Dennis Cooper’s Blog: Marilyn Roxie presents … Video Game Photography

A personal association of games with photography and film has been with me since the gift of a Nintendo 64 as a child. Super Mario 64 was the first 3D game I had ever played, quite a jump from my previous experience with the Nintendo Entertainment System and Atari. Super Mario 64’s immersive landscape and tricky moments — such as those requiring wall jumps and other maneuvers to progress and avoid or defeat enemies — required manual use of the build-in camera controls. These controls were embodied in the Lakitu, the camera-man who follows Mario/the player, through the game. While Super Mario Bros. 3’s curtains and hanging landscape elements evoked a theater stage play, the crucial presence of Lakitu in Super Mario 64 seemed to transform the game into a movie.

Some of my most beloved Nintendo 64 games required extensive manual camera fiddling or waiting for the camera to sort itself out. Playing them again years later, I wonder how I ever got through these games without endless frustration. Donkey Kong 64 and Castlevania 64 have notoriously bad camera controls and break a sense of immersion in the world, while a game like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has excellent handling, allowing easy maneuvers that encourage exploration.

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Dennis Cooper’s Blog: Marilyn Roxie presents … Visual Music and Colorful Video Art

As an artist newly interested in the digital video format,  I have been exploring the works of artists both in analog film and digital video to better understand possibilities within the medium. Video art is a kind of tiny nest egg within the broader category of experimental cinema, though it is video art and visual music that I am generally most interested in. Video art has great crossover with conceptual art and performance art, as well as features of pop art and abstract art, among others, though I won’t be focusing on video art in a broader sense here. Visual music films include visual representations to go along with music (like squares, squiggles, flashing colors), as well as silent films with visuals that follow musical patterns. Utilizing video synthesizers, VJ-ing techniques, and software like Max are a few ways to experiment with and produce works within the realm of visual music.
Here I have selected ten of my favorite short film and video pieces. The structure of some visual music pieces is not dissimilar to how I arranged my own mental picture about music while it was playing when I was a kid. Not everything here falls into the visual music category, but they share strong shape and color elements.
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GENDERQUEER AND NON-BINARY IDENTITIES – Julia Serano’s Holistic Gender Concept

Julia Serano’s Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive (2013) is an essential, timely book that I was incredibly excited to finally read just recently. Packed with personal essays and detailed analyses of the ways that LGBTQ movements can harmfully police one another – and the tools needed to change that – I would highly recommend Excluded to anyone who feels unaccepted in some queer spaces or wants to end the back-and-forth between marginalized groups in the queer world, without ignoring identity-specific specific concerns, that so often can be a distraction from our fight to define ourselves and gain basic respect and much-needed rights.

One idea that Serano puts forth throughout her book that I would like to focus on in particular, rather than doing a review of the book, is the concept of looking at genderholistically. I think recognition of gender holistically could be one of the most beneficial steps towards acceptance of diverse gender identities. I have bolded some of my favorite parts in the quotes below. Serano applies this holistic concept to feminism and, consequently, it is a useful lens for viewing gender which:

“…moves away from the trite and overly simplistic “nature-versus-nurture” debates about gender and sexuality, and instead recognizes that biology, culture, and environment all interact in an unfathomably complex manner in order to generate the human diversity that we see all around us.” (pg.6)

Serano differentiates “essentialist” thought from the sense of gender expression arising naturally in her chapter on femme identity and reclaiming femininity.

“I am not an essentialist…I do not believe that all women are the same; I believe that all women are different. I believe that women naturally fall over the map with regards to gender expression and sexual orientation. I believe that there are no wholly “artificial” genders or sexualities. I believe that many of us experience natural inclinations or predispositions toward certain gendered and sexual behaviors. But those inclinations do not exist in a vacuum—rather they arise in a culture where gender and sexuality are heavily policed, where they are defined according to heterosexist, cissexist, transphobic, and misogynistic assumptions, where they intersect with racism, classism, ableism, and other forms of oppression. I would argue that this view of gender and sexuality is not essentialist. It is holistic.” (pg. 65)

“Once we accept that on some level feminine expression is natural, that for some of us—whether female, male, both or neither—it resonates with us on a deep profound level … once we accept this, then we can tackle the real problem: the fact that femininity is seen as inferior to masculinity, both in straight settings and in queer and feminist circles.” (pg. 66)

I have received countless questions on this blog, and from others about my own gender expression, about whether it is okay to be non-binary and present femininely. Reading Serano’s account can be a powerful antidote for those who feel shame around wishing to present through the feminine modality; for feminine-presenting / id-ing non-binary folks, femme trans men, and trans women who are consistently marginalized.

