Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Transgender-themed artists, bands, music, songs & anthems

Last week, I encountered quite a number of posts & tweets in which people shared their favorite transgender music artists and trans-themed songs. I later discovered that these posts were initially inspired by an article in Bustle that featured videos of trans anthems by trans artists (e.g., Laura Jane Grace, Namoli Brennet, and Mina Caputo) in response a recent trans-themed song by Kate Pierson. Subsequently, The Advocate published a post called 37 Alternative 'Trans Anthems' by Trans Musicians featuring additional trans-themed songs/music videos by trans artists - definitely check all those wonderful songs out!

Since I have recently returned to making music, and since many people who know me primarily as a trans author & activist are not aware that I started out as a musician/songwriter, I figured that I would take this opportunity to compile some of my own trans-themed anthems to share with the world. So here we go:

My current music project is a solo lo-fi indie-pop endeavor called *soft vowel sounds*. I recently released my first record, and it contains two trans-themed anthems:

The title track Ray is my take on/parody of The Kinks' song "Lola." The video is admittedly not especially video-ish, as I wanted to highlight the lyrics of the song:

The record also includes the song Open Letter, which I wrote shortly after I came out to my family as trans back in 2002. My previous band Bitesize used to regularly perform the song, although we never formally recorded it.

During 1997-2009, I was the guitarist, vocalist, and primary songwriter for the noise-pop indie-rock band Bitesize. We had a number of trans-themed songs & anthems - here are the ones that we recorded:

Understudy is my very favorite Bitesize song. It is about a transgender teenage thespian who gets to play the role of Ophelia in a Catholic boys school production of Hamlet.

Switch Hitter is an embellished story about how I first decided to change my sex at my little league’s all-star game.

Surprise Ending is about a trans woman who accidentally runs into the bully who picked on her as a child.

In the Know is a heavily-veiled recollection of the first time that I presented as female in public (way back in 1989). I discuss the story behind the song more here.

Finally, one of the first songs that I wrote for Bitesize was I Forgot My Mantra, a coy and flippant anthem that is mostly about me being a crossdresser (how I identified at the time). The chorus is the single line: "I'm a hermaphrodite, but that's beside the point." (For the record, I was not trying to claim an intersex identity with that line - I’m not sure I even knew what intersex was back then. I was just trying to express that I saw myself as harboring some combination of maleness/masculinity and femaleness/femininity within me.)

Anyway, happy listening! And if you like what you hear, you can sign up for my *soft vowel sounds* email list to stay posted about my future music and shows. . .

[note: If you appreciate my writing & music and want to see more of it, please check out my Patreon page]

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Julia Serano's compendium on cisgender, cissexual, cissexism, cisgenderism, cis privilege, and the cis/trans distinction

When my first book Whipping Girl was published in 2007, it was (to the best of my knowledge) the first print publication to include the terms cisgender, cissexual, cissexism, and cisgenderism.* I did not invent these terms - they had been coined and used by trans activists before me, albeit rarely and sporadically. And in the years since, as these terms have increasingly caught on, I find that people sometimes use them in rather different, or even outright disparate, ways.

So for those interested in the history and evolution of cis terminology, I have subsequently written three (freely available!) blog posts that explain various aspects of, and differing perspectives on, these terms. They are as follows:

1) Whipping Girl FAQ on cissexual, cisgender, and cis privilege (2009)

This article discusses:

  • the origins of cis terminology
  • the reasoning behind why many trans activists use these terms
  • my responses to common critiques of cis terminology
  • a discussion of how the concept of "cis privilege" is sometimes misused

2) Cissexism and Cis Privilege Revisited - Part 1: Who Exactly Does “Cis” Refer To? (2014)

This article discusses:

  • the specific way in which I used the terms cis, cisgender, cissexual, cissexism, and cisgenderism in Whipping Girl
  • a discussion of how these same terms are often used in a rather different manner today
  • how ambiguity regarding the terms "cis" and "cisgender" often erases the experiences of non-transsexual transgender-spectrum people
  • my proposal of an alternative (albeit not mutually-exclusive) "three-tiered" model for considering gender-non-conformity and social legitimacy - one that may better account for the gender-based marginalization experienced by those who fall under the cisgender umbrella and/or who do not fit neatly into the cis/trans distinction.

3) Cissexism and Cis Privilege Revisited - Part 2: Reconciling Disparate Uses of the Cis/Trans Distinction (2014)

Marginalized populations often have different perspectives on, and take different approaches toward, articulating the obstacles they face. Two especially common activist approaches are “decentering the binary” and “reverse discourse” strategies. In this essay, I discuss the logic behind these differing approaches to activism, and explain why they tend to result in very different understandings of cissexism and the cis/trans distinction. In fact, some of the most common complaints about cis terminology are actually critiques of "reverse discourse" approaches to activism. Rather than outright championing one approach over the other, I encourage activists to familiarize themselves with the pros and cons of each strategy in order to use them in the most judicious and effective way possible.