Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Counter Culture Carnival - In Toronto December 15, 2007

Boys and Girls! Welcome to Carnie Night At Buddy’s !!!

Here's an Indie Music concert combining Music, Fashion and Charity.

Featuring Disco and Indie Bands:

After Party
Coyote On Peyote
Hot MonogamyAnd
Carnie Hostess Mackenzie MacBride and Her Super Model Syndrome

Proceeds to Camp Ten Oaks: Sending Toronto children of to summer camp
Canada’s Only Counter Culture Carnie and Touring Cabaret Gala !!!

Friday Dec. 15 thOne Night Only7 PM Early Show!!! Followed by Buddys Friday night dance

Buddys In Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.

$7.00, or $5.00 with a donation of hats or mitts for kids
Forget “Law and Order” and sipping egg nog.
Come to the Carnival and be bedazzled.

Details and poster at: http://www.highfashionshow.com/
Upfront Ottawa Magazine

I have been doing some journalism work for Upfront Ottawa magainze.

Upfront Ottawa is a great magazine covering arts, news and culture in Ottawa, Ontario. I highly recommend reading it as it is full of great writing. Upfront is available at many downtown Ottawa locations as well as location in the Market area.

In the November, 2006 issue I was interviewed for an article called, "Mademoiselle Music" by Angie Neatby where I cited my influences as being "Cyndie Lauper and Jesus Christ."

In the December, 2006 that featured the theme, "The Seven Deadly Sins" I wrote a piece about a sin I know all to well: "Lust"

"When dealing with lust it can be useful to call a trusted freind who's, "been there" from a pay phone. It has to be a pay phone. It is all in the spending of the quarter. You've invested hard currency in your own misery. Now that's validation!"

I felt privlidged to have been given a chance to write a bit for this magazine. I've been writing for a long time. This was one of the first articles I actually got published. Thanks Upfront.


Monday, November 13, 2006

The High Notes

I was happy to learn that the good people of Capital Xtra magazine thought enough of my music, my story and the Wild Bird Rescue Centre benefit show that took place on October 7th, 2006.

Here's the link to the profile in the September 28th, 2006 edition of Capital Xtra.


In case you can not open the link, here is the text of the article.

The musical magic of Mackenzie MacBrideMUSIC / Performer's stage act challenges audiences
Hayley MacPhee / Capital Xtra / Thursday, September 28, 2006

GIVE UP OR STAND UP. The eccentric Mackenzie MacBride has created her own unique sound and a stage act that challenges audiences. (Pat Croteau)

"My life has been one big journey through corners on two-wheels and somersaults and near-death experiences," says Mackenzie MacBride, the Ottawa-area singer-storyteller."I am a woman who got short-changed. I like to think that I have two angels and one of them is Patrick and the other one is Damian, and Damian is this rock and roll angel who temporarily forgot about me and ran off with some chick," says MacBride. "All I ever set out to be in my life was a woman. No prefixes, no suffixes, no multi-syllable qualifiers. And that disappoints some people when I talk like that. But I understand the difference between defining myself and being in the closet. I define myself but I am not in any closet." MacBride is certainly the character she purports to be. She is wearing a tight, frilly, orange and black, three-quarter length shirt, khaki capri pants and clunky oxfords, tied together vividly with a string of lime-green beads.Hailing from the secluded shores of Minas Basin in rural Nova Scotia, MacBride is quick to explain that she was a poster child for all things queer while growing up. MacBride recalls attending Acadia University where she was menaced and intimidated by the general populace while walking through campus, and was eventually given security guards to escort her from the residence to the dining lounge. She also describes attending St Mary's University in Halifax, where she spent her time alone in her foggy residence room listening to Melissa Etheridge. No one ever called her except her mother and one girlfriend. It was at this low point that MacBride decided that she was going to have to "give up or stand up.""The movie Hedwig And The Angry Inch paints a very brash, 'snap-snap' type of got-it-all-together bravado, but in real life it's hard to be a person on the margin day in and day out," says MacBride.Moving to Ottawa was a wake-up call that helped MacBride realize that her eccentric character went far and beyond being part of the queer community. "When I came up to Ottawa I was like, 'Well, here everyone's a tranny and everyone's got a MySpace and there's nothing special about you.' It's not my queerness that defines me as an eccentric artist; that's just one little portion of me," says MacBride, whose je ne sais quoi sets her apart even in the queer community. Despite being a self-described oddball, MacBride says that she still feels a lot of solidarity within the community. "What keeps me coming is back is I feel like I have something to share with other queers. What's true about me but not a lot of others in the queer community is that ... it's the queer way, to take our misfortunes and move forward. The survival instincts, transcending these hardships, is how I feel such a commonality with that community," says MacBride.MacBride says that one thing that hasn't changed from living in the Maritimes is that she's still a curiosity and still a source for scrutiny. And she still hears comments about the way she looks.But major a conduit for MacBride is, of course, her music. The career was not easy to begin in Halifax - MacBride can remember calling every single performer in a pamphlet of musicians looking for gigs and being turned down by every single one. Being in Ottawa helped to advance MacBride's career, and she was able to develop into her own. MacBride says that what sets her apart is her storytelling and her witty yet earnest delivery - her way of sharing her struggles, minus the clichéd Hollywood happy-endings. MacBride says that her act is a mix of Tiny-Tim style screeches and Dolly Parton kitsch and camp. At each show, MacBride invites her audience to transcend the homogenous and the mainstream, and to experience the outlandish, the "off-off Broadway.""I do it with a style, and a depth of humanness you can't get from every dime MC act. It's not pretty, but it's honest. I'm humble enough to take the risk to get up on stage and sing in that sexless voice, which could be thought of as social suicide, even by myself on some nights," says MacBride. MacBride hopes that her earnest vocals, lyrics and inexhaustible wit are enough to transcend all ages and social groups, and instill tenacity and perseverance in the face of hardship. According to MacBride, her music brings a lot of joy to those who have ever been "battered and beaten.""I want them to start making lemonade out of lemons, to treat each day as a chance instead of a promise. The biggest reward for me is when people come up to me after a show and say something like, 'Wow, I don't feel so alone now.' I try to demonstrate beauty and love with honesty, outside of conventional clichés. Beauty as a barbed wire fence that has been cut open, not a kitten on a Hallmark Card."MacBride has enjoyed touring the Golden Triangle circuit this year, but has begun planning her own gigs. MacBride's current project is a benefit called Rare Woman For Wild Birds for an Ottawa-area bird sanctuary that saves and cares for the injured animals.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Sister Solidarity

