Pansy EP Release

Today I’m releasing my EP “Pansy”

It’s a 32 minute tape of sad queer songs about trauma and love and gender and ugliness, written last spring when I was heartbroken and homeless.

Side A has guitar & synth songs with my melodramatic voice crooning about rape culture, gun violence, internalized transphobia, bullying, unrequited love, and feeling creepy, plus a different cover song on each tape. Side B is solo improvised cello; an exploration of the instrument’s capacity for ghastly textures and general ugliness.

The digital version is ✨free✨ / pay-whatever. There are 28 cassettes, and they are priced at one for £1, one for £2, and so on up to one for £28. I’m donating 15% of the sales money to Action For Trans Health as an act of solidarity because they do amazing direct action work to fund healthcare for trans people in the UK.


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Listen to or buy the digital version

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This project has been really important to me personally because music was weaponized against me by my abusive ex (fuck you, Charles Potashner, aka Shapeshifter promotions in London) and it’s the first time I’ve written music since then.


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See all the artwork or buy a cassette

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It’s also the first time I’ve made music all on my own, without any help, ever! I did every part of the project by myself: writing the lyrics and music, engineering and recording each cassette direct-to-tape in my bedroom 29 times (28 tapes + 1 for the digital version), painting the shells, hand-writing the liner notes, typing up the plant fact inserts, hand-drawing the plant artwork, and photographing the whole process; and, I’ll be hyping and selling and shipping them all out myself too. It’s been a lot of work and I’ve found it to be empowering, frustrating, cathartic, and long.

This is the first year I’ve played and performed since I left Charles; reclaiming music has been difficult and wonderful. I’m so so grateful to everyone who has encouraged me, asked me to play with them, allowed me to play with them, come to our shows, recorded with me, and especially my housemates who tolerated my repetitive live bedroom performances as I recorded these tapes.

DIY or die

Tradescantia zebrina release

Last night Kevin Sanders and I released our cellotronik collaboration, Tradescantia zebrina.

It’s cinematic and atmospheric and eerie, like the soundtrack to a movie I want to watch but wouldn’t want to be a character in.

It’s available in digital and CD format. The CDs are hand-stamped and come with gorgeous art by Siobhán Britton. The digital version is free / pay-what-you-can, and 100% of the sales will be split between the following amazing, underfunded direct action projects: Action for Trans Health, Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth (HASL), Movement For Justice, and Not Your Fault.

DIY or die

EDIT: We will not be giving any money to Movement For Justice, because recently a former member has spoken out about the structure of MFJ as a front organization for Revolutionary Internationalist League, run by white English men (not migrant-led) and rife with psychological and emotional abuse, which (within the organization and in general) disproportionately falls on women and migrants with precarious immigration status. MFJ has materially helped some asylum seekers and refugees, but we believe survivors when they say that the organization is abusive and that the material aid is tokenistic and only offered when it’s politically advantageous. We won’t be donating any money to MFJ because we believe and stand with survivors of abuse. You can read what they have to say here: unfollowmfj.wordpress.com

Angry Plant // Plant Dad

Content note: abuse

Last week, myself and another (anonymous) survivor of abuse teamed up and disrupted an abuser’s upcoming gigs by messaging all of the bands who were going to play the shows he was promoting under the name Shapeshifter. Unexpectedly, enough of the bands responded positively to us and refused to play the abuser’s shows; so they were cancelled! I was surprised but very happy, and we wanted to make sure the bands weren’t punished by losing a gig, so we decided to put on our own gig in celebration/vengeance. We became promoters, calling ourselves Angry Plant.

Born out of anger.

Angry Plant is a tiny collective of outspoken survivors, fed up with the silence and acceptance of abuse in the music scene.

Support survivors; support bands who support survivors.

