Please Stop Dirty Deleting

Okay, folks, now that I’m a little more back to having a real internet presence, I’m excited exasperated resigned to talking in more depth about queer identities generally and how power imbalances in musical and artistic life (plus, you know, everyday life) impact us. Perhaps of note is that this will probably include more ground-level education than I’ve had to do in the past—while at the time I started blogging it was at least somewhat safe to assume everyone sorta knew what feminism was, I’m quickly realizing my online circles are roughly divided into two groups: people who are super queer-savvy (and usually queer themselves) and folks who haven’t done all that much reading on the subject.

I know a fair bit, but I’m not a great end-all-be-all source. I’ve started compiling a collection of threads, posts, and other really informative output on various aspects of queer identities and struggles over on my Discord, and y’all are welcome there if you want to check it out. It’s worth noting that at least on the blog, some of the topics I discuss will intersect with other topics I’ve written about before, because plenty of the same oppressive tools affect folks with different marginalizations! So if something sounds familiar, that’s probably because it is; what we’re focusing on is the effect it has on a specific community.

Today’s discussion, for example, centers around emotional labor, which I’ve talked about before. My last post functioned more as a general introduction to the topic, plus my best attempt at explaining how frustrating it is to be constantly asked for more and more of this energy when so often it goes unrecognized and underutilized by the people I give it to. As an educator reaching a wide audience of people I have varying relationships with, some of this is part and parcel for the job, but the moment my labor is then exploited by people who assume they’re closer to me than the rest of my audience, it becomes assumptive, disrespectful, and inappropriate.

See, people who have seen me teach often enough—in person or in a virtual setting—tend to assume, for a time, that I’ll teach whenever the moment arises. However, like the rest of the populace, I have a limited number of hours and spoons in the day, and that’s not always feasible (or what I want to be doing). I already do more labor than I realistically have the energy for. And that, folks, is why it’s exceedingly frustrating when someone decides they don’t like that labor and opts instead to take it all away.

Continue reading Please Stop Dirty Deleting

(Dude/Bro) Isn’t Funny: Let’s Talk About Pronouns

Okay, folks, I’m back. (Apparently.)

This isn’t actually what I thought would get me back out of my writing slump—the ICD stuff last fall took a lot out of me (and… stay tuned for the rest of that), but I have so many things I want to start talking about again. (Lecturing on actual musical subjects! Gender feels! Rocket League and found family!) I’m really excited to get back to publishing somewhat regularly, because shouting into the void the internet is part of how I keep my head in the game while we’re all stuck at home. Y’all are part of my community, and I’m incredibly thankful for it.

Recently, I finally decided to bite the bullet and publicly update my pronouns on Facebook. I’d been back and forth on it, considering I’m using the spring semester to take she/they for a test drive and see if everything fits more or less like it should, but I got bored, which is when I make most of my public-announcement decisions, and off to the social media printing press they went. I was spurred on by my frustration that Canvas went out of their way to add a pronouns field but limit your options to she/her, he/him, and they/them, which is problematic in ways we can talk about another time. (Maybe I’ll remember to back-link that post here once it’s published!) I couldn’t put my pronouns in as an actual option on Canvas, and I mentioned it on Facebook, along with what they were. The post was short and to the point, and a couple friends immediately came into my comments and inboxes to spread some love and make sure they knew the specifics of how I want to be referred to. Those early hours were exceptional.

And then someone came in with the dude/bro joke, and even though the intent wasn’t malicious, the ensuing fallout straight up ruined my evening.

Continue reading (Dude/Bro) Isn’t Funny: Let’s Talk About Pronouns

in remembrance of my second decade

Megan stretches, shirtless, over crossed legs, her back parallel with the mattress she's laying on; "WEAKNESS" is spelled out in red lipstick down her spine.

