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.”

Paying Your Dues (and other bullshit)

Since moving back to Phoenix, one phrase (besides “it’s better now”) has begun to permeate my consciousness—and weigh on my mind—more than it ever did while I was in California. I absolutely spoiled any chance at a surprise with my title, so yes, that phrase is “paying your dues.” Despite all the time I’ve spent wandering through various genres and fields of music, it’s never quite rung true to me. This is, I think, partly because of how intentionally nonspecific it is and partly because of the conditions under which I make music and move through the world at large. The depths of this issue are murky, and from here it’s difficult to see the bottom, but if I had to take a stab at a thesis, it’d be this: the gatekeeping, favoritism, and institutional bias that create the foundation of “paying your dues” stifle creativity, discourage participation, alienate newcomers, and serve the white patriarchy.

Wow, that’s a lot to unpack. So let’s take it a bite at a time, shall we?

Before we get into it, I’m not sure why this didn’t come up a lot while I was in Los Angeles, but the answer is probably partly regional and partly cultural. A wise jazz musician once pointed out to me that the prevalence and outward manifestation of misogyny varies drastically by location. Generally, New York and LA are noticeably different (though not necessarily less misogynist) than most of the rest of the country. And while this “paying your dues” thing can undoubtedly play into that, I think another part of the equation is that mindless playing-for-the-paycheck work isn’t as looked down on in LA as it sometimes is in some pockets of Phoenix—in part because gigs are a step up from the carousel of day jobs, plural, needed to pay Los Angeles rent.

The other part of this, I suppose, is that I wasn’t told to pay my dues in LA; I was told to put in the work. While both phrases carry similar weight, there’s a lot more flexibility to the latter. My friends and teachers saw me making angry assault music and counted that as “doing the work.” They saw me advocating for student life improvements and institutional change and counted that as “doing the work.” They see me blogging about the need for better treatment across the board and count that as “doing the work.” But regardless of the details, I didn’t hear or talk about or think about “paying my dues” much in California, and I do in Arizona, so it’s time to break down some concepts. Continue reading “Paying Your Dues (and other bullshit)”

Hey, Phantom Regiment: BAD MOVE

(the following is a transcription of a Twitter thread I posted this morning. Further comments are in brackets [ ]. It is worth noting that for a show about Joan of Arc, “burn it all down” is an awful tagline.)

Yiiiiiikes. Someone tell Phantom Regiment that a show celebrating women should really feature music BY women. Yes, I understand the name recognition wouldn’t be on the same level. But if you only use men’s music, guess what: you care about men’s reactions more than women’s. [I say this in that their repertoire choices make it look like they’re more interested in crowd-pleasing than in telling an anywhere-near-accurate story; they care more about saying they did a show about a woman than they do actually getting it right.] Continue reading “Hey, Phantom Regiment: BAD MOVE”

Announcing Phantom’s Winter Composers

Phantom Brass is pleased to announce the winners of our Winter 2018 Call for Scores. We had so many great submissions this year and we’re grateful to everyone who participated. We look forward to premiering these works as part of our 2018-19 season.

  • Marina Romani: Prologo (solo tuba)
  • Greg Simon: The Way Through the Woods (trumpet and tape)
  • Jacob Elkin: Tiny Dance
  • Björn Griesheimer: Taratatam
  • Justin Merritt: Album Leaves
  • Emiliano Manna: Gesti
  • Sy Brandon: Capriccio for Brass Quartet

We’re also excited to formally announce the arrival of a new member, composer-trumpeter Sara Sithi-Amnuai. Sara is a fantastic player and we’re delighted to have her onboard beginning in the 2018-19 season. As a group, we can’t wait to see what new challenges we can take on with the added flexibility of a fifth member! ♦

Interested in keeping up with Phantom? Join the mailing list to hear about calls for scores and upcoming events.