignored and traumatized by the powers-that-be, both in the Pittsburgh region and on the national stage,” executive director Ciora Thomas says in a May 17 press release.

Yaphit, 24, who is also a visual artist, grew up in Homewood with his great aunt. These days, he says, “I’m trying to build my own platform to address the issues that are most important for queer artists and for BIPOC artists, which I fall right at the intersection of.”

"Making hip hop as an LGBT man in a straight presenting relationship can be hard, and I've had my fair share of being looked at funny, or even being looked at by people in my own community who think I'm not bi enough, or I'm not straight enough,” he says in a post on the SisTers Facebook page. “But I'm still here. And I'm standing on 10 toes. I hope to show others that they are their own validation, and can do anything they want and be anything they want."

One recent bright spot for him came from a plotline in Netflix’s new comedy series Heartstopper that unexpectedly gave Yaphit the bisexual representation he had always wanted.

“I've never seen myself play out on the screen so perfectly,” he says, describing a plot arc where a character musters the courage to Google “am I gay?” only to be overwhelmed by online hatred. The character retreats and later returns to Google to learn more about human sexuality, eventually gathering the words to accurately describe his experience. Yaphit says it took him back to a time before he knew bisexuality existed.

“It mirrored my entire experience,” Yaphit says, particularly “the small increments that you allot yourself to even be curious about yourself, I felt like were hugely important, because I had to put myself in solitude to even feel like I could even type in those words, let alone — it was the biggest thing in the world, even typing those words and pressing send, boldly.”

Yaphit is a proud new father of a baby named Rhythm. “In a lot of ways, she gave my fiancée and I our rhythm back,” he says.

Rhythm’s mom and Yaphit’s fiancée, Na’Chelle Simone, is also his musical collaborator. They met at the Homewood YMCA’s Lighthouse Project, an arts and media program for young people, and now perform together as Simone Yaphit. They will play at the Three Rivers Arts Festival this year.

Parenthood has been challenging. He says it’s tough “being musicians and balancing that individuality of being more than parents,” but he’s glad to have Simone as his partner. “I think we’re getting the hang of it.”

In this dangerous and tumultuous time for young queer people, he wants to offer encouragement. “You guys are doing it,” he says to young LGBTQ people in Pittsburgh. “We’re doing it.”

“I always say to my fiancée, what a time to be alive. For me to be able to love her and openly explore myself is really huge,” he says. “Maybe like, 20, 30 years ago, me explaining my relationship to somebody back then, would probably be like, ‘Oh, my goodness, this is what we live for. This is what we're living for,’ you know, so this is it. We're doing it. And I couldn't be prouder to be a part of this community at this time.”

Swissvale People’s Pride. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun., June 5. 1763 S. Braddock Ave. and 7301 Schoyer Ave., Swissvale. Free.

Sidney Yaphit.