I’m Not Your Fucking Entertainment.

A nonbinary person smirks at the camera, an eyebrow slightly raised. Their hair is in a short buzzcut, and ey are wearing stud earrings, a forest green shirt, and an oversized jean jacket. They stand in front of a cinderblock wall with an inlaid brick archway and wooden gate.

Today is National Coming Out Day, and I’d like to talk about my teachers, my colleagues, and my peers.

I didn’t come out formally, publicly, until May of 2020. I’d been out to handfuls of people here and there for a couple years already, but when I moved back to Phoenix, I found myself continually putting off and shying away from the announcement I’d hoped I would finally feel ready to make. Rather than sharing more of who I am with the world, I found myself discussing less and less, retreating into the few spaces (mostly online) where I still felt safe to be myself. It took me three or four tries to even figure out how I wanted to come out. And, you know, the onset of a pandemic.

In those first few months that I was back in Arizona, back when it was still the Before Times, I realized a couple fears of mine had come true: first, that the social and professional structures that had forcibly kept me in the closet as an undergrad were still thriving, and second, that many of the peers I’d studied alongside had become willing enforcers and gatekeepers in their own right. Yet we were still expected to all (or at least mostly) get along, so I worked with what I had. I wrote about paying your dues and other power structures that affected us all. I spent time with the community, engaging with some old friends and some folks I hadn’t been as close to originally.

But I didn’t come out, because I didn’t trust the “it’s better now“s and the sudden influx of “well, I’m just a straight/cis white man, what do I know”s that sounded harmless but reeked of something still lurking beneath.

Continue reading “I’m Not Your Fucking Entertainment.”

It’s Been A Year, ICD. Where’s The Change?

A year ago today, I published what I thought would be a relatively low-profile explanation to my readership about why I was removing myself from the Institute for Composer Diversity’s databases. I shared the email I’d sent to the Institute, along with some additional comments contextualizing my words and my decision. Something in there clicked with a lot of you, because . . . let’s just say my notifications were a mess for awhile afterward. My friends at Trade Winds Ensemble released their own incisive, blistering set of statements shortly thereafter, Rob (statistically speaking, it was Rob) misspelled my last name in a non-apology posted to ICD’s 7,000 followers without even asking if I was okay with being named, and thanks to a lot of public pressure and outcry from all y’all who read my post or Trade Winds’ or engaged with the ensuing conversation, ICD reviewed its own policy.

When that review went up at the end of January, I dug in, publishing somewhere in the neighborhood of 14,000 words (after edits—thank you, Nebal, for your patience) analyzing each and every finding and discovering that oh yeah, they plagiarized me and Trade Winds without even bothering to mention they were using our labor as their springboard. I sat on that anger for a month, wrote my analysis, published my analysis, and . . . waited. (Read it: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3.) Twelve days later, I decided two and a half months was long enough, and I emailed ICD’s leadership. Here’s an excerpt:

You didn’t ask for our consent to use our words. You didn’t cite us. You weren’t making this choice to protect us, because none of you ever reached out to ask if we wanted to be protected in this way. ICD’s theft of this labor continues its longstanding tradition of erasing the work of marginalized composers in favor of performative activism. Not only that, it completely eschews academic best practices, opting instead to punch down at scholars doing the work we’ve begged you to do yourselves.

In the interest of transparency, I’d like to note that Ciyadh (who, of the folks I’ve interacted with at ICD, is by far my favorite) got back to me the same day to confirm I was okay with how ICD planned to cite my work and giving me a firm date by which the updates would be completed (which I’d requested in my message). They definitely messed one up (Point 22 should be attributed to Trade Winds, not me), but at this point, I’m just tired and that in particular isn’t worth yet another email. I’m grateful the plagiarism was corrected and credit was given, but the review originally went up at the end of January, and the corrections weren’t issued until May. (And I started talking about them publicly, on my blog, in mid-March!)

But at this point, it’s been several months since I’ve spoken to anyone at ICD. (I’ll probably send Ciyadh an email when I drop this post, because I’m genuinely not always convinced the leadership team sees my writing if I don’t.) They’ve had time away from the public eye (or as away as they ever get), and in their review, they left us a specific set of changes we could expect to see at various points this year. I made further demands when I analyzed their review. And on this, the anniversary of the day my poor phone blew up (the first time), I’d like to go over those key changes and remind folks what we’ve seen so far and what we haven’t.

Continue reading “It’s Been A Year, ICD. Where’s The Change?”

“Blue” vs. “You’re Welcome”: Examining the Sexual Assault Rewrite in HEATHERS

“September 1st, 1989. Dear Diary . . .”