Serano also takes to task those who may hand-wave away gender as “just” a performance or “just” a construct.

“Instead of saying that all gender is this or all gender is that, let’s recognize that the word gender has scores of meanings built into it. It’s an amalgamation of bodies, identities, and life experiences, of subconscious urges, sensations, and behaviors, some of which develop organically, and others which are shaped by language and culture…Instead of saying that all gender is performance, let’s admit that sometimes gender is an act, and other times it isn’t…Let’s stop claiming that certain genders and sexualities “reinforce the gender binary.” In the past, that tactic has been used to dismiss butches and femmes, bisexuals, trans folks and our partners, and feminine people of every persuasion…Instead of trying to fictionalize gender, let’s talk about all of the moments in life when gender feels all too real. Let’s stop trying to deconstruct gender into non-existence and instead start celebrating it as inexplicable, varied, profound, and intricate.” (pg. 107-108)

Finally, in Serano’s Homogenizing Versus Holistic Views of Gender and Sexuality chapter, she outlines three tenets of a holistic model:

1) “…while our shared biology and culture may create certain trends (e.g. a preponderance of typical genders and sexualities), we should also expect the variation in our biology and life experiences to help generate diversity in our genders and sexualities (just as there is a great deal of diversity in our bodies, personalities, interests, and abilities more generally).” (pg. 152)

2) “…all human behaviors, including those associated with sex, gender, and sexuality, are complex traits—that is, they arise through an intricate interplay of countless biological, social, and environmental factors. Because there are many different inputs that may influence our sexes, genders, and sexualities, there will always be a wide range of variation in potential outcomes, rather than one or a few discrete outcomes.” (pgs. 152-153)

3) “…one can never truly peel away the biological from the social or environmental…in other words, as a result of our unique environment, experiences, and biological variation, our brains become quite individualized to a certain degree. And it is through our individualized brains that we experience and respond to the world around us. So the notion that one can point to a specific behavior or preference (e.g., some aspect of gender or sexuality) and claim that it stems entirely from biology, or entirely from socialization, is flat our incorrect.” (pgs. 153-154)

The holistic gender framework is very similar to my own ideas I have had for years about gender being a web of social, biological, cultural, and individually determined elements, so I was very excited to see it as a recurring theme and explained so articulately. There is so much wonderful insight to be gained from reading Excluded. I seriously cannot recommend it enough.


Source: GENDERQUEER AND NON-BINARY IDENTITIES – Julia Serano’s Holistic Gender Concept

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Dennis Cooper’s Blog: Dan Wreck and Marilyn Roxie Present … Rowland S. Howard (Part 2)

Originally posted on the previous incarnation of Dennis Cooper’s Blog. This section was written by Dan.
Teenage Snuff Film (1999)
“You’re bad for me like cigarettes, but I haven’t sucked enough of you yet”

It may or may not be hyperbole to say that after I heard those opening words to “Dead Radio”, the first song on Teenage Snuff Film, there was no going back: my life isn’t over yet, it could be too early to say. It was a powerful moment though: subtle drums; a mournful violin; subterranean bass and, of course, that unmistakable guitar sound. Like Ennio Morricone soundtracking a teen drama directed by David Lynch. Or some equally trite metaphor: there’s simply nothing like it, and it’s a good job there’s no shortage of words as I recklessly waste them trying to describe the impact it had on me. I played the opening track a few times, then on to track two: Breakdown (and then…)