We organized a gig at the Beehive in Bow with one of the bands from the abuser’s gig (Artefact), and another great band (Witching Waves), and myself playing as Plant Dad. It was my first time promoting a show in London, and my first time playing a solo cello set, and it went well! People liked my noisy cello and we made enough money to pay the bands which is always a victory. We also had lots of support and solidarity from friends and many bands in the scene. There was minimal bullshit, from people resistant to the idea that they know an abuser.

Predictably, the abuser is threatening to sue us for “defamation” which is hilariously unlikely to work in his favor. He’s also trying to work with other abusers to delegitimize survivors’ claims against him. Advice to all abusers (including you, Charles Potashner): if you want people to stop publicly denouncing you as an abuser, try not abusing people; if you have already abused people, try apologizing and offering to do whatever the survivors ask to restore their agency and be accountable. It’s actually really boring to constantly talk about abuse but since the music scene is still full of abusers, here we are, and we’re not shutting up about it any time soon.

 

[Image description: a grainy photograph of myself, wearing a pink cap and a gray scarf, playing the cello on a stage next to a drum kit, under green lighting. Photo by Christopher Gill.]

“Pansy” EP Pre-Release to benefit the Transgender Law Center, and Action For Trans Health

Today, bandcamp is donating all of their profits to the Transgender Law Center in the US. To maximize the impact, I’m doing a 24 hour release of an A Side / B Side single from my new EP “Pansy” for £1.

15% of the money raised will go straight to the TLC (that’s bandcamp’s usual cut), and on top of that I’ll be donating 15% of my share to Action for Trans Health in the UK. It will only be available for 24 hours, from 8:00am Friday August 4 to 8:00 Saturday August 5, during bandcamp’s campaign. After that if you want to hear it, you’ll have to wait until I release the whole EP at the end of the summer.

The A Side is “But Why”, a song about weird romantic cultural norms. The B Side is a cover of “I Am Hated For Loving” by my fav trash lord, Morrissey, re-imagined as a trans love song to self. “But Why” will be on the full EP, but the cover won’t be so if you want trans mozzer, this is your only chance.

It’s only £1!

Support trans artists & trans activism!

When I release the full EP, the digital version will be free / pay-what-you-can, and I’ll continue donating 15% of my earnings from both the digital and physical versions to A4TH.

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UPDATE: Thank you so much to everyone who bought or shared my pre-relase single yesterday.

Bandcamp’s profits were about $100,000 (!!!) which will all go to the Transgender Law Center. My sales are just a drop in the bucket but I’m really proud that my music contributed to this massive fundraiser. On average you spent almost 4 times as much as my suggested price: bandcamp’s share came to £10.13 which will go to the TLC, and I’m giving the same (well, £11, rounding up) to Action For Trans Health. Lots of the support came from other trans artists which warms my cynical heart tbh.

I’m overjoyed that my music can materially support activist groups. When I release the full EP at the end of the summer, the digital version will be pay-what-you-can / free, and I’ll keep donating 15% to A4TH.

New publications and update

[Image description: large dark green leaves against a millennial pink background]


STRIKE! Magazine

STRIKE! has just published my essay “Fuck Passing: Class, Respectability, and Trans Healthcare” in their Summer 2017 issue! I’m in brilliant company and could not recommend it highly enough. There will be a launch party in London soon, hold tight.


Queer Privacy

I’ve written an essay about information security and privacy in Queer Privacy, a collection of essays by other queer people on privacy and community, family, coming out, activism, domestic violence, and suicide. It’s edited by Sarah Jamie Lewis, who was an absolute dream to work with, and I’m very pleased to say that she was able to pay me a proper fee for my writing. You can support more work like it by buying the book as an ebook or paperback. The whole book is under a creative commons license; if you’d like to read it but can’t afford to buy it, send me an email and I’ll send you a PDF.


