“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”

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 @ordinarilymeg 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.

Continue reading “(Post-)Pandemic Resolutions”

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)”

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.)

Continue reading “on Discord admins and leaving toxic workspaces”

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.

Continue reading “No More Groveling Emails”

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 support the work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @ordinarilymeg on Instagram.

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”

Here’s Your Damn List.

I am not a fan of the question “can you give me reading material on that?” (in any incarnation). It puts the onus on oppressed demographics to educate their oppressors on longstanding, pervasive harm that is being engaged in to this day. I particularly hate it being directed at me in any context besides a serious, direct (in-person) conversation between two people or perhaps in a small group of friendly faces. If anyone asks me in public, the answer is almost always “no, you can do your own research.” Because, frankly, that’s always true. To borrow from an internet friend, your education is not my calling. It is your responsibility.

However, I know I’m going to be asked this question for a long time, so below is a by-no-means-comprehensive list of over one hundred resources I highly recommend to improve your own education about gendered violence (both in a physical-violence sense and a general-trauma sense). This took me weeks to assemble. Your work does not stop here. If it has an asterisk (*) next to it, that means I found it on the first page of a Google search. You could do that, too. Do better!

Last update: September 29, 2020 Continue reading “Here’s Your Damn List.”