Farmville Pride: Let’s consider trans voices in music

Published 5:32 am Friday, March 29, 2024

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The International Transgender Day of Visibility is observed on March 31st, and this article intends to celebrate that by expressing gratitude for the increasing trans and nonbinary representation in music.

Growing up as a closeted queer kid in rural Virginia, there was never a singular moment of realization that I was transgender. It was more of a collection of smaller moments throughout my childhood that left a lot of questions unanswered; a subtle rainfall that evolved into an unambiguous hailstorm with time. However, there are a few times I can remember when thunder struck. One of the first, for instance, was an electro-pop song by Scottish artist SOPHIE.

I first discovered SOPHIE by accident. I was younger than 13 when one of her first singles, “BIPP”, released. I was on a music-sharing forum, looking for anything other than the 80s hair metal played incessantly at my parent’s house. I was looking to rebel musically, but hair metal’s thrashing, high-energy sounds had steeped into my tastes by that point, and the furthest I could stray was electronic dance music. Looking through a ‘new releases’ playlist lead me to “BIPP”. SOPHIE did not come out as trans to the public until 2017, but by that point her fanbase was already filled with trans and nonbinary people around my age. SOPHIE’s music introduced me and many others to the trans community.

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The variety of trans stories being told in modern music is expanding by the year. I had been in the community for nearly a decade and out as trans for years before hearing the Ethel Cain album “Preacher’s Daughter”, a Southern Gothic-inspired concept album by and about a trans woman who leaves the church and then her home. The album contains a wide swath of musical inspiration I consider nostalgic, from country to doom metal. Despite listening to a range of music both loved by and made by trans and nonbinary folks, nothing had been as relatable and beautiful to me as “Preacher’s Daughter” and the rest of Cain’s discography.

The two artists cited above are just examples that are meaningful to my identity and trans journey. There are dozens of other artists that deserve praise for making stories about gender- Janelle Monáe has been making music about her genderqueer identity for over a decade, and that music has put a spotlight on nonbinary identities, empowering genderqueer people to come out, make art, or otherwise feel more proud of their gender journey. Janelle Monáe has made music in practically every genre, ranging from gospel to electro-pop, and her deconstructive perspective rings through her art and her self-expression. Dorian Electra’s experimental pop discography is art almost exclusively devoted to the LGBTQ+ experience, and their fans are largely gender non-conforming, in no small part due to the community they’ve created.

From punk’s The Oozes to hyperpop’s 100 gecs, there’s proof that there is space for trans and nonbinary people in popular art. I’m so grateful for every piece of art sharing trans stories and celebrating trans joy. And to the trans girl who just picked up a bass guitar, yes, you should start a band.

June Bollinger is a Farmville resident and a Longwood undergraduate, as well as a member of Farmville Pride. She has written music reviews for Longwood’s The Rotunda and is a transsexual rights advocate.