Book: Queer Trouble

This spring I signed a book deal(!!!!) with Jessica Kingsley Publishers, who recently put out the kids’ book Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? My book is provisionally titled Queer Trouble, and aims to explore the intrinsic relationship between gender and sexuality, discuss and contextualize queer words, and destabilize pervasive “normal” words and concepts like “gender”, “sex”, and “man”. It’s my main project right now and should be published in spring of 2018.

vlog: Queer crushes with Nicole Henriksen

Late last night my good friend comedian/performer Nicole Henriksen and I made a vlog about queer crushes and love under capitalism. My camera died at the end because I’m just an amateur filmmaker but the conclusion is:

There are lots of kinds of love! Love is good! Tell the people who you love and appreciate that you love and appreciate them! Expressing love in bleak political conditions is a small, revitalizing radical act for you and your love.

Throwing out the trash people

[Image description: an art exhibition by HA Schult titled “Trash People”, of humanoid figures made from garbage. There are rows of them in Adventdalen, an empty snowy landscape in Norway.]

CN: passing mentions of rape and abuse

I don’t have time or energy to be empathetic to trash people anymore.

Who are the trash people? They’re cops, rapists and their apologists, racists, the royal family, the rich, the LGBTories, landlords, manarchists, violent men, soldiers, medical gatekeepers, art bros, abusive parents.

Yes, everyone is victim to structural oppression; men are punished by patriarchy too; abusers are encouraged to abuse and are the product of a shit world. But I don’t care anymore. Saying we’re all victims of, e.g. capitalism, with no further analysis, erases the massive difference in scale of harm. It’s too much emotional labor to keep excusing and explaining their unacceptable behavior. The trash people don’t give me or my friends the courtesy of empathy (if they did they wouldn’t be trash people) and I’m tired of doing it for them.

Yes, we’re all capable of causing harm and we all reproduce conditions of systemic oppression, especially of our privileges. But the distinction between good people and trash people is that the good ones actively try to reduce harm (whether they use that vocabulary to describe it or not). The good people have learned how to listen and do emotional labor. The good people will apologize when they fuck up; the trash people will derail the conversation and gas light you into apologizing for upsetting them with how upset you were when you were hurt by them.

This isn’t an ode to call-out culture. We all fuck up but the good people know when to call-in instead of shaming, and know how to apologize when they’re called in or called out. The good people do the continual work of educating themselves and interrogating their power, especially in their personal relationships and daily communications. The trash people don’t listen or apologize; or they use the rhetoric of call-out culture to dogpile people who make missteps in language. Trash people say “#solidarity” but never show up when you need them.

I’m using the language of theory, but I’m talking about praxis. I’m talking about material experiences and actual, not hypothetical interactions. I will be friends with the kind straight middle class white boy who disagrees with me on how to execute “the revolution”*, but I won’t go near the inconsiderate “feminist” anarchist who talks over people. I’ll take the time to explain trans stuff to my older family members, but I’m not going to let someone who self-deprecates with “I’m a terrible person,” get away with being a terrible person.

* actually, typing this out made me tired, this imaginary boy sounds trying

Sure, this is totally reductive. No one is simply “good” or “trash”. But I need to be reductive in order to focus my energy on myself and the good people in my life. Engaging with the nuance that my rapist is a self-loathing closeted trans femme, or that the cops who beat my friends are slowly molded into monsters by toxic masculinity, requires too much effort and invalidates the pain that they cause.

I’m done prioritizing the trash people over myself. Empathy dissolves anger but anger is empowering. I can’t love the trash people into being compassionate, but I can socially punish them by condemning their behavior or smashing their windows.

Lots of people tell me that they think it’s important to call in the worst offenders and nurture them into decent human beings, but I’m not interested. I’ve been the trash person who said really awful things, and I’ve learned both through the being yelled at like I deserved and a genuine desire to be a good person. Despite the title of this post, I don’t think people are disposable. I’m glad that some of you have the energy, the patience, the grace to gently “educate” the trash people; that’s important work. But it’s not more important than my survival or the survival of my friends. Mutual aid is where I’m putting my energy. We spend so much energy as it is just surviving and circumventing the bullshit obstacles set up and enforced by the trash people; I’d rather work toward helping other people navigate and dismantle these systems than coddling the bigots who keep our world unlivable. I’d rather spend an hour cooking for and listening to my friend than doing mental gymnastics trying to empathize with the men street harassed us on the way home.