“Crown prince of the crying Jag, stuffs a towel in his mouth to gag”
Now, again, that’s one hell of an opening line: if more people had written about him, you can bet that “crown prince of the crying Jag” would be lazy rock-crit shorthand by now. On this track he demonstrates why this is (should have been) the case. It all sounded impossibly difficult to me on first listen but on maybe the twentieth listen the sheer economy of his playing throughout the album dawned on me and made it all the more frustrating. Then the following cover of The Shangri-Las’ “He Cried” (“She Cried”). Mick Harvey beats out Hal Blaine’s “Be My Baby” beat and the album title suddenly makes sense. There’s an adolescent drama to all of this, that feeling you get when you’re a teenager that you must be with this person or you’ll just crumble. Of course, at the same time there’s a sense of how ridiculous this all is in the mordant smirk Rowland sings in: he knows all too well how ridiculous it all is, now if only he could stop and pull himself together. Personally speaking, he’s my favourite singer. I first heard this album when I was 16, maybe the ideal time. It mattered to The Horrors, too: Faris Badwan and Josh Hayward are two obvious Rowland disciples and when I heard the “She Cried” nod in the breakdown to “Who Can Say” (from 2009’s Primary Colours) it was obvious which cover they were referring to.

Photo by Andrew J. Cosgriff
The next track, “I Burnt Your Clothes”, is the first appearance on the album of the guitar savagery familiar from his work in The Birthday Party. It’s sparse again, a lot of the song is carried by Brian Hooper’s sleazy and slightly overdriven bass. There’s a brief, squalling anti-solo but that’s all for now from a rare guitar hero who plays only in service of the song.“Exit Everything” follows, a nihilistic title for what is superficially the cheeriest thing on the album with it’s almost funky bassline and absurdities “Exit everything, nodding dogs and valium”. Even here though he’s threatening us with powder burns to the face.

It abruptly sinks into the abyss again with “Silver Chain”, a song that has on many occasions reduced me to tears. Part of its beauty is, again, the simplicity of it: not an organ note, a drum hit or tremolo-arm guitar twitch is wasted. Co-written with his ex-girlfriend / These Immortal Souls bandmate Genevieve McGuinn this is a characteristically desperate song of lost love and self destruction. While all the rage of The Birthday Party’s “Deep In The Woods” is present here, it is turned inward where Cave lashed out at the world, and an earlier live version of this song from 1995 replaces the words “bottle” and “alcohol” with “needle” and “heroin”. Mournful violin leads us into a crescendo of double-tracked vocals and the band racing into oblivion, eventually all dropping out but for that sneer, drunk on its own pain and amused by it at the same time, catching on the words “I forgot my name on the day that you came”.

The following cover of “White Wedding” is what Billy Idol’s original would’ve sounded like if the menacing sex appeal he imagined he had actually existed, but it’s only a prelude to “Undone”, the greatest expression of the scorned lover fury running through this film. It also has the best guitar playing on the record, that trademark shower-of-splinters rhythm playing behind ringing powerchords; pealing, bell like sustained notes and squalls of feedback. If only you could walk into a guitar shop or practice room and hear people trying to play like this rather than strumming staidly through an earnest eunuch of a fashionably non-committal singer-songwriter’s passive-aggressive “you’d want me if I wasn’t such a nice guy” dirge or wanking themselves into oblivion at a thousand notes per second. While this is itself a “why don’t you want me” song it’s not that of an entitled man-child: it’s a song that begs the question “Yeah, actually that’s a good question, how could you resist this man?”, which quotes John Donne’s Elegy 20: To His Mistress Going To Bed in the quieter bridge section.

“License my roving hands and let them go; above, before, between, behind, below”

Then the bravado all evaporates in the final verse, the final words faltering on the edge of a slow-burn coda that does in around a minute what post-rock bands spend entire discographies trying and failing.

Rowland S. Howard – “Undone”
The next song, “Autoluminescent” is another that can choke me up if it catches me in the wrong / right mood. Simplicity is key here again, funereal organ chords draped over sparse rhythm section, almost imperceptible picked acoustic guitars and electric shivers a velvet backdrop.“I’m bigger than Jesus Christ
I’m sharper than God in light
I am dangerous, I cut like the sharpest knife
I’m going nova, I hope I can hold her in”
Once more the moodswing, the bravado and bragadocio evaporating.