Lady Fest Ottawa

I was thrilled to have been invited to not only play, but to open the 5 th Lady Fest ottawa festival. I first played this event in 2003. I was a heartbroken little Annie Lennox emo/ fashion/ passion type with a schreechy voice and a keytar. I am proud to say I am still sharign all this camp with audiences.

I met and interviewed Lesbians On Extasy the night of the show. They were approachable, down to earth and ready to chat. In other words, they are my type of gals! I also interviewed Nicky Click and her dolls. What a moment to meet another true "orininal" on Rideau St. Let's just say Nicky did not have a bag from "the Gap" or "Jacob" under her arm. she had on a white lepard pattenred dress that clung to her like a second skin. She let m know she was going to return it to the store. The tags were still attached. I was delighted.

The concert also marked the first time the mainstream arts and entertainent paper, "The Ottawa Express" mentioned me. Hopefully it won't be the last. There's a lot of barriers though. One never knows. I'm enjoying this bit of recognition. I have walked through the valleys of apathy and sailed into the winds of indifference for years. Be vigilient. I encourage "sister solidarity."


Or read it here:

Ottawa Xpress/ Sept 21, 2006

Hey, hey ladies... Andrea Simms-Karp
Montreal's own Le Tigre of sorts : Lesbians on Ecstasy Ladyfest kicks off with lesbians, click, a librarian's touch and a bride...Wednesday nights are not usually the time to buckle down and dance your little heart out, but this week will have to be a particularly wild exception.
As Ladyfest Ottawa rolls into town, the city is getting hit with an electro-extravaganza unlike anything that usually graces the middle of the week. Montreal's Lesbians On Ecstasy, Olympia, Washington's Nicky Click (who's opened for Lady Sovereign), Toronto's Librarian's Touch (Lindsay Gillard is a former member of Ottawa's the Sick Lipstick) and East Coast's Mackenzie MacBride are all descending upon Maverick's for a night of well-deserved booty shaking. And although the lineup is proudly queer positive and lady friendly, all are welcome to get their freak on.

Fruity Frankie of Lesbians On Ecstasy says that anyone can enjoy the band's high-energy sets - as long as they don't mind watching a group of women strutting around the stage in chaps (nobody has a problem with that, right folks?). Same goes with Nicky Click, whose video art and music is deliciously quirky. She says she often tours with a doll, Petunia Pie, to make things interesting. How this lineup could ever be dull escapes me, but so it goes.
These women have a whole lot more in common than their dance-driven sounds and keen party sense. All of them have made strides in an industry that isn't particularly geared towards women. Electronic art, from multimedia to DJing, is often a dude-dominated realm. For many young women, the thought of going into an audio store to buy gear is daunting. Well-known artists like Le Tigre and Peaches have helped encourage girls to experiment with electronic media, but there is always room for more support.