[hi, friends. I know I’ve been away; the ICD fallout was incredibly taxing, and it continues to be taxing, but I needed to prioritize my students. I’m so grateful to all of you who have reached out, either because of that post or in the intervening months. I’m not sure I’ll be back to weekly posts just yet, but I’m starting to head in that direction. Thanks for being here.]

in remembrance of my second decade “surviving”

By my best estimates, I was assaulted somewhere between three and five years old. I can’t pinpoint it closer than that, and getting more specific likely wouldn’t be good for my mental health, but every year, I think back. Hell, almost every day, I think back, and especially when the political sphere is so turbulent, I spend more energy than I’d like to trying to figure out who I might have been had things gone differently. I’ve said before that I wonder how much of who I am is because of my assault and how much of it is despite it. I’ll never know, but as the year winds down, I’ve found myself needing to spend time committing words to paper and reflecting on what will, even on the conservative end of my estimate, close out my second decade post-assault.

Dear me,

In our mind, there is always a before and an after. The important one happened a long time ago—before we ever could have thought to know we were in danger—but more often than not, we still stare down those same ever-forking paths. This second decade has brought us into adulthood, into independence, into love and relationships but also through heartbreak and continued trauma. This second decade has come with its own befores and afters: dates we probably cannot name but will still mentally acknowledge every year, even though we don’t talk about most of them with the people closest to us.

This decade has brought complicated and emotional choices, from what to speak about in public to who to date to whether drinking is worth the risk of what could happen to us when we’re not in control. It’s brought knowledge and perspective, so we know when we’re dissociating even when we can’t actually tell anyone that’s the case. It’s brought the weight of countless stories, each as uniquely sad as the one preceding it but all worth the burden of carrying them.

None feel as heavy as my own. None probably ever will, so helping other carry theirs always feels like a gift beyond measure.

This decade has brought coercion and anxiety, bad decisions made by partners who should have known better, and the continuing aftermath of things I don’t tell my family about but somehow can easily convey to my friends. This decade has brought occasional run-ins with the darkest parts of mental health, of crying at 1am because I want to live, but also of keeping undergrads company at 8pm because it’s the safest way to make sure they’re still here tomorrow.

In our mind, there is always a before and an after. Always a separation between mind and body, so that voice in our head says we and not I unless the two are in utter agreement. This decade has brought understanding of the safety mechanisms my body created to keep me safe after my first assault—and knowledge of how those responses can still be fooled into thinking no harm will befall me. It has brought nights of having one tentative drink with my partner and never any drinks with anybody else, because even though they laugh, it’s easier to let them hurt me with their derision than to loop them in on the violence I’m really afraid of.

The end of this decade has brought clarity through new friends: an unexpected truth that some people really do love the side of me that handles the writing and the trauma and the rage and the accountability. The side of me I thought only I would ever get to admire. Some people really do love me even on the days when part of me feels like it died when I was three to five years old. Some people really do love me even when my understanding and solidarity are the only things I have left to give. Some people really do love me even when I tell them, point-blank, that they need to do better.

This decade tried to kill that, between many of my friendships and much of my professional life. But the friends who have gotten me through this twentieth year, the friends who mostly won’t read this but still know who they are, hold me accountable—by looking me square in the eye (or calling me out in the voice channel) and telling me I am in this for the right reasons.

There is always a before and an after, but this year, my mind and body are more in agreement than they have been for as long as I can remember. And I owe part of that to the people who love me at my worst, certainly, but I owe most of that to myself.

Year twenty. I didn’t think we’d make it.

But that’s a story for another time.


Thanks for reading! If you’d like more analysis and commentary like this in your life, come back every Saturday at 8pm MST. To follow my ramblings and creative process in real time, or to support the work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @ordinarilymeg on Instagram.

I’m Taking My Name Off the Institute for Composer Diversity

[Hi there! I’m currently working on a follow-up analysis of the internal review ICD released on January 29th. I anticipate it’ll go live in early March, probably as a multi-part series. Wow, do we have a lot to talk about. If you want to keep up with this, subscribe to my blog to get notified when the post goes live, and if you want to hear about how it’s going before publication, hop on over to my Patreon.]

