With so much focus on music recently, it made me think of a musician called Laura Jane Grace, who is the singer/songwriter for Against Me! and the founding member. A few years ago, she came out as being transgender. I remember reading the article in Rolling Stone magazine and being drawn to it. Something had really caught my attention. By the end of the article, I could only think one thing: “oh fuck”. The article was inspiring. It was honest and insightful. So why that reaction? Quite simply, I could identify with a lot. Too much. Not gonna lie…everything. It was as if somebody had interviewed a hidden part of me. This was very unsettling. It scared me even more. The things that I’d tried so hard to deny and avoid where there in black and white, for all to see. I felt exposed, even though the article wasn’t even about me. I felt embarrassed for feeling this way. I felt ashamed for being me. It also made me think hard about my love of playing music and being in a band.
The music industry’s a male dominated place. A lot of industries still are. Whether people like it or not, males and females are perceived differently. However music is also very public. You can’t not put yourself out there in order to play music. Even more so when you’re in a well known band, with a huge following. There’s always the fear of letting down those who look up to you. When the world sees you as one person, but you suddenly say “hang on, wait, I’m not the person you first bought into…this is the real me” you’re doing more than turning your own life upside down. You affect the lives of all those around you too. Even more so when gender dysphoria (or gender identity disorder) is still a relatively unknown thing. Despite the recent increase in awareness, it’s still seen as freakish or unacceptable. Much like how homosexuality was previously treated. Yeh, sadly humans can be absolute twats to each other.
Without going into sexism and gender divide too much, something will always happen when you have 2 sides doing the same thing: comparison. This leads to divide or separation. One side needs to branch off and be able to have its own identity in order to stand out or be noticed. Take “female fronted bands” for example. Why do they feel the need to promote themselves as female fronted? On one hand you could say they need that label to validate themselves and set themselves apart from other bands out there. But there are lots of female fronted bands who also label themselves in the same way…so how are you going to separate yourself from them? Whether intentional or not, there’s also an element of marketing too. If you can call it that. “Our singer is female…so if you’re a guy you might like us because you think she’s hot…if you’re a girl, you might like us because you think she’s hot too or inspirational or somebody to look up to”. Yeh, that’s a generalisation which ultimately stems from the “sex sells” mentality. Put it another way: you don’t hear the label “male fronted band” do you?! Whether it’s a band made up of females but the singer is male, or just an all-male band. “Girl bands” or “boy bands” (which usually exist in pop music) are two other labels. But why the fuck does music need a gender-related label? Why can’t you just be a band and let people decide for themselves based on the music?? Just be a band, make damn good music that you can share. Simple. But no, for whatever reason, there is a divide. Whether music or any other industry, this divide is what ultimately prevents people like me from wanting to reveal ourselves to the world. After all, which side do we belong to? As much as we may decide for ourselves, the rest of society will beg to differ, choosing to place us into an entirely separate, third, category instead. This is also what creates hate and fear. Things which can cost the lives of those who just long to be themselves. It’s so fucking frustrating.
Could I play music again in public? Could the real me ever exist outside of my mind, let alone on a stage in front of a fuck tonne of people? Right now, I’m thinking no. My new life may just be waking up but my days of playing live are over.
Featured image: via Vogue Magazine