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Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a Brutal and Relatable Look at a Hard Subject

Art by Steak Mtn. [wikipedia.org]

Art by Steak Mtn. [wikipedia.org]

There are just some things in life not everyone is going to understand completely. You can study the subject all day, but there are things about that subject that you won’t understand unless you’re going through it yourself. The best you can do in those situations though is have empathy for those who experience it.

In this case, it’s being trans.

I’m not trans. Being a cis bisexual white girl from North Georgia, I didn’t meet someone who identified as and was out as trans until I got to college. Since then, it’s been a lot of re-education about the subject. I know I will never understand the subject completely, but I’ve tried my best to have empathy and understand when I screw up.

This is a bit of a weird way to lead into a review of a punk album, but trust me, it’s very related.

I’ve talked about Against Me! before on my blog way back when I first started listening to the band after lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender. I fell in love with Grace’s emotional and honest lyrics that dealt with depression, growing older, falling in love, and drug use, among other things. One of those things being gender dsyphoria. Minus the very obvious hit-you-over-the-head-why-did-no-one-get-this-in-2007 reference in ‘The Ocean,’ it’s rather subtle and hidden away in the lyrics. White Crosses as an album is a lot about growing older and becoming a parent, but I think on my 100th listen, it started to click that White Crosses was very subtly about Laura considering coming out and transitioning.

On Transgender Dysphoria Blues, she’s not being subtle about it anymore.

The band's current lineup. [npr.org]

The band’s current lineup. [npr.org]

Initially billed as a concept album about a transgender prostitute, Grace has since admitted that the record is completely autobiographical and she talked about the album as such to deal with the anxiety she had about releasing a record like this. While the album definitely tells a story, I’m kind of glad it’s not actually a concept album. For some reason, the album hits more knowing that it isn’t a fictional turn at events.

“Your tells are so obvious/Shoulders too broad for a girl,” growls Grace on the opening line of the album. From that moment, you know that Transgender Dysphoria Blues isn’t your average story. It’s about everything that crossed Grace’s mind as she started her transition. How sad she and afraid she felt. How she hid in plain sight for years in the straight male-heavy punk scene. There’s a lot about death and change here, especially in the song ‘Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ,’ where Grace evokes the violent images of the public hanging of Benito Mussolini and Clara Petacci, expecting her fate and public perception to be the same.

This makes it all sound like an inaccessible record, but it’s really not. There are things on there not everyone can relate to, but there is plenty that evokes empathy on the record. I don’t understand personally what it’s like to have gender dysphoria, but I understand depression. I understand anxiety and nervously trying to hide parts of yourself. I understand fear, not feeling wanted, and wanting to rise above what’s made you feel the weakest. I know Grace wrote this record for no one but herself, but the way she contextualizes her experiences in the music to the outside just makes the thoughts that were running in her mind that much more raw.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews saying that Transgender Dysphoria Blues is one of the most honest albums they’ve heard and I really do agree with that. Grace has nothing to hide anymore and mixed with the more stripped down production on her part, she lays herself out there more than she ever has before. And considering her past work, that’s no small feat.

Transgender Dysphoria Blues can be a rough record if you’re not ready for it, but it’s also an extremely rewarding listen if you are. It’s not here to be a teachable moment, but an honest story of one woman’s experiences and personal struggles. It’s still all Grace’s at the end of the day, but with how much she opened her heart to the world, it’s hard not to connect with it on some level and begin to sing along.

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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Music

 

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No Fooling: The Diary returns!

After many adventures across the aether that include getting involved with fire spinners, taking up the media editor reins at Steampunk Chronicle, zipping all over the east coast with The Extraordinary Contraptions, and the general tiredness that comes from that, I’m happy to announce that starting today, The Diary of a Dimension Hopper is back in business!

Did you miss me, friends? Because I missed you. And with all the fun that’s coming out this year in movies and music, I’d be remiss to stop writing the Diary. Plus, you might be hearing me on a podcast or two soon, but more on that when it happens.

I’m hoping to be on a MWF schedule, but I’ll be at least posting once a week on one of those designated days.

We’ll truly resume on Wednesday where I’ll reflect on the life of the recently broken up My Chemical Romance, but for now, let me give you the six songs I’m currently listening to over and over again.

