Shining a light on the joys and heartaches that lie at the intersection of the LGBTQIA community and the world of alternative music…
It’s the first New Noise of 2019, and the birth of a new year is an occasion traditionally marked by big-picture reflection. Allow me to reflect.
In the summer of 2015, I was brainstorming ideas for a column. I was also struggling to feel valid as a non-binary transmasculine cockroach alien in a flesh suit. I had been volunteering at SMYRC, a queer and trans youth resource center in Portland, for almost a year, and though I loved the people I worked with and the work itself, I still mostly felt like an interloper. The rational part of my brain knew that a medicalized binary identity wasn’t required to be trans, that being in a partnership often undermined for its perceived heteronormativity didn’t cancel out my queerness, and that being too anxious to correct people when they misgendered me didn’t make me a worthless coward—and that once all the humans were dead, I could let my antennae down and reign over the irradiated wasteland of the future as the Outer Gods intended.
The less rational part of my brain was in a constant tailspin.
I lost quite a bit of sleep scouring the internet for insight on issues like passing privilege, invisibilization, healthy masculinity, restorative justice, and being a responsible member of a community that I didn’t neatly fit into. Fortunately, many queer and trans people report finding unprecedented support, validation, and siblinghood among the plurality of voices that exist online, but if there were supportive voices to be found during my search, I couldn’t hear them over the guttural death rattle of nuance and the pained screeching of weaponized trauma. Tasked with sifting through innumerable conflicting dogmas all demanding purity, I did the only sensible thing and tumblred backward into a framework that ContraPoints’ Natalie Wynn calls “masochistic epistemology: whatever hurts is true.”
My exoskeletal worldview is pretty sturdy, but the human skin on top of it is comparably thin, and the onslaught of dehumanizing, bad-faith yelling—despite the presence of other, more empathetic takes—broke my baby-tran brain. I’d lay awake, compulsively engaging with conflicting critiques, tearing myself apart trying to singlehandedly resolve the problematics of human subjectivity. What’s more, I felt ill at the prospect of inflicting this kind of well-intentioned harm on anyone else. So, I resolved to stay mostly silent, to lurk and try to learn, and to act as a conduit for those who were resilient enough to face the firing squad.
In September of 2015, we published the first installment of Fear Of A Queer Planet in Issue 20. The supremely talented musician and comedian L Henderson was instrumental in helping me synthesize my rat’s nest of thoughts and feelings about queer community and representation into a tangible space where the whole alphabet soup could challenge bullshit narratives and speak their truth—in precisely the way I wouldn’t. They were also the first person to do exactly that, discussing their own status as a person who exists between worlds, who rarely fits comfortably into any culture or subculture’s proscribed boxes. Thus, L Henderson became the patron saint of Fear Of A Queer Planet.
A year later, my friend and coworker Sean Gonzalez—whose column, Scene Not Heard, abuts mine in print—asked to “turn the tables” by featuring me in my own column. It seemed hypocritical to ask others to stand up and testify if I refused to do the same, but my responses were painfully politic and circumspect, because I was still paralyzed by self-doubt and terrified of being cannibalized.
I suppose this is something of a do-over.
You see, for the last three-plus years, I’ve gotten to boost the signals of an array of queer, trans, and non-binary folks working in DIY music. They bared their souls about serious shit, got hella weird, and spoke truth to power in equal measure. They explored the contours of their contradictions and sent up flares of hope for those who feel lost or alone. Some even undertook the labor of encouraging my efforts or pushing back against my bullshit when they saw room for improvement. I’m so grateful to each and every one of them for participating in this little experiment.
But I still feel like shit. I’m still perseverating instead of sleeping, I still feel personally disconnected from even the notion of the queer community, and I’m still afraid to admit it. I hope some good has been accomplished with this column, but for me, it’s become an albatross, a monument to character defects I’m finally working to overcome, and, occasionally, an outlet for the kind of discourse that spun me down this path in the first place. Suppressing my personhood to “serve the community” is not serving anyone, and I need to reassess. So, after this issue, Fear Of A Queer Planet is on indefinite hiatus.
If there’s one thing social justice and activist circles do seem to agree on, it’s that taking a step back from the work to address your burnout is part of the work itself. You need to put on your own oxygen mask before you help the people next to you, because if you die, you’re no good to anyone. Regardless, I feel more than a little guilty ending this now, when each new day brings some fresh gay hell. Every pinprick of light has value when the darkness is working overtime to swallow us whole, so I am ridiculously thankful to all of you for reading, participating in, and—god, I hope—enjoying this column. Unfortunately, it’s time for me to scuttle out from under the fridge and learn to endure the unflattering fluorescent light of being an actual person.
If I don’t get crushed under someone’s bootheel, I hope to see you all back here in the future.