Are You *Actually* Safe to Come Out To?

Happy Pride! It’s such a lovely day to be queer.

It’s hard to celebrate with pure enthusiasm this year, given the slew of anti-trans bills being passed across the country (more on that soon). Trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive people are facing a fresh wave of violence, and most of our cis friends remain silent, even many of our cisqueer community members. A lot of the trans people I know are frustrated beyond belief, scared, and angry, yet still determined as ever to continue to honor ourselves and our community in our words and actions.

In light of this and other events, it can be really jarring to see the perhaps-inevitable social media posts from cis (and especially allocishet) people that say something along the lines of “I am a safe person to come out to!!” Every time I see one of these posts, my gut instinct is actually to think, no, you’re not. And today I want to sit with that a little and break down why.

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How To Read Me, feat. Untouchable (Again)

Last year, Untouchable was one of the largest-by-word-count projects I undertook. I’m still really proud of it, because I was able to grow an analysis from a single idea—”nobody wanted to sleep with me”—to the point where I could talk about hostile work environments the following week. More than that, though, I was able to point at some of the things that made me feel most uncomfortable, unsafe, or Othered while I was spending time and money in the Jazz Studies department at ASU. I was able to speak with more specificity than usual to my story and my experience in this particular space.

It was also one of the last things I published before I came out, and I knew that was going to be the case by the time I was halfway through my edits. (The original plan had actually been coming out at the end of Untouchable, which I’ve talked about before.)

I’m hesitant to say Untouchable was one of the last things people read of my work while assuming I’m cis, because that is DEFINITELY still happening even among people I’ve considered close. But it was functionally the end of that era, and today, I’d like to talk a little about how reading even my old work through a lens of queerness yields an overall more honest, accurate interpretation.

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crushes, relationships, and amatonormativity

I don’t think I would’ve had crushes as a child if my friends hadn’t made it seem like a necessary part of a social life. When you’re an eight-year-old assumed-cis-girl and you walk home with your neighbors every day, you learn pretty quickly that even if your idea of “liking” people doesn’t match up with theirs, they’ll usually take any expression of affection or longing for a boy as something akin to a crush. They’ll hype it up or make fun of you, finding ways to reinforce that you must be feeling these same specific feelings they had for others.

And when you’re not presented with any alternatives, you eventually give in and resign yourself to the fact that they must be right—and with more practice/willpower/time, you too will feel and understand these things just as they did. As an adult with a lot more queer smarts, I can look back at the people I had “crushes” on from elementary school through most of undergrad and realize that in almost every case, what I wanted was some combination of camaraderie, emotional closeness, and/or respectful treatment. Most of these “crushes,” whether on people who bullied me, barely acted like I existed, or (on rare occasion) were nearly my best friends, were reinforced—often painfully—by the girls around me at the time.

Honestly, I feel for the guys (always guys) who were on the other end—the close friend others felt I could no longer show affection to when he started dating a wonderful girl; the upperclassman whose musicianship I functionally hero-worshipped but who I was told by the girls around me I must be in love with; the guy I went out with for three weeks my freshman year of college because I laid my head on his shoulder at 1am during a movie marathon and half our floor decided we were perfect for each other.

(Seriously, are the allos okay?)

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Pride Isn’t A Reason To Exploit Queer Composers

Greetings, y’all, and welcome to another episode of This Wasn’t Supposed To Be The Post This Week!

Pride’s coming up next month, and partly as a result, I’m starting to see an influx of “oh, we’re looking for LGBTQ+ [insert item here]!” both in my inbox and on socials generally. Sometimes friends forward me opportunities, which is incredibly kind, but some of these so-called opportunities come with demands that fall beyond the boundaries of reason and are better deemed exploitative. Though it varies from one posting to the next, many of these “in search of…” ads that find their way to me are calls for scores, and as someone who’s been on both the submitting end and the judging end of these, wow, I have thoughts.

The composing community frequently has these conversations in earnest on multiple platforms, but many folks miss the discourse entirely or brush it off as the complaints of a small contingent. Today, you’re not getting that lucky. For just a moment, I’d like to tell you about a call for scores I came across today; see if you can spot the red flag(s) from the Instagram ad:

  • performer is requesting scores for a specific solo instrument and piano; performers are specified
  • specifically seeking scores from LGBTQ+ identifying composers (submission requirement)
  • music is for a new album
  • work cannot be previously recorded or performed
  • 5-20min
  • $500 prize for each work chosen, plus a copy of the studio recording
  • no entry fee, June 1 deadline
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nonbinary musings from my first year out

I’ve been formally out for about a year, most of which has been spent in the relative solitude of quarantine. Covid has afforded me the space and time to figure out what versions of me feel more correct, but I’m increasingly conscious of the turbulence that will doubtless ensue when I start going places in person again.