1.) ‘The Phoenix’ by Fall Out Boy – The second single/opening song from their upcoming album Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy is proving that they’re back with a vengeance. With intense instrumentation, Patrick Stump dialing it up on the vocals, and production from Butch Walker that brings out the best of it all, ‘The Phoenix’ is a driving track that has me foaming at the mouth to hear it live (which I will on June 2nd). Plus, the video for it brings back the weirdness I didn’t realize I missed during their four year hiatus mixed in with a fandom kink meme for good measure.

2.) ‘My Simple Pop Song’ by Professor Shyguy – I’ve known Professor Shyguy for almost two years through his band The Aeronauts, but I hadn’t had a chance to see his chiptune solo project live until this past weekend. Now my brain is filled with 8-bit music and his extremely clever and catchy lyrics. ‘My Simple Pop Song’ has been the main offender, with a precise breakdown of how a simple pop song that burrows its way into your head is composed. Kind of ironic, but I don’t mind. Mixed with some excellent dance moves, I can see why he calls himself “The poor nerd’s Justin Timberlake.”

3.) ‘Mirrors’ by Justin Timberlake – Speaking of Justin Timberlake! Now, I’ve been very bad in the fact I haven’t actually gotten a chance to listen to The 20/20 Experience yet. Sorry Justin! But the second single ‘Mirrors’ definitely surpassed ‘Suit and Tie’. ‘Suit and Tie’ is a little bit catchier, but ‘Mirrors’ just pulls at the heartstrings and shows why Justin Timberlake is one of the best voices in pop music right now. Plus, the video Target released of him performing the song with fans is really adorable.

4.) ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’ by Against Me! – Back on Election Day, I made a trip down to Athens with my friends BFT and Little Spoon to see Against Me! perform at the 40 Watt. It was an amazing show that opened with this song and just unleashed fury in the pit that I had to spend a few days recovering from. It’s been consistently stuck in my head since then, but there is sadly no recorded version out yet. I await patiently, opening guitar loop stuck in my head, and a review will happen when it does.

5.) ‘Slut Like You’ by Pink – A month ago, I had the chance to see Pink perform at Philips Arena with The Truth About Love tour. And to quote Rona Thorne, it was AMAZIIIIIING. The Truth About Love is already an amazing album, but getting to hear many of the songs live mixed with her theatrics was certainly a treat. While I may not have tickets yet, I know I’m going to see her again in December. There were plenty of catchy songs during that show that have been in rotation on my iPod, but the dirty  feminist power anthem ‘Slut Like You’ has been up there the most. Especially after the weekend I just had.

6.) ‘Bone China Cup’ by The Extraordinary Contraptions – Okay, I had to slip ONE April Fool in here. This was all Teodore’s idea! See what kind of Steampunk silliness you can spot here!

Until Wednesday, my friends…

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2013 in General, Internet, Music, Steampunk

 

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My newest favorite things: Gravity Falls and Against Me!

I know I said that this post was going to be about Moonrise Kingdom, and that post will come on Wednesday, but I had to reserve this post for reasons of discovery. About the true trans soul rebel who speaks to my heart, and the clever supernatural animated show that makes me happy to be an adult while I’m watching it.

Sometime last week, I was finally convinced to watch Gravity Falls, the latest animated show on the Disney Channel. I wasn’t entirely sure until a friend of mine told me that it was basically Twin Peaks. Now I haven’t seen Twin Peaks, but any mention of a Disney Channel show that is modeled after a David Lynch TV show must be some sort of quality.

And oh, how correct I was. No… not even correct describes how quality Gravity Falls is. Centered around twins Dipper and Mabel Pines during their summer in Gravity Falls, Oregon, each episode has the two dealing with a new supernatural element of the town. When the first episode dealt with gnomes that puke rainbows and form a giant gnome like a Japanese mecha, I knew I was going to enjoy the series greatly. The animation style is really cute and the characters are extremely fun and well developed. It always makes me happy when the girly girl can get rough and tumble the way Mabel does or when a boy like Dipper realizes that he doesn’t have to be alpha male all the time in order to be a man. Not to mention that the plots and writing seem to be getting more and more hilarious with each episode. As I’ve described to many people, the series is like every funny episode of The X-Files and Supernatural without the undercurrent of angst that each series has.