Besides, as some of y’all are so fond of saying, “feminism helps men too” (as if the personhood of women and femmes and not-men isn’t enough; no, we must center men for them to care), and so my survival will indirectly help the trash people too. They’ll probably profit off my ideas and aesthetic.

Public Transit While Trans

 

[Image description: Selfie against white wall. Main features: white skin, short brown hair, a white shirt, a black & white tie, round glasses, thick eyebrows, and red lipstick drawn off-center of subject’s lips]

 

CN: Street harassment, transphobia, misogyny

 

This is what I wore to the Proms on Saturday night: a normative shirt, slacks, and tie, with a pair of lips drawn on my cheek. I nearly wore a short black business skirt and heels instead, but decided against it at the last minute despite the hot weather.

On the way there, on the tube, a child pointed at me and yelled “Look!”. The parent “shh”d and didn’t say anything else. I smiled and said, “It’s ok”. The parent looked away and the child stared.

The child wasn’t threatening and they were probably more curious and excited than anything else, but the parent’s reaction had strong implications.
“Shh, we don’t point because it’s impolite.”
“Shh, we don’t talk about when people are different, we just ignore them.”
“Shh, if you draw attention to this they might have the nerve to talk to us and how awkward would that be?”
“Shh, yes I know men in makeup are freaks but it’s rude to point it out.”

Being a public object based on my gender presentation has been such a common, mundane experience for most of my life that I forgot all about this until I read Darkmatter‘s recent post about a similar exchange with a child and parent on public transit.

After a few years of obsessing over how the public read my gender, I’ve gotten very good at knowing how I’m being gendered and emitting gender cues so as to be gendered how I want. I know how to be read as a harmless girl who needs help, a hard woman who might cut you if you mess with her, a boring (i.e. straight) middle-class white guy, a flamboyant (i.e. gay) middle-class white guy, a scruffy queer, or a Is That A Boy Or A Girl androgynous mess. I know how to make a shopkeeper dance between “sir” and “ma’am”, “darling” and “mate”. Gender is so flimsy, I can collapse it with a step, a facial expression, a gesticulation, a vocal inflection, or the application of lipstick. You could tell me I’m wrong, but you’ve never seen the way people make space for “men” in public or the way they stare at “women”.

street-harassment-graph[Image description: a crudely-drawn graph of my experience with street harassment depending on my gender presentation. I had lots of violence as a femme “girl”, none as a “man”, and expect lots more as a “man in a dress”]

My experiences with street harassment as a “woman” were extremely common: constant aggressive “compliments” and invasions of space, occasional groping by strangers or being chased by lads for bantz, a couple of times being stalked and attacked. Once a man helped me carry some groceries for a block and did the “Don’t I get a hug?” line, and when I politely said no he grabbed me and held me against him while he pushed his face against mine. I yelled and beat him off me, and he followed me into my apartment building. That was a single experience which punctuates my long, dull history of street harassment from strangers; and that’s not saying anything of sexual and gendered violence I’ve gotten from people I know.

After nearly a decade of “womanhood” I changed my gender expression from hegemonically feminine to an attempt at hegemonically masculine, which took some six months to perfect. I kept it that way for six more months. That year of performing white masculinity gave me reprieve from the public gaze like a spell of invisibility, only broken when I dared to hold hands with a partner who was also read as a man. But hegemonic white masculinity—bland suits, blending in—felt wrong. It was an uncomfortable gender expression for me to perform and I’ve since moved to gentle-femme boy. The street harassment has resumed, a grotesque reflection of my once-again overt femininity. Will it be enough to dampen my femme expression, especially as my body continues to “masculinize”?

When will our comfort in public stop being conditional?