Nicky Click got into video art with a cheap camcorder and some know-how, but she says she would have gotten into it much earlier if she felt encouraged. "I was lucky to find women who were willing to share their techniques," she says. "Now I'm seeing women creating and saying what they need to say."

Fruity Frankie says she is happy to have seen the genre grow and diversify, even in the relatively short time her band has been wooing crowds. "Our project grew out of Montreal, which has a huge dance scene, but very few women involved. There were a whole lot of guys twiddling knobs," she says, laughing. "But in the past three years, we've seen women really making it for themselves. And we've gotten a lot of props from places we thought would hate us."

Considering that Lesbians On Ecstasy charged the international scene after coming together as a bit of an experiment, it's no wonder they've been getting props. They were asked to tour with Le Tigre, veritable giants of the genre, early on in their career, and are now getting ready to record their follow-up to their buzz worthy self-titled debut - the album's sexy covers of queer anthems could win over even the most skeptical listener. Heck, with names like Fruity Frankie, Bernie Bankrupt, Veronique Mystique and Jackie "The JackHammer," you could go for the camp and stay for the beats.

If you think Wednesday's lineup looks fun, stay tuned for an endless string of stellar shows as the week winds down. The doors to Ladyfest are about to be kicked open.
Ladyfest Presents:Lesbians on EcstasyNicky Click
Librarian's Touch
Mackenzie MacBride
Wednesday, September 27 (19+)Maverick's

Thursday, September 28, 2006

" Mackenzie MacBride - Not A Grab and Gripper"

"What's Hot With Me" - Marcus McCann / Capital Xtra/ Sept 5, 2006

Marcus McCann publishes his Top 5 favourites. Right below Kinnee Star he listed me for the Sept. 6 to October 1, 2006 edition of Capital Xtra. It was just one line. But it meant so much to me. I am not a scenester. I am not a poser. I don't try promote myself under the guises of charity and community activism. I am not a "grab and gripper." Nor do I want to be around people exhibiting this type of fakery and narcissism.

My "be for real" philosophy means I have often found myself on the "out"side of queer "in crowd". This is ironic considering I was the personification of queerness in rural Canada for most of my life. But I am not bitter. I am simply pointing it out as a fact. I am comfortable with my outsider status.

Back in high school there were ridiculous "90's era" cliques. The doctor's son and the suburb construction developer's daugther were the King and Queen of Winter Carnival and thought themselves to better than everyone else. They wore Sun Ice winbter jackets in bright yellow and Nike sneakers with space age thick soles. They had a whole lot hangers on. Jock guys and little trotter girls with lots of hair spray. They would all hang around in the front entry of the school or in the adjoining gym.

I can remember being petrified to walk past them in my pink Ocean Pacific tee shirt and "Potato sack" shorts. 10 points for anyone who remembers potato sack shorts. But all these years later where are all these cool kids and posers. Well the doctor's son is an "ears, nose and throat "Mc' doc". And that only barely a "McDoc" because his gradfes were so poor that he had to get is medical licence from Guademala! (Can't you just barely wait for your next trip to get medical care in Canada?) And the the daughter of the suburb developer and her Sun Ice jacket? She sells pharmicutials in Edmonton and worships at the "Church Of the Lamb" along with her hsband - from our same high school. (Hey, if was comfy for her, why change it? Evolution? How passe!)

So take it from me it's better to be one of the nerds in the band room in the basement than a total fake.

So having said all this, to get to the point, I was so happily surprised when I read in Marcus McCann's Top 5 for Ottawa list for September.

"Mackenzie MacBride. Note to Ottawa: Fuck You for not noticing her sooner."

It is a real honour to have caught the attention of an ally. Someone who really "gets it". I have yet to meet him. I hope I do someday. No, I was not noticied. I was in the basement band room. Bring some of your favourite Cher sheet music and let's jam sometime.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

New Review

“MacBride gets credit for putting so much of herself out there, and admitting to things like having days when she could barely make it to work over all of this love business. To turn the energy from a bad situation into something productive is always a good thing. She could be on to something.”
- Broken Pencil Magazine of Indie Culture / Reviews / Liz Worth / Toronto /
Issue 30/ June 2006.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Toronto Arts Review

“Mackenzie MacBride, Ottawa, is back with a new CD and her one of a kind lounge act based on storytelling and glam rock.”
- Xtra / Arts / Gordon Bowness / Toronto / April, 2006

Friday, May 12, 2006

Lounge Act Reviewed in Alterheros.com

Mackenzie MacBride, est une musicienne qui chante dans une style de lounge et glam rock.
Elle utilise un synthétiseur, les drums électroniques et la guitare pour raconter l’histoire de sa propre vie, tout en démontrant une franchise hors du commun et faisant vivre bon nombre d’émotion à son public.