So starts the world premiere cast recording of HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL, penned by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe and premiered in 2014 Off-Broadway. Though it never transferred, the cast recording has grown a significant cult following. I found the album thanks to a recommendation from my undergrad roommate, and the witty, dark, often emotionally raw material hooked me from the opening number.

If I’m being honest, I could pontificate on almost every song on the original cast recording, both because of the strength of the writing and the performances given (Elle McLemore’s “Lifeboat,” Katie Ladner’s “Kindergarten Boyfriend,” and Ryan McCartan’s “Meant to Be Yours” all are among my favorite performances ever). But because the 2014 production never transferred to Broadway, the cast (and heavily-edited book) currently on the West End in London will likely be the first point of contact for theatergoers just now encountering the show. I’m super into the version on West End, but the significant alterations Murphy, O’Keefe, and the creative team have made to a show that tackles murder, suicide, bullying, and sexual assault give us a great opportunity to examine how different our approaches to some of these ideas are now compared to just a few years ago.

Arguably the biggest change to the framing of the HEATHERS narrative, besides giving Heather Duke an actual part, was the creative team’s decision to rewrite the scene were popular football players Ram and Kurt attempt to sexually assault Veronica, our protagonist. The change wasn’t unexpected; various people involved with the show since its Off-Broadway debut had previously stated in interviews that some of the material should (and likely would) be revisited. “Blue,” the original almost-rape song, was the obvious focus of that concern.

Continue reading ““Blue” vs. “You’re Welcome”: Examining the Sexual Assault Rewrite in HEATHERS”

life updates: teaching, community, and love

I haven’t wanted to write much in the past month.

Some of that was expected. My partner and I left Phoenix for what is likely our only trip of the year so we could go meet my best friend (for the first time, since we met online), and doing that in a pandemic-safe way meant that instead of a few hours on a plane, we spent a grand total of forty-seven hours in the car. As Nick and I are still together, I consider that a massive success, if a nonstandard one.

We also were very fortunate to kick off the month of August by bringing home a new member of the family. Our new kitty, Lucas, is a one-year-old silver tabby who loves cheek scritches, any food he can get into, and sleeping on my legs. Marty fell in love with him in his first couple days. They’re already thick as thieves, and Nick and I are incredibly happy to see them both so content.

All that said . . . there isn’t a lot else going right for me these days. Before the executive orders and other political nonsense surrounding schools this summer, I was excited to get back into the classroom. But all that stress combined with rising case numbers, constantly-shifting internal policy, and still-low vax rates has turned anticipation into an all-consuming dread. Now I’m only willing to teach in-person at one campus to avoid ferrying COVID across the valley. (I’m employed by two colleges.) Course enrollment is low across the district. Adjuncts are seeing more classes than usual at high risk of not making—if they haven’t been axed already.

If not for both my bosses fighting tooth and nail to make sure I stay with them this year, I don’t think I’d still have classes this fall.

Continue reading “life updates: teaching, community, and love”

I’m Using ey/they Now. Let’s Talk.

Folks, I am not happy.

As someone whose relationship with gender is… tenuous at best, I exist mostly in a world where pronouns should be fun, exploratory tools of discovery. There is no single pronoun that can accurately place my understanding of my gender (or what parts of it I want to share) in a single spot for all of time. Multipronouns aren’t just to give you another option if you don’t like the first one on the list; they’re components of a whole. They’re little clues to who we are and who you might discover in us if you bother to look (and we let you). I’ve talked about my pronouns on here and over socials—exhaustively, to the point where it feels like I discuss them at least once a week—and yet, despite the fact that it’s been the better part of a year since I first added they/them to my pronoun sets, I can probably count on two hands the number of people who I know are gendering me correctly.

If you’ve been making the effort, thank you. I know there are a solid bunch of folks who are in the “I slip up but correct myself” category, and I’m really grateful for the energy you’re putting into this with me and other multipronoun users who may be in your lives. This post is not about you. Take in the new pronouns, throw the old ones in the trash, and continue your quest.

No, this post is about the swaths of people who have continued exclusive use of the pronouns I was assigned at birth. I am tired of having to correct you, oftentimes having to defend my right to exist as I am in the process. I am no longer willing to step back and watch myself be misgendered time and time again by people who have most definitely read my email signatures or seen any of the million social media posts I’ve made or who I’ve talked to directly about this. I run a Discord server full of queer theory resources (join info at the bottom of the post) and literally started a lecture series about this shit to better educate the people around me and those who might happen to run into me on Twitch. I gave a two-and-a-half-hour lecture on pronouns last month that’s still available for Twitch subscribers and will be up on my Patreon in the long run (and, oh yeah, I will give the lecture again at some point). I’ve created a page on my website (that I’m really proud of!) where folks can learn, judgment-free, how to properly address me. Any one of these things should be enough for folks to realize they need to make the switch, but all of them? Sheesh.