If we’re being honest, I don’t really look different than I did last March. Sure, I’ve got a killer undercut and a ballet bun now, but on the day-to-day, I don’t dress particularly differently. I have not subscribed to the time-honored tradition of short-sleeve button-ups and general androgyny that some queer folks love but which society tries to shove all nonbinary identities into. If anything, the past year might have actually enabled me to be more feminine, because I’ve gotten to make (some) aesthetic choices for myself without the external pressure of networking and gigs. Because I’m out at work, I haven’t had to over-perform gender for my students either. The changes I’ve gotten to experience haven’t really been aesthetic. (I basically just look more comfortable now.)

In fact, this aesthetic consistency has impacted my treatment significantly, because there’s been little outward change. I don’t look obviously, there’s-no-other-option queer, and because my appearance makes it so easy to address and treat me as a cis woman, a lot of people still do. And will. (Including family.)

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on Discord admins and leaving toxic workspaces

In the months before COVID hit, I was slowly beginning to commit to walking away from ensembles and organizations in which I was mistreated, undervalued, or expected to conform to old-boys’-clubby vibes. At the time, I really struggled to let myself leave, because each instance felt like a puzzle piece carrying immense social capital. I’d already been honest with myself that most of them didn’t align with my creative priorities, but I was so used to being thoroughly tokenized that I felt the insidious Othering pressure that whispers “if you leave this behind, you may not work again.”

Performing isn’t even my main gig, yet I’d been made to feel that pressure. So when COVID hit and everything got canceled, the devastation was tinged with relief. I got to take a break from weighing which opportunities would be good for me artistically and personally versus professionally and interpersonally. I got to take the time to sit down and write the words to explain that I caucus with both women and nonbinary people. I got to actually publish those words because I knew I’d have at least a while before I understood their professional consequences—I remember saying to one of my partners at the time, “It’s not like people can decide not to hire me when nobody’s hiring anyone anyway.”

(To be more precise, they could decide not to hire me; they just couldn’t do anything noticeable to enforce it.)

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No More Groveling Emails

I’m not going to look it up, because it still feels horrible, but the last Groveling Email I wrote was sometime in October-ish of 2019 to the co-director of an ensemble I was repeatedly told I was welcome in until I asked to be treated better. This is not a particularly new experience for me or anyone marginalized; we all learn very early on that the degree to which we are welcome in any particular space is dependent on the tolerance for discomfort present at the top of power dynamics. Many of us, especially our siblings of color, learn to make general determinations at a glance. It’s a risk assessment à la Schrödinger’s rapist, just a little less action-specific.

Every marginalized person you’ve ever met could tell you about the microaggressions (and overt forms of violence) they’ve been expected to tolerate in professional settings. Even if those aren’t the terms they use to describe the actions, folks can point at the specific stares or posturing or subtly exclusive language or nonchalantly threatening behavior they’ve had to take in stride. Sometimes that absorption requires us to self-flagellate, to take the blame for another’s actions and feelings because of the unspoken idea that we caused them. If we hadn’t been there, if we hadn’t brought our marginalized selves into those rooms, these individuals wouldn’t have been upset or acted out in this certain way.

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yes, this is a skill set

Hi there, everyone.

Holy crap.

If you’re reading this, we’ve made it past the ICD Review. Hopefully I’ll be able to take a few weeks after this and talk about something else, both on my blog and with my partner. I’ve got a few weeks’ worth of thoughts pre-loaded for you, but before I get to that, I wanted to take a moment to sit with y’all in the wake of this massive effort.

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The ICD Internal Review Part 3: Resign, Rob (And Other Big Takeaways)

Eleven pages of ICD's 2020 internal review, layered on top of each other, fill the frame. They are heavily marked up, with underlines, scribbles in the margin, and seven colors of highlighter denoting important sections of text. The number "3" is overlaid over the picture in a large black serif font.

Welcome back! Today we’re wrapping up our multi-day adventure through the ICD review. If you haven’t read the previous installments, I recommend checking out Part 1 and Part 2. After we conclude our point-by-point walkthrough, I’m going to mention some major concerns I didn’t get to talk about previously. As always, thanks for being here! I would’ve given up at Point 10 without y’all.

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The ICD Internal Review Part 2: Holy Plagiarism, Batman

Eleven pages of ICD's 2020 internal review, layered on top of each other, fill the frame. They are heavily marked up, with underlines, scribbles in the margin, and seven colors of highlighter denoting important sections of text. The number "2" is overlaid over the picture in a large black serif font.

Greetings, one and all, and welcome back to our multi-day escapade through the ICD internal review. If you’re new here, fear not! You can go back and read Part 1 to catch up on what we’ve discussed previously. Today, we’re finishing our look at ICD’s communications breakdown; we’ll also discuss ICD’s impact on composers, touch briefly on tokenism, and begin the long slog through the leadership review. I can’t say any one part of the report is the review’s darkest hour, but today’s chunk is certainly a contender. Let’s dive in.

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