Shining a light on the joys and heartaches that lie at the intersection of the LGBTQIA community and the world of alternative music…

I don’t care
What my teachers say
I’m gonna be a supermodel
And everyone is gonna dress like me
Wait and see…

–Jill Sobule

Los Angeles agitprop punks dimber—pronounced like the switch—understand that confidence is not something that can be flipped on like a light. Instead, it’s a muscle one strengthens by swimming against the current of dominant culture. Drawing on garagey punk, ’90s alternative, and the “Clueless” soundtrack, the band’s most recent 7”, “Take Me Out” b/w “Sons and Daughters”—released May 11 via Chain Letter Collective—furthers their goal of reminding listeners to carve out their own pathways and never skip psychological leg day. Led by tour de force frontwoman CJ Miller—who also teaches L.A. locals to reclaim their sense of movement at Pony Sweat Aerobics, alongside her sister Emilia Richeson—dimber seek to gradually illuminate the cracks in the world and encourage everyone to get loud, stand tall, and feel beautiful doing it.

Photo by Lydia Deetz

On Moving

Our bodies and our movements are manipulated by the material and cultural environments we inhabit. Systems of control and the cultivation of ideologies are intertwined with our physical mobility and corporeal space. They are components of constructing social hierarchies and the methods with which we are subjugated by the ruling class. 

Pathways of the city—urban construction—shove us into corridors and lanes to improve the flow of mass populations, but they restrict us, regardless of how they benefit the populace as a whole. There is detrimental carryover. Training our movements, to the point they become nearly subconscious, we cease to question our surroundings and move through environments as automatons. In movement, when you are denied access because you belong to a marginalized group, your existence is negated. It reinforces the notion you have less to no value in society and have no voice.

If you have the privilege of a home or place of residence, take a moment to visualize how you physically access and exit your home. Or if you have a place of employment, think about the path of your commute. Think about how that daily process would be affected if you could no longer use your legs or required the use of a wheelchair. Think about every fractured slab of sidewalk that denies your movement. Every car and curb and stairway that rejects you and speaks to you—“You have no worth. You do not matter here.”

On Dressing

These notions can be applied to our clothing as well. Clothes can be a powerful tool, beacons representative of our passions and beliefs, allowing for unspoken connections with like minds and connecting hearts across communities. They also help to cultivate confidence and self-love. Clothing can also be a vicious enemy that validates those fears we have—that we exist in a world that has deemed us worthless and invisible. Clothing restricts movement and our posture in damaging ways, dictating “gendered movements” and shaping our form with their construction, where they bind and where they compress.

As a trans girl on the tall side of the spectrum, I’ve thought often of the space I take up, my access, and how I move in the world. Firstly, there are no fucking cute shoes in my size! I’m being a melodramatic, hyperbolic brat for effect here, but the reality is close. I saw this pair of all-pink Vans high tops recently, absolutely fell in love with them—but do they exist in my size? Of course not. Girls with feet as big as mine don’t matter to these companies. This same facet is true for womxn with larger bodies. There is a lack of access to clothing that is flattering and fits our bodies. Don’t even get me started on swimsuits and lower coverage for genitalia for cis [and] trans female and non-binary persons. These things are unavailable to us, because we do not matter to the world that constructs them.

Being one girl against an entire flux of these messages makes it very difficult to not internalize it as truth. It requires daily practice, training our brains to fight against those ideas and know that you have value and beauty beyond the confines of accepted social standards. These standards are an arbitrary ideal and a lie passed off as fact, shaped in heinous ideologies: homophobia, transphobia, ageism, ableism, racism, and sexism.

On Moving On

As a much younger girl—prior to my coming out as trans—in my daily behavior and movement, I was forced to conform to standards of gendered movement and the way I took up space, forced to act in a traditionally masculine fashion or as best I could, lest I be chastised and harassed for acting like a girl. To “act as a girl” being an insult, because for a DMAB individual to act or move as a girl is lowering them to a lesser tier on the hierarchy. Not only does this restrictively and nonsensically gender certain arbitrary elements, like how we run or speak, it conveys the idea that female individuals have less cultural value—which in most societies, we do—that boys are better than girls. When I allowed a fear state to press me into submission and I was trying to pass as a cis-male teen, I would affect my movements, posture, and behavior against the things that came naturally. I am still, to this day, trying to deprogram myself of these imposed behaviors.

In recent years, I’ve developed more awareness of my female body, further confidence in inhabiting space, and its implications on gender norms. To be large is to be outside the feminine ideal. The ideal female is small, petite. Being tall or fat or strong, you exist outside the ideal. In an attempt to fit the traditional female standard, I would, at times in my life, shrink down for fear of being misgendered because of my height. Though I am aware of how arbitrary and oppressive these ideals of what a female should be are, there are additional complexities in my desire to fit into that damaging female beauty standard and pass as a cisgender female. The easiest thing for me to convey is: to feel perpetually outside, rejected, and despised every day of my life is too much for my heart and mind to bear.

So, I would hide my hands and still do sometimes. I was afraid of wearing high heels. I would do so many things to reduce myself in the public eye. To be more of that tiny, soft, and perfect girl. But womxn are all fucking sizes. My friend Elliot counseled me over this and told me, “Girl, let them look up to you!” Their words stuck with me. Big womxn are gorgeous. Our society would tell you different. Theirs is a lie to preserve existing power structures. I reject these systems of oppression. All bodies are beautiful.

On Charging Ahead

I have found spaces to practice moving how I want, training to get to my truest self, practicing to take that confidence into a world that attempts to restrict me at every opportunity. I work on it in the dance class I teach with my sister. In our days when I was first her student, she taught me and encouraged me to extend my limbs, seeing the beauty in my lengthy form and my movements. She knows how much it scared me to show how tall I was. She knows the fear I lived with and why it was difficult for me to do something as simple as reach out—to take up my given space. I can’t thank her enough for this gift of feeling more OK to be myself. Culturally, I had been conditioned to believe that space was the province of men. “Manspreading” derived from this exact concept. Men as the dominant, “superior” gender as dictated by our hierarchy are allowed to take up as much space as they desire. Womxn are to be small, legs crossed, closed off. We are to be hidden. Invisible. I will fight those ideas with invigorated confidence and determination.

We will not hide for you. We will not make ourselves smaller. We will be tall. We will be large. We will be loud. We will not be invisible. We will not diminish.

Keep up with CJ Miller and dimber on their official site, Bandcamp, Instagram, and Facebook, and work up your own confident glow at Pony Sweat Aerobics!

Photo by Victoria Zengo

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