If I’m being honest, at this point I feel a little ridiculous for doing this much when I knew it wasn’t going to make a difference for the people who are the worst about this. Do I expect everyone to hop in the Discord and come to class? No, absolutely not! But it’s not only disheartening but damn disappointing that I know scores of teachers, peers, colleagues, superiors, and former friends who are aware this change needs to happen, who are aware I’ve been busting my ass to make it as easy for everyone as I possibly can, and who still haven’t bothered to even try.

Now my old pronouns are no longer an acceptable option. If I hear you misgendering me (and you’re not in the “I slip up but correct myself” boat), you will be called on it. I will not be nice about it. I’m done. Even though I readily accept far more than two pronouns from my closest friends and a couple other specific pockets of people, I am unwilling to continue giving my fellow musicians, teachers, administrators, and other colleagues/peers the opportunity to skate by on my birth pronouns without acknowledging that my identity is too complex to be contained within a single word. If this is a wakeup call for you, you’re welcome at any and all of my lectures, either on Twitch or in Discord. If you’re on team “I slip up but correct myself” (or on the very small team of Gendering Me Correctly), do feel free to gently correct others if the opportunity arises and it’s safe to do so.

You will gender me correctly, or you will no longer be in my life. I do not have space for people who will not acknowledge that I am who I am.


I’m running a lecture series (for free, unless you want to tip me!) over on my Twitch channel and Discord server. We meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm AZ time (7 Pacific/8 Mountain Daylight/9 Central/10 Eastern), and you can attend the lecture by watching the Twitch stream or jump in the Discord voice chat to join the discussion. Video recordings are available on Twitch for subscribers.

Thanks for reading! If you learned something from this post and would like to tip me, head on over to my Ko-fi page. For more analysis and commentary like this in your life, come back every Saturday at 8pm MST. To support the long-term work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @honestlyeris on Instagram.

(Post-)Pandemic Resolutions

Despite what I’ve titled this, let’s remember: the pandemic isn’t over yet. Much of the populace is still under-vaccinated (right now, I think the AZ stats say ~41% of people who are eligible have received one or more doses, with no clear count of how many of those people are fully vaccinated), and the Delta variant threatens to send us back to virtual learning in the fall if districts and states alike continue to be callous and eliminate masking and social distancing guidelines. (Or, you know, the government will keep us in person and let people die.) Personally, I don’t expect to be doing much—if any—live performing for the rest of the year at least, especially if my in-person assignments remain in place and I’m coming in and out of shared teaching spaces four days a week.

But gigs are starting back up again, for better and for worse, and as steady performances loom on the horizon, negotiations and conversations about ethics and access will be kicking up again. Hopefully in earnest, but we’ll see. When we left our regular artistic schedules as the pandemic hit, venues and gatekeepers alike were continuing to abuse their power to lock the most marginalized performers out of gig opportunities while further entrenching themselves within organizations in dire need of reform. No single individual will be able to take all of that on—but I’m tired of asking nicely for my less-marginalized peers to join me in aiding our more- and differently-marginalized friends and colleagues. I’m tired of going to gigs that are entirely white and cishet. And as we’re considering how we’ll change our artistic practices as we return to performing life, I want to make sure I’m not actively contributing to that anymore, even if the people I used to hang out with aren’t as invested.

I’ve spent the past several weeks compiling a list of resolutions for myself—things that will affect who I am as a teacher, performer, community manager, and composer. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and I fully expect I’ll be adding to and refining it as I go. These are the parameters I’ll be placing around my participation in artistic endeavors, both on my own and with others.

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How to Access My Queer Identity Lectures (after June 2021)

Greetings, folks! Happy Pride.

I’ve been blogging less this month because I’ve spent the past three weeks teaching and talking in a different format: on Twitch and Discord, where I’ve spent time with friends, colleagues, and some near-strangers talking about various LGBTQIA2S+ identities and struggles. We’ve gotten through a lot—asexuality, aromanticism, nonbinary identities, transphobia, pronouns/neopronouns, xenogenders, trans allyship, and some pointers on queer-friendly classrooms—and we’ve still got a little more to cover.

As we’ve adventured through the month, I’ve talked with my Discord server and a few other folks about where this content should go after the month is over. I fully expect that I’ll give some of these lectures again in the future (Nonbinary Day is July 14!), and while I’m sure they’ll get better over time, I know at least a few people have been considering visiting (or revisiting) this month’s material in VOD form.

Continue reading “How to Access My Queer Identity Lectures (after June 2021)”

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.

Continue reading “Are You *Actually* Safe to Come Out To?”

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.

Continue reading “How To Read Me, feat. Untouchable (Again)”

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?)

Continue reading “crushes, relationships, and amatonormativity”