Many of you, like me, have been following developments at the Institute for Composer Diversity this year. The organization, originally created (as I understand it) as an intentional programming resource for educators and directors alike, has grown beyond its initial constraints and begun positioning itself as a juggernaut of diversity in music, particularly in the wind band world. I’ve recommended ICD as a resource in the past—even put them on my master list of resources I co-sign—but, sadly, that endorsement has come to an end.

Here’s the thing: like most institutions, ICD has messed up in the past, often pretty publicly. That in itself isn’t the end of the world! But it has increasingly turned a blind eye to the concerns and critiques of marginalized composers ourselves—the very people they claim to represent. That continual unwillingness to listen, acknowledge issues, and work efficiently to correct them (or to correct them at all) has soured their name among many folks who carry with them more expertise through lived experience in diversity and inclusion than many on the ICD staff.

I’ve also grown increasingly frustrated at ICD’s continued positioning at Midwest and other high-profile conferences as an authority on intentional programming, when in reality they offer very little (if any!) information or best practices on establishing relationships with the composers referenced within their database. There’s no discussion of the fact that many of us make more on commissions than we’ll ever make in individual score sales, no talk about how many of us are self-published because publishing favors notoriety over financial success (and many of us can’t get a foot in the door with the big houses, anyway). There’s no discussion about trauma performativity or the conditions under which it might be appropriate and meaningful to ask a particular composer to write a piece that addresses a specific marginalization or violence. There’s not even any discussion of ownvoices and the importance of prioritizing diverse stories told by the populations they most directly impact. It’s just a database, accompanied by vague encouragement to make marginalized composers part of your ensemble’s stat sheet without any attention paid to how their work actually informs and influences your programming needs and wants.

The stats they suggest are pretty conservative, too. If you go to one of the live ICD presentations, you’ll hear someone (probably Rob Deemer, head honcho of the project) say these are suggested starting points, but if that important caveat is anywhere on their website, I have yet to stumble upon it. (The website does cite a “minimum” stat, but it’s very easy to skip over the importance of the word while trying to process the numbers that follow.)

Among my biggest personal struggles with ICD’s work, though, is that it essentially weaponizes its composers’ marginalizations and markets to band directors without providing any specifics about their work, artistic practices, areas of specialization (beyond instrumentation), or even specifics of identity that composers may wish to share, like pronouns and other information that may vary from the traditional expectations that come with certain genders. We are reduced down to data points on a sheet, names that are guaranteed to check an ensemble’s diversity box without paying too much attention to the specifics of our identities and how those important distinctions might inform our artistic work.

Over the past year, it’s become clear that in allowing non-composers and others to submit information on a composer’s behalf, the Institute has inadvertently outed many queer composers without their consent. This isn’t just careless administration; it’s doxxing. A failure to check in with composers and ensure they consent to specific information being featured on a very public, easily searchable website is a colossal breach of trust. How are we to assume an organization that outs us alongside our contact information actually values our work, when they can’t be bothered to even consider how the release of this information might affect our day-to-day safety?

I first heard rumors of an email that would be sent to featured composers to confirm their presence on the ICD databases several months ago. At the time, I figured I’d sit on my thoughts for a couple weeks, then, when the email arrived, decide how to best proceed. But, like I said, it was months, not weeks—a time span that included much of Pride month, when many of us in the queer community had to lock down our social media to protect from coordinated doxxing attempts. All the while, our information remained readily available on ICD’s website. By the time the email arrived (a little over a week ago), I had lost faith that the Institute cared enough about the composers on their lists to protect them proactively.