Sa voix rappelle à la fois les styles opéra et blues. Avec son style excentrique, elle sera difficile à oublier. Pour la connaître d’avantage, vous pouvez visiter son site perso au www.myspace.com/mackenziemacbride

- Alterheros.com / In the Community / Montreal / April, 2006/ Translated from French

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rock Band

April 23, 2006 - Ottawa, Ontario

Trying out "There's A Rock Band On Every Corner" for a live audience.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Next Show

04/28/2006 09:00 PM - The Lighthouse

930 Rue Champagneur, Montreal, Quebec, CANADA, ,CA - 10.00A multi-artist evening of performance artists including music and spoken word. Queer themed. All ages. Directions: Off of Van Horne, 161 bus and near the subway stop Outremont Metro (Blue Line)
Write It, Read It. Post It. – “Gender Privlidged Vs. Gender Peculiar”

When you’re angry at something or someone in the office the old saying is,”Write It, Read It. Rip It.” But I’m going to Post it. Because “high society” just doesn’t get it. To define my terms, “high society” is people who have access and invitation to participate in the social networks of mainstream society. A mainstream society that includes both the strait world and the queer community. But not people who are gender peculiar.

By social networks I mean the basics of meeting friends and having people actually calling us and inviting us out. How it works is: Each meeting and inviting leads to more of the same. Enurta. High society. It isn’t about money. Though that comes with it. In that people get jobs through who they know. Get music gigs and press from people they know.

Call me Jealous. Imbittered. Angry. Chip on the shoulders. Worked over. I’d for sure agree to “Worked over.” But I’m really done with being told, “Oh. Why don’t you just organize a show?” Or “You can get press – you just have to go out and get it.” Or, “if you’re good at what you do people will just hire you.” Sorry. No sale. All of those comments, however well meaning they may be, are coming from a place of “privlidge.” People who are privilidged to be main stream enough that high society will let them participate in the strait ahead ratio of “Effort = Results”. They ignore that it just aint that simple for people who are ruled “peculiar” and especially, “gender peculiar” by society.

Lets take a closer look at who is “gender privilidged” and who is “gender peculiar” - and why.

If you find yourself lost already, in order to understand what kind of “outsider” status someone who is unconvential in gender faces let’s consider Tammy and Little Billy. Tammy, is a trans gal trying to get in with some non trans people so she can read her poems at the local watering hole in town. Even though she knows most of them are a bunch of damn posers. Little Billy is a queer boy sitting out in a rural town populated by farmers and bible thumpers all lined up at the church pot luck for second helpings of strawberry shortcake of a warm July evening. Billy is often the outcast. Just not let in the club. Tammy is like Little Billy. Little Billy doesn’t have any hetro privlidge. Tammy doesn’t have any gender privlidge. They are both on the outside looking in on the rest of the town, otherwise known as – you guessed it: “high society”. But being a butchy young thing, Little Billy, with his straw hat and faded denium overalls, at least has gender privlidge. Their gonna give him a bowl of strawberry shortcake. Tammy, well she’s just out in the cold. No strawberry shortcake for her. And no saucy limric from her poetry scribbler is gonna fix that, you all.

Now that we have a better idea of what the hell I’m talking about let’s continue. There’s lots of folks, artists and otherwise, out there who are “different”, or “characters” or “unique”. People who dress larger than life to get attention, have a rare talent that they exploit to gain notority, or big personalities that command an audience wherever they go. These “characters” are sought out and revered by society for their “different” qualities. Different, as in “special”. Special, as in “appreciated”. But all of these traits are a second coat of paint over top of their base coats of being conventionally gendered. Their gender matches their body and their sex. It always has, and it always will. Conventionally gendered. This is a safe and approachable base coat of paint for most people.

This safe, conventional, and basically mass appealing gender presentation earns these “characters” two things, if not more. One, it earns them entrance into the privlidged, conventionally gendered high society. And they get into the club because they give people in mainstream society something safe to hold onto. Something called “gender” that lets mainstreamers say, “I can deal with this person – cuz underneath they are “just like me””. And once these “characters” are in the club of privilidge what do they get? : A big play ground to network, earn livings, date, become rock stars – whatever’s on their agendas.

Secondly, it earns them the right to play. Play with fashion, piercings, tattoos, looks, styles, bravado, and all other outward presentations of themselves. Play so hard with their appearances that they can make themselves into real, “freaks”. But they’re still safe. Hardly scary at all. Becauase no matter what they do they’ve still got this base coat of gender normalcy underneath to keep them in the good graces of a main stream society that’s holding the keys to privilidge.

