What stands out

I’m getting ready for a trans choir “flash mob” performance that I’m going to be in tomorrow. We’re going to be “spontaneously” singing on 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver tomorrow afternoon. The chosen date falls just between National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11) and the Transgender Day of Remembrance (Nov. 20). We’re singing, “We are here in the memory of those who have fallen…” Celebration, pride, and grief are all somehow simultaneously present.

I was going to bring a list of transgender people who have been murdered in the US in 2016, for anyone who is interested. I pulled some articles. One account noted that back in September, the 23rd killing made this the deadliest year for transgender people since such things have been tracked. I found this list of names and short descriptions on a Wikipedia page that’s clearly lovingly maintained by someone (or some group) who cares. And here’s an interesting fact:

Out of the 23 transgender people killed, sixteen are described as black. Three are described as Latina. One is described as a trans woman of color. One is described as white. Two are not described by their race.

What can be said here?

Here’s what comes up for me: That we talk some about how fucked up it is that realizing someone is transgender is a valid legal reason for murdering them, but we talk not much about the clear fact that being of a non-white race most definitely comes into play when it’s being determined how expendable your life is, here in the US.

Right now, I am just pointing out what stands out to me. And at this particular moment, that’s all the words I have.

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GALA, Ready or Not

 

Phoenix

Bad ass choir t-shirts

 
Ok. So, for anyone who has been like “Angie / Gayan / Verdana Leviathan Strong, WHY have you not replied to the email I sent you two months ago / done the thing you said you were going to do??? I’m WAITING!!!” I have a four letter word for you:

GALA. 

(Warning – that wasn’t one, but there are lots of f-bombs below.)

The GALA International Choral Festival that’s being held in Denver this weekend, where queer choirs (LGBTQetc) from around the world get together at the Performing Arts Complex and sing to each other for like 5 days. 

This time, I’m singing with Phoenix: Colorado’s Trans Community Choir

It’s a very new group founded by my partner Sam less than a year ago. We’ve been busting our asses to get our set ready since we found out in April that we could actually get on the program. 

Our rehearsal schedule has been steadily increasing in the fashion of a snowball rolling rapidly downhill. 

And our set, which is made up entirely of original pieces written by choir members, includes one of my songs, for which I wrote a choral version, with parts & everything. 

We’ll be performing right before a choir from Beijing, for an audience of a couple thousand people. 

I think it could safely be said that one of the unofficial themes of our set is Everybody Outside Their Comfort Zone (Together).

For some folks, this is about being in a choir at all … Singing with a group … Learning to blend and taking the risk that someone might hear their voice. For others, it’s about discovering a whole new vocal range after beginning the hormonal journey of transition, and the uncertainty of opening one’s mouth and not knowing what sound will come out. 

I’ve often said that one of the things I value about this group, and my personal experience in it, is that it’s an equal opportunity comfort zone challenger. I really mean that. Although I’m pretty at ease with group singing as a general concept and I’m not dealing with any big changes in my voice (or my gender presentation), I sometimes feel like I spend almost as much time resisting the process as I spend engaging with it willingly. (And yes, that’s my excuse for being slow to attend to other commitments, like that email I really do intend to reply to … )

For me, the stream of resistance looks like this:

– OMG what do you mean I’m the lead/only instrumentalist on this song? What if I fuck it up???

– OMG I’m fucking it up!!! It’s happening!!! In front of people!!! What do I do? How can I even continue living after this horrible fuck-up???

– OMG. Sam wants us to perform this song that I wrote. How can I possibly make other people sing something I wrote? What if no one but Sam even WANTS to sing it? Maybe they think it’s dumb, or just not choral, and we’re only doing it because I’m Sam’s partner. How can I bear the shame of people hating my song and being forced to sing it?

– And – ok, if I DO agree to do it, I/we (really “I” because I’m too afraid to let go of control) have to come up with an Arrangement. And write it out. In notes. On a staff. Like a, you know, I think the technical term is real music person. That sounds HARD. And very time consuming. And intimidating. And I am bound to fuck it up. 

– And speaking of intimidating, how am I supposed to teach it? I don’t know how to teach a harmony. And don’t I also need to play it on the piano then? Like, 2 parts at the same time? Um, I can’t. I especially can’t in front of these, you know, real music people.

– Geez, and then there’s, what is my relationship to trans-ness, anyway? I have a transgender partner. A fair number of trans people in my life. I’m part of the “trans community.” When I am singing in a trans community choir, this aspect of my identity/life comes to the forefront for examination in a way it doesn’t usually. Are there certain things I should be doing? Fights I should be fighting? There’s an odd feeling of responsibility that comes with contemplating these things. A feeling that I should be … standing up more. 

And then there’s … gosh, GALA itself. 175 choruses. That sounds really fucking BIG. In case you haven’t noticed, this year I’ve been embracing my tendencies toward introversion. This is going to be thousands of people in a smallish area downtown, which is already full of humans. That’s a hell of a lot of small talk. And don’t get me started on the parking! Plus, I still have to work my day job. I’m going to be exhausted. 

SOOOOOOOOOOOOO that’s been my inner monologue over the past few months – I’m sorry you had to witness that.

But. 

It’s getting close to go time. 

In fact, it’s happening this weekend. 

And …

Ok, I’m excited. 

The resistance is still there, an underlying mutter. 

But there are these spikes of … This is going to be cool. 

The tide is shifting. The things I appreciate about GALA are coming more to the surface. The great concerts. The solidarity. Performing in this incredible space. When I think about it, how did I get so lucky?

Working and singing with the trans choir over the past year has been a really wonderful experience. This group is so vibrant. The energy of each rehearsal is uplifting and energizing. Every member is truly bringing their heart. And even though it seemed at first like Mission: Impossible, we have really pulled together on this set of brand new songs that didn’t even exist three months ago. And it’s sounding good. And they don’t hate my song. A lot of them seem to actually really enjoy it. Astonishing! In fact, when the choir joins me (in harmony) on these lines that felt so idiosyncratic and personal when I wrote them … It’s like … Man. An amazing feeling, actually. A wave of joy spreading through me like warm, gentle surf. 

I love singing with this group so much. I am really looking forward to our sharing this moment, well, this fifteen minutes, together. 

It is going to be fucking awesome. 

And after that … Sleep. And, yes, email. I promise. ❤

Angie - I Encompass All Pronouns - Colorado Trans Community Choir - Phoenix

Other side of our bad ass t-shirts