Below is a copy of the letter I sent to ICD in response to their request to confirm my information in their databases. I am posting it in full because I firmly believe that an organization whose main mission is publicly espousing a reductive flavor of intentional programming should be held publicly accountable. I’ll post some suggested best practices next week, but for now, here’s what I told them (please note my dig at website hits at the end was due largely to the emphasis on their own stats they place in their promotional material):

Continue reading I’m Taking My Name Off the Institute for Composer Diversity

To The People Telling Us To “VOTE.”

To the men who are my peers and colleagues (and plenty of other people in my spaces):

I’ve seen a lot of “VOTE.” lately, especially since RBG died. While I’m excited you’re all (theoretically) taking your civic duty seriously, I also know that for some of you, this is what constitutes activism. For some of you, this is how you check that little mental box of being a good feminist or an activist or someone who’s doing the work.

I’ve seen a lot of “VOTE.” lately, and it’s easy to understand why. When you’re used to the system working in your favor, when you’re used to your requests being granted, it’s easy to assume the best way you can help the people around you is to reach upward and ask. But if that’s how you think the marginalized get rights in this country, by asking politely and waiting for the system to work, you might want to go refresh yourself on some history. Go back and look at how suffragettes and Civil Rights leaders and rioters at Stonewall were treated at the time. Go back and see how reluctant everyone was to give up power.

Continue reading To The People Telling Us To “VOTE.”

Some Of My Friends Are Probably Rapists

I work pretty much exclusively in male-dominant fields, and while I can’t say I’ve seen “it all,” I follow in the footsteps of and learn from a group of those who collectively undoubtedly have. I was also sexually assaulted at a very young age, and as that subject matter has become a greater and greater part of my work, I’ve been increasingly unable to turn a blind eye to the power dynamics in our musical communities that enable and encourage continuing sexual abuse among our colleagues, superiors, and peer groups. For those of you who have read me before (be it in years past or last week), none of this is a surprise. And while I don’t often talk about it on here, a nontrivial part of my deep thinking on the subject revolves around being prepared to be an active force for good if I’m ever able to step in and prevent an assault or provide care and assurance in the aftermath.

Honestly, I should probably talk about that more, since I know I’m far from the only person in my circles who would want to help in those situations. However, I spend a lot of time around a lot of men, and due in part to my own risk tolerance and in part to my knowledge of my communities, we can’t have that discussion until we have this discussion.

See, some of my friends are probably rapists, and some are probably guilty of assault.

Continue reading Some Of My Friends Are Probably Rapists

A Thank You to the Brothers of CBSS

I’ve spent the summer (plus the tail end of my spring semester) getting to know a Discord server of a few dozen brothers of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, a group of folks whose interests and talents vary widely, save two things—a love for music and a dedication to Rocket League. As most of them can attest, it’s been a tumultuous few months; I’ve had some of the best moments of my year, but they’ve been accompanied by some of the hardest, too. We wrapped up my first season on a team at the beginning of August, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to properly chronicle the experience both as its own long moment and within the context of the rest of my life, including the intersectional marginalizations that keep me out of the larger organization they love.

The season’s been filled with things I didn’t want to speak aloud. In this space, unlike most others I move through today, my reputation and work didn’t precede me. The musical ability of these folks, incredible though it is, is a backdrop—an afterthought or a side topic—in most voice chats. I haven’t spoken up much about the impetus behind my creative work; I’ve barely mentioned the traumas it so frequently calls back to. My partner, Nick, has seen all the dots connected, how the anxieties large and small associated with CBSS intertwine with and are informed by the vast majority of my career I’ve spent in gender-marginalized spaces. A few others have seen bits and pieces, but for many, I probably contain more than a couple question marks. This is (I think) my attempt at contextualizing some of the things I say or ask for that make them scratch their heads, but it’s also my best effort to show them why the compassion they so frequently extend matters so much.

Continue reading A Thank You to the Brothers of CBSS

JK Rowling, TERFs, Bioessentialism, Sexual Assault, and Trauma Performativity (or, in other words… yikes)

I read the essay.