But what about those “characters” who seem to court gender diviance but still come out on top of the heap? The chick dressed in leather and big hats and singing with a real booming voice and a drum kit and the punk boy with mascara and painted nails whining away in a high piched nasal voice above his electric guitar. Those two. And their legions of clones. Good for them, but no, this doesn’t move them from the status of “character” into, “peculiar”. This is still just playing with appearances. Putting a real shocking second coat of paint over those convential gender base coats of theirs. This is all just part of their schitck. Their gag. Their attention-getting machine.
A base coat of paint that mainstream “high society” views as safe and a second coat that main stream views as flashy– what a recipe for success. The by line reads something like, “Amazing female vocalist solid as an 18 wheeler” and “Punk frontman sings like an angel.” The prerequistite for success is gender. These artists deliver. And “high society” eats it up by consciously or unconsciously saying, “Well, I can deal with 18 wheelers and angels – I mean it’s a man and a woman I’m watching here at the end of the day.”

It’s these “characters’” choice to look like that though. It’s on them. Not in them. They could strip all of that rockabilly toughness and punk strut off for Monday morning, walk down the street without being stared and and get that job in the coffee shop on the corner without much of a problem. Not being stared at. Getting that job. Dressing it up or down whenever it’s more convenient or necessary to fit in. All of that is part of gender privilidge.

Some of these “characters” get a real buzz out of defining themselves as “outsiders”, and not a members of “high society” at all. So, ofcourse, they will fight tooth and nail to try and deny that they are in fact “prividged”. Even conventioanlly gendered privlidged. It always amuses me when these self-described “outsiders” fight so hard to be recognized as “peculiar” because they are such “insiders.” Gender insiders. And if they were to be granted the “peculiar” label, it would be a classic case of, “Be careful what you wish for” because they’d immediately see they’re convential gender fueled accesses and privlidges clawed away by main stream
“high society”.

On the other side of the line, the “peculiar” person, the person who is not conventional in gender, has the opposite paint job going on. A base coat of paint that main stream “high society” views as scary. A base that is not on them like a costume, but inside them like a feeling. A feeling that can’t be taken out, whether it turns the coffee shop owner’s crank or not. And a second coat that main stream views as boring – a schtick that’s already been done. (We’ve all seen, “TransAmerica”, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, and “Boys Don’t Cry”. Move on.
Stop whining.). The gender peculiar person is not likely walking down that same street without getting stared at. And isn’t likely getting that job in the coffee shop either.

It’s also worth pointing out here that plently of conventionally gendered people never amount to much in life. Just as many gender peculiar people likely wouldn’t amount to much either if gender suddenly was no longer a big deal in high society. The difference is: whatever opportunities conventionally gendered people squandered or chances they had wrentched away from them by others, one thing they didn’t face was having their potential pinned down by a glass ceiling in the form of being denied access to the goodies that come from possessing gender privilidge.

I don’t resent people who are conventionally gendered. After all, just like gender variant people – it was just how they were mentally hard wired in the womb. And not all conventially gendered people are against non-conventionally gendered people. A few have even said, “I’ll help you.” But both the conventionally gendered person and the non-conventionally gendered soon find out that this benvolent offer finds its demise in its naivity. What worked for the conventionally gendered person in terms of getting press, a job or a lover usually doesn’t work for the gender unconventional person. They can’t, don’t and won’t walk the same path. And many a conventionally gendered friend and non-conventionally gendered friend have looked at each other and said, “Why is that?” The explanation is very short. But once you find it, it is so very simple. Tammy and Little Billy, the answer is: Gender privilidge.

So while I don’t resent people who are conventionally gendered for being conventionaly gendered, I do resent conventionally gendered people telling me that I have access to just as many opportunities to go out there and mix it up with main stream high society as they do. For the more well-meaning people flogging this flawed logic, I give them a break because privlidge born out of gender is really subtle. Because almost everyone has gender privlidge. It’s easy to overlook how much of leg up being conventionally gendered gives a person until you really walk a mile with the effeminate gay boy at the “strait acting” night club, the lip stick lesbain at the stone dyke poker game or the trans gal trying to get some press for her music.

But to state it clearly and simply, once and for all, with few exceptions, people who are gender peculiar are not part of the in crowd. Not invited to the bar for drinks with the hotties. Not thought of for being added to the line up of performers for the multi-artist fund raiser. Ignored by the call outs to join the posing poets for their “reading series”.

And while it is easy to overlook, for all its subtly, I’m not going to roll over and pretend this type of gender privlidge doesn’t exist. Because to ignore it, to say that opportunities and access for conventionally gendered people (conventionally gendered “characters” included) and “peculiar” gender unconventionals are equal would be to make the the oppression that comes from going without gender privilidge even more oppressive. It would be to say, “Oh well. It’s my fault. I didn’t get that press. I must not have tried hard enough.” One more marginalized person blamed for their marginalization.