“The End Of The Rainbow” BFI short film

[Image description: A white trans masc boy with dark hair wearing a blue shirt with rolled-up sleeves, an orange tie, and orange lipstick holds a blue marker and draws something (unseen) on a large white sheet of paper]

Last month I was interviewed by some young filmmakers in the BFI Film Academy Documentary Residential program, and the result is pretty excellent.

The other interviewees, Jamie and Addison, are lovely and articulate. It’s hard not to notice that we all sport a similar look, but not all non-binary people look like me and Addison—the three of us operate in the same, very tight, community of trans/queerness in London, so we have a similar aesthetic. Not all non-binary people are afab, and white, and masculine, and wear button-up shirts.

Addison gave my favorite quote:

I don’t normally tell cis people that I’m a non-binary trans man because they go, ‘What does that mean’, so I tend to just stick to ‘trans man’ or ‘non-binary’ so I don’t blow their tiny minds.

Excepting qualms with dodgy terminology in the intro (“born with a male body”; “biologically female but lives as a man”) I think they did a fantastic job; it’s very encouraging to see young people creating art, and taking an interest in gender and amplifying non-binary narratives.

Accidental Modeling

[Image description: Half-body shot of white masc with dark eyes and dark hair and fringe wearing a black suit, blue shirt with white buttons on the collar, black and white zig-zag tie with silver tie clip, pink triangle lapel pin, black sparkly pocket square, and blue lipstick faces camera with slight smile; solid pale green/blue background]

This winter I was approached by a design studio and photographer to model for them, which was a pleasant surprise as I’m not a model.

Morgan
Image description: Wide full body shot of the same model, hands and pale blue nail polish now visible, standing on a transparent box against same solid pale background; hair slightly more askew
Morgan close
Image description: Larger version of the first image of the model

“You’re so David Lynch” they said. “You look like a boy wearing lipstick!”; edgy, on trend.

“I am a boy wearing lipstick,” I had to remind them.

 

“Bisexual Banter” Episode 2: Identity

[Image description: Black television (turned off) embedded into a wall which is painted purple on the top and red on the bottom, divided by a horizontal white line]

Catch me on youtube talking about bisexuality and identity labels:

I still identify as “bisexual”; it’s a good word sometimes. It’s more helpful than “queer”. Often “queer” is deliberately unhelpful, which is part of why I like it.

It’s taken a lot of self-reflection and active listening, but I’ve finally learned to accept straight and gay people for who they are.

Episode 1: Non-Monogamy

Episode 3: Trans/Bi

 

“Bisexual Banter” Episode 1: Non-Monogamy

[Image description: Uncurved rainbow against blue sky connects horizon of blue river with greenery at the bottom and the same river flipped upside down at the top]

Bisexual Banter is a web TV series by Verity Ritchie about bisexuals which aims to increase bi visibility and contribute to diverse and positive representation of people who identify as bisexual (and pansexual, and queer).

Despite public fascination and fetishization of bisexuality, bisexuals are a generally overlooked minority. Even within LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) circles, bisexuals are marginalized and mocked, while gay representation becomes more and more common and positive.

But who are the real faces of the bi community? Transgender, polyamorous (non-monogamous), activists, asexuals, intersex, people of colour, doctors, sex workers, and many others make up a diverse community, eager for their voices to be heard.

One film couldn’t possibly cover the diverse array of bisexual experiences. Only an ongoing series could hope to capture the myriad rites of passage lived by bisexuals.

The programme will aim to educate people on bisexuality, relying heavily on the voices and personal experiences of real bisexuals. We will promote the visibility of bisexuals while breaking down common misconceptions. (from Bisexual Banter)

The series uses a documentary format; each episode is about 10 minutes long. The first episode is on non-monogamy and the myth of bisexual promiscuity. My interview was late last summer in swampy August, so my lqqk is “sweaty floral butch”.

S/o to all of my very good-looking partners.

Episode 2: Identity

Episode 3: Trans/Bi