Question #1: Connection + Gender
Hi -- There's just over a day to go. 223 amazing people have pledged $11,328 to make To touch the milky way exist. We're doing this!
I expect to pass the goal tomorrow, with a little time to spare....
Here are a few more questions, and a few more photos from our shoot in Millican, Oregon.
David S wrote: Reading your updates fuel my anticipation for the LP. I’ve been listening to your music since 1990 when I was in the 10th grade, mainly listening to The Cure, Bauhaus, Peter Murphy, Love & Rockets, Tones on Tail, Siouxsie & the Banshees and Depeche Mode (still a huge fan). Black Tape’s music was different, but fit right in and helped during those moments of loneliness I felt regularly. Even having a good amount of friends, I still felt alone. Your solo project Before the Buildings Fell lived in my walkman for a while. I think I wore that cassette out! The electronics in your music has always been one of my favorite aspects of your sound. So I thank you for your talent and your desire to share your art. Thanks so much.
It is really touching and meaningful to read how my music was there for you when you needed it. I read variations of this idea from people who love (and support) my music; I'm glad my music helped in hard times. That’s a really amazing thing for me to know. Thanks so much for sharing.
Erin wrote: What (if anything) does gender mean to you? I’ve seen that you’ve been exploring gender in some of your recent (or recent-ish) work, such as in your photography with Mercy, where they take on roles from across the gender spectrum, or going further back, your novel Rye (which I admit I haven’t gotten around to reading). As a recently uncloseted transperson, this is something that I really respond to. Is this a comparatively new theme to your work, or has it always been there and I just never picked up on it?
Gender is not a theme I addressed prior to brief mentions in 10 Neurotics (2009 - almost a decade ago), and then more openly in my 2012 genderqueer erotic novel Rye, as you mention.
I think that gender (as well as sexuality) is a spectrum. The idea that it’s a binary choice between male and female is being reconsidered (plus there's evidence that gender was looked at more fluidly eons ago, and we're getting around to things others had already figured out).
To touch the milky way’s cover model Mercy is non-binary. I don’t think the album deals directly with themes of gender, but for me representation is important. We don’t have to shout, “Look, this is about gender!” because it’s part of everything. The stories and conflicts that I deal with cross the gender spectrum. For me, Mercy might be standing in for a stereotypically male character in some of the shots, the fluidness of their gender makes it interesting and more nuanced.
The other thought I have concerns what it means to be “male” or “female.” That's a culturally-assigned construct. Most of our reality is formed by language and our membership in a society that holds together via mutual agreement upon meaning.
Reviewers have said over the years that my lyrics are “feminine.” By which I guess they mean emotional. I address pain, sorrow, sadness and hope; I guess that’s not suppose to be something a man does? There are male lyricists who spend a lot of time on the heroic, “I tried to be there to save you,” and the angry, “You done me wrong.” But if that's all a man is suppose to feel, it's a rather limited palette.
Are my lyrics “feminine,” or are they “human?” We all have similar feelings and emotions, and injuries that lead to who we are.
I’m not saying it is wrong with identifying as male or female, I’m saying it’s important to explore that part of ourselves, it’s important to find out what gender means in our own life. I think this personal journey is rewarding, finding out who we each really are and how we react within the confines that society, our parents, our own fears have put upon us. How do we want to represent? That relates to a theme within the lyrics: the idea of stopping at a point that feels like a dead end, and asking hard questions, to realign and find oneself. To search, rather than accept what life has thrown our way.
Working with Mercy brings that non-binary element into the work visually, makes it part of the mosaic of the album and how art talks about our lives.