So if you are gender peculiar give yourself a break. Now that we’ve named the beasts: That you are most likely oppressed by a “high society” that is obsessed with gender as a concept of two polar opposites. That this same “high society” has likely marginalized you by that doling out or holds back gender privlidge, and the trappings that go with it, on a case by case, or gender by gender basis. Now that we’ve carefully disected what’s been leaning on you, uncurl yourself from that ball. You shouldn’t compare what you are able to achieve with that of a conventionally gendered person with the accomplishments of a conventionally gendered person with all of their gender privilidge and access to high society. What the gender peculiar person and the conventionally gendered person can make happen is often going to be on a different scale, even if their talents may be basically equal. And now that this is oppression is out in the light, if you are the friend of a gender peculiar person, please - a little less on the, “Why can’t you make it to the other end of the pool – I did.” routine. It’s hurtful.

To gender peculiars and our friends - don’t quit. Break down the walls. One bricks at a time if necessary. So you can try in little and big ways to gain access to what all humans should have the right to do, participate fully in their communities and socities. There’s not much in journalism or creative writing that’s worse than people giving dogmatic pep talks to complete strangers so I’ll keep this “feel-gooder finish” to a brief personal anecdote. I’ve sent out press releases and promos about my music from everyone to queer magazines, local rags to the freaking CBC and received not a bite. But I’ve rolled up the newspapers heralding punk rock boys with mascara and women in leather and big hats, with their safe base coats and their gender insider status that attracts the press like magnets on grandma’s fridge. And I’ve thrown the whole lot of them in the recycling bin. And I’m moving on to thinking about just who in “high society” I can go up to next and point out – “Hey I exist too, wanna give me a chance?”

04/02/2006 09:00 PM - Buddies in Bad Times Theater

12 Alexander Street, Toronto, Ontario, CANADA, ,CA - multi-artist evening of performance artists including music and spoken word. All ages.

Thanks to everyone who attended and waved their arms so romantically during, "I Saw You"!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Being Trans Is “Stylish” - at least so says the CBC

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) Ottawa bureua website ran a story by Alec Scott in which he described being trans as being very, “Stylish” and very “Now” . What a way to degrade and dismiss all of the years of suffering most trans people have gone through to find a home for their souls in their own bodies!

Being trans is not a style or a fad. Or a bit of campy fun. It is an identity. A true self. This true self is not chosen by the trans person like a pair of cutsey barettes to match a $100.00 haircut. It is a true self that is there whether the trans person or the people around them like it or not.

Right wing conservative Preachers, Ethicists and, “People who have found God” berate trans people by saying they should choose to “correct” themselves. But these right wing bigots stand corrected. The only choice involved in being trans is to choose to accept your true self as is, or to reject your true self.

Here is the link to the article:


I wrote the following Feedback article and sent it to the CBC. It details just how, “Stylish” it is to be a musician who people label as trans.

To Alec Scott,

I thought that since you went on record in your Feb 13th, 2006 article, “Trans Mania” as saying that, “trans is very stylish, very now” that you might be interested to know just exactly how “Stylish” being trans in Ottawa REALLY is. The best way I can think to do this is to tell you about “a day in the life”.

First let me introduce myself. I am an Ottawa based songwriter/ singer who does a one of a kind lounge act based on story telling and glam rock. I am a true tortured artist and underdog in every sense of the words.

Now for an account of my day. This account isn’t designed to be a sympathy ploy. I don’t want anyone’s charity. Just their understanding of the facts of what it’s like to be a trans musician in Canada.

Today I decided to venture out into the world in search of some social contact. I had been sequestered all weekend working on songs for my new album. Not that I had a lot of choice. A trans person often has very limited social networks. People who literally are cast to the fringe of society can literally live in almost constant social isolation. Just like a shut in senior citizen who is just waiting for the telemarketer to call or her once a week visit from her daughter from out of town. Except young, so the mind is still sharp and the loneliness felt especially poignantly. Just one of the many styling aspects of being trans.

I was extra motivated to find positive social contacts today because I had viewed a show on Global TV which was extolling right wing anti gay and anti trans views. The show even featured real life success stories who had `corrected` themselves from `deviant sexual lifestyles`. Nothing like another positive reinforcement from the media about how much self worth a person should have.

My default venue was a trip into the Dusty Owl Reading series, a monthly “I have no friends” club for a bunch of amateur poets to get up any revel in the sounds of their own voices set to the back drop of a seedy queer bar in a basement of downtown Ottawa.