Some of you likely know exactly which essay I’m talking about, but for those who don’t, I’ve just finished reading JK Rowling’s lengthy response to the correct and justified backlash she’s received this week for being more openly anti-trans than usual. As folks on Twitter may know, this isn’t Rowling’s first TERF-y moment: for at least several months, she has made statements in support of or liked Tweets by known anti-trans public figures. This week, she took severe issue with delineating a difference between “people who menstruate” and “women,” sparking the backlash that’s led to where we are now.

First, a note on this: we need a difference between “people who menstruate” and “women,” because those two things aren’t inherently linked. The Venn diagram of the two is not a circle. In obvious ways, it ignores both the trans community and the intersex community, and I’d be remiss to erase either group from the conversation. (If you’re not sure what intersex means, here’s a great primer. Please note some historical descriptors of this community are considered degrading and should no longer be used.) It also imposes ridiculous limits on AFAB (assigned female at birth) people: what happens when you hit menopause? Do you no longer count? What about if you’re on an IUD, and as a result you don’t have a period? What about AFAB people who never have a period at all?

That said, we’re not going to spend time centering cis women past this point. The argument is massively more harmful to transgender and intersex people, whose biological features may not align with the tropes (and, by extension, societal expectations) associated with their gender(s). And while it can be easy to encourage marginalized people to not care what society says, have you ever educated yourself (by reading plenty of available material, NOT by foisting emotional labor on your nearest relevant person) on how difficult it is for trans and intersex people to get quality health care? Are you aware that literally yesterday the Trump administration made this even more difficult by giving insurers and health care providers the ability to openly discriminate against trans people? Did you know that many intersex people are operated on at a young age without their consent to attempt to make their bodies conform to one binary or the other, often with negative long-term side effects? Have you realized that the insidious goal of anti-trans rhetoric is to produce tangible policy changes that, by doing things like cutting off access to health care (at any time, but especially during a pandemic), further disadvantage the trans community and will literally, quantitatively cost lives?

Continue reading JK Rowling, TERFs, Bioessentialism, Sexual Assault, and Trauma Performativity (or, in other words… yikes)

The Men at IWBC

After my first trip to IWBC last year, I wrote a little round-up of my experiences there. I kept it pretty top-level, sticking mostly to safe topics and general stories. The plan was always to dive back into certain things in more depth, but I decided I wanted to wait and make sure I still felt the way I did some time later. The post kept getting delayed, and now it’s been a year. On the upside, I do feel identically now to how I felt last May, so while we’re all still stuck inside, we might as well talk about it.

I love IWBC because it is an opportunity to connect with my sisters (though, now that I’m out as queer, I’ll have to reexamine my place in it all), but the first thing I noticed after arriving was “wow, look at all the men.” Sure, there were a shit ton of women, but the gender binary that first day was balanced shockingly close to 50/50. I recognized a nontrivial amount of them: friends, colleagues, classmates, respected teachers. The night of the opening festivities, I made the rounds, checking in with old friends and making new ones.

By day three of the conference, almost all of those men were gone. Because what happened first? The mock audition.

Continue reading The Men at IWBC

In The Wake of International Jazz Day

April 29th is National Dance Day in the US. It’s one of my favorite not-quite-official holidays; I spend time stretching and honoring what my body is capable of, I move in ways that make me happy, and I usually forget to post on Instagram until several days later. It’s an opportunity to honor dance’s lifelong role in my existence, wellbeing, and humanity, and I try to mark it every year.

April 30th is International Jazz Day. It’s one of my least favorite not-quite-official holidays; while there’s something important to be said for honoring the artists of color who pioneered and radically expanded the genre, it mostly reminds me how most of the jazz musicians I know personally are white. Moreover, the purported celebration often reminds me how much I and others don’t fit in the community.

Continue reading In The Wake of International Jazz Day