“Sleep Alone” closes the album on a high note. Of course it does, everything on the album is great: by this point the fact that I quite like Rowland S. Howard should be apparent. If you’re not into the brooding lovelorn stuff and just want to hear the man who squalled on Birthday Party songs while Nick Cave struggled to stay upright this track is still one to check out, ending as it does with an extended feedback drone-scape. The playing is a lot less restrained than elsewhere on the album, the riff staggering around in the same way as on Sonny’s Burning and exploding into squeals with alarming frequency. That could be in part because Mick Harvey’s on rhythm guitar, though. Lyrically, you can’t accuse the man of not being self-aware: “This is a journey to the edge of the night, I’ve got no companions Louis Celine’s on my side” is as good a description of the album as any, and the way he repeatedly opines “I’m a misanthropic man” goes all the way back to “Shivers” and echoes on “Wayward Man” on his second and final solo album Pop Crimes.

Pop Crimes (2009)

2780504.jpegPop Crimes was the final solo album by Rowland S. Howard under his own name, which is a shame because it’s also only his second. By the time it came out he was dead, poised to make a comeback of sorts, getting a crumb of the recognition he deserves having been feted by The Horrors and produced and played guitar and keys on certain tracks of HTRK’s excellent Marry Me Tonight album. That album is a favourite of Marilyn Roxie, who coaxed me into writing this post, and one I heard and enjoyed recently.

2591535.jpegMarry Me Tonight quite prominently displays the Rowland influence and a post-punk influence in general but does it the right way: by trying to create its own language, melding diverse influences together including those outside of rock music and even outside of music (i.e. books, films, art, stuff a lot of bands don’t touch with a bargepole) rather than sounding like a post-punk band by copying a few post-punk bands. Most tracks pivot around hypnotic guitar, bass and simple programmed drum grooves with washes of synthesizer and Jonnine Standish’s almost monotone vocals on top. It’s a short album of trancelike repetition.

HTRK – “Ha”
HTRK are also present on the opening track of Pop Crimes, with “(I Know) a Girl Called Jonny” being a duet between Rowland and Jonnine Standish named in her honour. The Hal Blaine beat from “She Cried” reappears here, faint echoes of his work with Lydia Lunch through this queasily erotic song written by a dying man. This is followed by “Shut Me Down”, a song available earlier on some editions of Teenage Snuff Film but present here in a different setting. The Teenage Snuff Film version (which I personally prefer but there’s not a lot between them) is a lot sparser and while the backing sounds more damaged his vocal is a lot stronger. This is the total opposite, with the feel of a grand 60’s pop song by a doomed tragic figure like Billy Fury or Gene Pitney, or perhaps a girl-group. Production-wise it’s a lot more hi-fi while the vocal is worn but still defiant. “I’m standing in a suit as ragged as my nerves”, chimes drifting soft-focus as the song closes with a repeated “I miss you so much”.

Rowland S. Howard – “Shut Me Down”

I hate Talk Talk. I love These New Puritans, who always get compared to them, and I get the feeling I should like them but something about them just makes me see red. Mark Hollis’ quavering voice just reminds me of the choreographed “emotiveness” of a lot of today’s stadium indie groups who coincidentally like to namedrop Talk Talk. It’s not his fault and I’m sure he wouldn’t like me either. However, as songwriters they’re clearly excellent and Rowland’s version of “Life’s What You Make It” illustrates that. I refused to believe it at first but sure enough that prowling, sleazy bassline is present in the original amid the rolled up jacket sleeves and gated reverb snares. However, Howard’s braying guitar asides and sepulchral vocal lifts it into a whole other realm. Like Johnny Cash’s covers of NIN’s “Hurt” or Bonnie Prince Billy’s “I See a Darkness”, this recording takes a song recorded by an artist in their youth and alters it. Here, the title repeated throughout is the bitter statement of a man languishing on a waiting list for treatment for grave health problems of his own making through years of destroying his body, regretful but still sneering at the idea of preaching to anyone about how they should be living their life.