On a trip into the washroom to throw out some orange peels a woman could be heard in the stall calling out,

“Just a minute. You can use this washroom. I just wiped the seat.”
I said, “I’m just here to throw out orange peels”

She emerged from the can. A stocky dyke decked out in an orange ball hat and a fleece Mountain Gear vest and looks at me and says,

“Oh well if it had been a woman well she would have appreciated me wiping the seat. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

I exit the washroom telling myself for about the 5000 th time in my life that perhaps I had misunderstood or misheard what was obviously blatant transphobia.

Later I returned to the washroom and the woman – who must have been some sort of crapper urchin – was back in there again. From the next stall over she said,

“ I didn’t catch you name. What’s you male name? ”
“I am not a male! ”
“I thought I knew you from the scene from years ago. ”
“No. ”
“I thought you were Scott. Are you Scott? ”
“I didn’t mean to offend you. I know what it’s like to be trapped. I’ve done a lot of reading on that. ”
“I am not sure why you would associate any man or any Scott with me. ”
“It’s just that when you came in the bar, everyone started saying, “Look at the transvestite.”

(She, like you in your article, was using really archaic language from the 1970’s that is a derogatory term used for men who get sexual pleasure from dressing up as women. If you wanted to appear more savvy on social issues, I’d suggest dropping that word from your lexicon. It really is what the word “nigger” is to a black person. It’s a slur. Almost too contemptible to even use as an example of a slur.)

“Why were people saying that? ”
“Well the sun glasses. ”
“Women don’t wear sun glasses on their heads?
“Well who was saying it. ”
“Never you mind. Why do you care what people are saying about you?”
“Well since you are telling me this I thought I should pursue it. ”
“Well now that I look at you, I can tell you are a beautiful woman and they were wrong.
So don’t mind that people call you names. ”

So either through my indignation or my beauty I convinced her that she was “wrong” and that I was not a “transvestite”. As a result, she was basically letting me know that she was letting me off the hook: excusing me from being associated with this category of people, this obvious insult. An insult, which only minutes before, she was saying was not an insult as she tried to label me with it. So from either side of the coin I was once again having someone map out all of their transphobia all over my body. How stylish.

Meanwhile back out at the bar, some 60 year old bald librarian look a like had slipped a business card inside my poetry book with the message, “Please call”. And he’d borrowed my own pen to write me the note!

And remember this was the social experience that I was counting on to be my social contact for the entire weekend.

I decided that, as usual this crowd of scenesters and pretend friends did not deserve me. I announced I was leaving and that my name should be removed from the reading list. Oni, the Haitian Sensation, who was the hostess for the evening, recognizing my authentic artist status from previous interactions, immediately put my name to the top of the list and I decided this gesture of support was grounds for doing my poetry reading after all. I took to the stage and immediately let the crowd know,

“I’m not going to lie to you – this night is a rough one. Some old dude gave me his business card which just says , “By appointment only. Please call” on it. What sort of business do you think he’s in? Hair?” Everyone laughed.

I went on to read the following poem,

Road Less than Less Traveled

Our living room plans were as storied as the streets of Nashville
I can almost see Neil Young and Emmy Lou Harris in a big old Lincoln.
But we’ll have to find a less cliché way to make it in music
Cuz they don’t want the lies of us at the Grand Old Opre

This poem was written to illustrate the heroic challenge a trans person faces trying to make it in the music business. When we think of the music business – it is thought of as the road less traveled. Shania Twain and Terri Clarke are considered “trail blazers” for leaving small town Canada behind and going down to Nashville. They took “the road less traveled.” But they had pretty faces, pretty voices, were conventional in gender and looked the part. Through no special effort of their own. They were just born into their underlying conventionalness.

Soon enough producers and studio players were lining up to write songs with them and even marry these gals. But imagine if a trans country singer arrived in Nashville. She might as well have stayed home and kept washing dishes at the Manx on Elgin St. She’d be laughed off the stage. Or worse. The “Remembering Our Dead” Trans Day of Remembrance vigil that is marked around the world in cities including Ottawa named trans people that were killed in such states as Tennessee and Kentucky. Just in the last year. Just for being trans. How trendy. I can almost see them accepting their Grammy in the sky…

Being a shunned woman has held me back in all sorts of ways in the music business and in life in general. For example, living in Halifax in the 1990s, when I finally decided I would reach out to other musicians to try and make a CD, I called every musician in, “Play” (the Atlantic Canadian Music Industry Index), and not one of these musicians - not one - would work with me. The book was over 150 pages thick.

