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”

Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and the Importance of Teaching Identity

It’s December 1, 2019, and I’m propped against the comfiest pillows in my apartment, poring over the second edition of Robert Walser’s Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History in preparation for a forthcoming guest lecture. I’ve got tons of time—until sometime next semester—but because I’m trying to highlight the connections between my musical work as a whole and the jazz tradition, I’m looking for sources that will back up my arguments. I don’t expect to spend much time in the legitimacy flames this time around, but ideally, I’ll use this lecture again in the future. So I’m reading Keeping Time in full, re-engaging with my favorite parts and digging deeper into things I might have missed or flat-out did not read when I first brought the book home as a junior in college.

While I’m trying to find useful words by men to prepare for the inevitable (hopefully distant) day one decides to argue I’m a poser who doesn’t conform because I don’t understand complex harmony or virtuosic playing or some shit like that, I’m also giving myself full permission to luxuriate in the (few) moments of words penned by women. So I dipped my toes into Hazel V. Carby’s “The Sexual Politics of Women’s Blues” like it was the hot tub of my dreams. I wasn’t disappointed—in fact, in the span of a single essay, my world rearranged itself. Continue reading “Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and the Importance of Teaching Identity”