Even with all it’s supernatural mysteries that would have scared me as a little kid, the series is still a funny show about clever kids having the most awesome summer vacation ever. It’s hard to believe this show made it on the Disney Channel since the content feels more like it should be leading in to The Legend of Korra or Adventure Time. Still, if you like quirky and clever animated shows and your supernatural with a side of comedy, Gravity Falls is right up your alley!

My second discovery this week is something I’ve been flirting with for a while. Since frontwoman Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender, I’ve been slowly getting into her band. My first foray was their acoustic Daytrotter session, but it was this weekend that I finally booted up Spotify to listen to New Wave and White Crosses.

I was barely a minute into ‘New Wave’ when I shouted “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!”

I’ve liked a few bands with punk and political angles to them in the past, but something about Against Me! feels different. Grace’s lyrics aren’t just anger and frustration against the mainstream, it’s also just as much against certain things of the circles she falls in. ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’ and ‘Thrash Unreal’ are prime examples of this. It’s weird to explain, but all the parts of me that get frustrated at the world seem to be spelled out by Grace’s lyrics, but also the parts of me that believe in the best. ‘New Wave’ is how I feel about being in the Steampunk scene and ‘Bamboo Bones’ gives me hope for getting through the worst times. Which, if you’ve been reading my blog lately, it’s not been a great mental place for me. Even if I’m getting slightly better.

I still have a few more albums to listen to, but I feel like I’m going to enjoy listening to and becoming a fan of Against Me! I’m sure that I’ll be considered a bandwagon jumper by some since I’m giving the band a shot after their lead singer tells the world she’s a transwoman, but I really don’t care. Grace is a woman of conviction, and if she lost a few fans because she decided to finally live publicly as her true self, then I hope she gains ones full of intelligence, love, and respect.

Because she, like all of us, deserves to be surrounded by such.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Music, Television

 

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Even Punk Rockers Deserve Respect

Hello readers! Sorry for the lack of updates in the past month. I’m afraid that my blinders went on as I headed for the finish line of university. Which, by the way, ended up being a successful run.

As my formal return to my blog, I wanted to speak about something related to my Journalism degree and interests in music. It’s been a topic that’s been on my mind since Patrick Stump spoke candidly about his depression and lack of motivation brought on by disrespectful “fans” at his shows, but came back to the surface when Tom Gabel of Against Me! came out as Transgender, and that she will soon be adopting the name of Laura Jane Grace.

Now, maybe these two topics seem so far apart, especially with my own unfamiliarity with Against Me!, but both of these topics bring up issues of respect in both the fan community and in journalism.

Patrick’s issues seem to stem from some members of the Fall Out Boy fan community. It’s a problem that all the members of Fall Out Boy have been facing since the band went on hiatus, and it’s the fan community’s unwillingness to change. I can understand the frustration and wishing Fall Out Boy would get back together. I especially know what it’s like to not be happy with the direction the project is going. However, there’s a difference between not being happy with something, and constantly berating someone both online and at their shows.

I mean, seriously. What makes someone think it’s appropriate to pay $20-$50 for a show just to tell someone that you liked them better when they were fat? That’s not just terrible manners and general horribleness, that’s wasteful spending on top of it. And all because they think telling someone that they think he’s horrible now will send him back to the band he used to play in? Well, guess what? Patrick Stump is now reluctant to go back to music. How’s that for results?

I haven’t seen much terrible fan reaction from Against Me! fans about Tom, but there were plenty of reports that initially didn’t respect her pronoun preference that were later changed. The AP style guide dictates that a reporter has to respect what the person identifies as/presents themselves as, but shouldn’t that be obvious before something goes to print?

Of course, there will always be the people, journalists or not, who won’t respect gender pronouns and name changes and who will act like this will kill the band.

Friends, journalists and fans, I ask you to have some sense of respect when dealing with things like this. Whether they be someone you love creating music that might not be up to your standards, living as the gender they truly identify with, or whatever else it may be, you’re still dealing with a human being trying to live their life. A performer is not a robot, and you never know if your negative words are going to effect them or not. I’m not asking to be completely uncritical, but don’t be a dick about what you don’t like or don’t understand. And as a journalist, you have to be fair in your assessment.

And, of course, respectful of what someone is going through.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2012 in General, Internet, Music

 

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