That set me on a lonely road to try and learn to do everything myself. With my money exhausted from paying for 3 demos songs in a professional studio with engineers who could hardly see me below their curled lips, I fell into a trap that many people fall into. I tried to get into “home recording”. I saved up the money to buy computer recording equipment and software. Saving the money took years of toil at degrading minimal wage jobs – at one point I dissected garbage contents to figure out what percentage of it would have been recyclable. Another perk of being a trans is that employment is difficult if not impossible. Through sheer determination and smarts I was able to get a job a government job some years back. But I know if I lost this government job tomorrow and I applied to McDonalds on Bank St. or Starbucks in the Chapters on Rideau St. (Ottawa, ON), I would not be hired.

All of the computerized recording equipment turned into a huge 3 year night mare of computer crashes, technical problems and results that could only be described as computerized. It’s only been in the last year that I found an organic way to record my lounge act on a no budget basis. It only took 15 years to be acquire gear a lot of kids are given for Christmas.

Meanwhile lots of low talent and conventionally gendered people are making it big in music. Around Ottawa and around Canada. Why? Because they were not on the fringe. They were out at bars. Making friends. Making connections. Starting bands. Not being laughed at and asked their “male names” just by showing up. Not having to do it all themselves. Meanwhile I was, despite my efforts, in musical and social isolation battling computers.

And when it came to gigs for these afor mentioned main steamers? People wanted to see their bands. It was about music. But if I had managed to get myself out there and make a show. Well it would be “the tranny show”. It wouldn’t be about music. It would be seen as a gimmick. And if there was an audience? No straight bar would have it. Off to the queer bar with you. (Where as you can see from the above anecdote, “The dog did come from my own kennel”. )

Drawing from your own articles examples, the creator of the movie “Trans America” Duncan Tucker is quoted in the Ottawa Express (a free local entertainment rag) as saying of his movie, “I only hope that people won’t think, “It’s a transsexual movie. It’s strange and inaccessible.” The creator of the very film that supposedly portrays trans people with such honesty prefers to take the good of the gimmick of being trans and leave the bad of the taboo of being trans. His basic pitch can be paraphrased with, “Come to the freak show. You can see freaks. But we won’t scare you too much. And noone will think you’re a freak for going to the movie either.
I promise.”

The Ottawa Express even got it wrong. The title read, “Felicity Huffman makes like a man in Tranny Tale”. Makes like a man? Tranny Tale? She’s not a man. That’s the point! Or so the movie might have told a few people if the stupid title of the Express article hadn’t told them the reverse and confirmed the negative misconceptions people had about trans people going into the movie experience. And won’t it be tragically ironic that when Felicity Huffman wins an Oscar, it will be for playing a role based on my real life experience. Except instead of being celebrated for my experiences- people have used them to systematically keep me out of the music business.

An example from my own life now. When I was promoting my CD at the 2004 CanZine festival of DIY and Independent Arts festival in Toronto, some dude from the York University newspaper just waltzes up to my table and says he wants to include me in a supplement his paper is doing on trans people.

The guy has never met me. He doesn’t know me. Doesn’t know what I’m about. He does not know how I identify. He decides for me. In his self rightousness he thinks he is the appointed person to define me. He knows me better than I know myself. So he thinks. So he gets to label me. With labels he is comfortable with. Labels that help him maintain his view that the world or sex and gender is binary (one or the other). He tries to make me an unwilling participant in his binary world. He completely disregards that I’m promoting a musical creation – not my crotch. For him, it’s all about my crotch, my status, my freakishness. All of which were sandblasted onto me by his presumptions, without my permission or invitation.

Ofcourse, as much as I need the PR, I didn’t accept his offer. When I was little I saw myself as a girl, and I saw myself as wanting to become a woman when I grew up. I sure didn’t think about the day when I could grow up and be a TS or and transgender or even a TS woman. Just a woman. All those other labels are just jargon for uninformed people to keep people “not like them” in neat little categories and moreover, devices to keep people “not like them” down. To deny people “not like them” the validation that society is ready to agree with us that we are who we say we are. An Asterisk on Woman* or Man*, as the case may be, that says: * - Not quite. And no PR is worth that for me.

So I’ve had to learn not to compare myself to the accomplishments of others. I face more obstacles than other musicians. Both in connecting with other musicians and with getting audiences and shows. The average main stream person just “gets the goodies” from life – just by being them. By virtue of fitting in. If they start at 0 every morning, then ofcourse they can get to 7, 8 or even 9 out of 10 everyday. The trans person starts out at like – 10 every morning and is lucky if they see beyond zero on a good day. Those are the odds. Not to mention that over 60% of trans youth commit suicide before they are 30. Well, I’m not 30 yet. But I intend to make it there. But while I’m on route, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t align my life of struggle and torture to escape rural Nova Scota to become a veritable -yet to be discovered-Canadian lounge act with being “Stylish” and vogue.