There’s a similar dynamic through the title track, the rhythm section laying down a solid foundation for Rowland’s musings on guitar and vocals. This track contains something resembling conventional rock guitar solos, albeit through the Rowland filter. The second cover of the album follows, a version of Townes Van Zandt’s “Nothin’”. Van Zandt similarly lived a life blighted by addiction, homelessness and mental illness and it was only on checking the lyric booklet that I realised this wasn’t a Howard original. “Wayward Man”, as mentioned earlier, is consistent with the self deprecation present in a lot of his other songs. There’s a strange swagger to this song’s lurching rhythm and air raid siren guitar asides, Howard’s mush-mouth delivery is a double edged sword on “I do all my best thinking unconscious on the floor”: simultaneously the epitome of elegantly wasted rock cliche and an illustration of how dangerous that notion really is unless you’re rich enough to afford the good stuff.

“Ave Maria” follows, opening with a quiet guitar line strikingly similar to the Velvet Underground’s “Ocean”, a song Rowland covered. The sparse arrangement ebbs and flows around the voice and guitar and while it’s a cliche to describe music as cinematic, this really is. By the same token, I almost feel the write-up on Teenage Snuff Film could do with spoiler warnings. I could pick it apart line by line and phrase by phrase but that’d only be fun for me. I will say that “The rain fell on a street of grey, the steeple lightning rod the cross” equals the opening of “Dead Radio” for emotional impact. Words on paper or on a screen can’t do justice to his delivery of “History led her to me” sighed and spilling over with grim inevitability. I’ll also add the closing verse moves me to tears almost every time but that almost goes without saying. Most of the impact is down to the preceding instrumental section: the rhythm section moves with new-found purpose, the strings swell and Howard plays a series of sparkling arpeggios leading upwards only to descend to earth, thick with loss in that final verse. Something about this music makes me speak and write in the kind of flowery terms I’d otherwise dismiss: I feel like Sean Penn in Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown crying whenever he hears his idol Django Reinhardt.

“The Golden Age of Bloodshed”, is pretty self explanatory. Ominous bass-pulse, granite solid drums and drones and colour streaks behind the guitar and vocals. Lyrically it swings between absurdist gallows humour and an unsentimental appraisal of the situation he was living in, beginning with Catholic girls with uzis and wives disappearing with ejector seats and ending with the realisation“My life plays like Grand Guignol, blood and portents everywhere.” and a Schopenhauer quoting chorus. The phrase “planet of perpetual sorrow” from the earlier “Pop Crimes” recurs here, and the final emotional knife between the shoulder blades comes in the final seconds, when the last repetition of “She’s pure and white and bright as tomorrow” gives way to the final chord, all motorbike roar and the sputter of picked harmonics. It was a bright tomorrow that never came: two months after the album’s release he was dead. It was a tragic loss, cruelly timed as he was, based on the evidence here and his work on HTRK’s record, at the peak of his powers.

The sky is empty, silent
The earth as still as stone
Nothing stands above me
Now I can sleep alone

Sleep well, baby. It all goes back around to that first album with a name almost designed to get Dennis Cooper fans’ ears (among other body parts) to stand up and pay attention. The influence hangs over all the music I write with The Bordellos, The Nero Felines, or Neurotic Wreck: that last one where I’m the frontman recorded a Rowland tribute called “Crowned”, on the I’m Laura Palmer EP. Marilyn Roxie helped me edit that one down from a huge backlog of songs. They’re great, whether it be being pretty much my only fan or getting me to write about my favourite artist in a post that will be read my favourite author. “Crowned” isn’t a subtle tribute, bearing as it does the name of a These Immortal Souls song that listening to now I realise it bears a striking similarity to (but obviously is nowhere near as good as).

The news of Rowland’s death hit me quite hard. He ruined 2010 for me, selfish prick, dying at the end of 2009. I listened to Teenage Snuff Film over and over and cried: Pop Crimes hadn’t yet come out over here and he’s an artist I respected too much to just go on a downloading spree. Stupid, really, he’s hardly going to get any money for it now. I ranted about Rowland S. Howard more than usual. It’s safe to rave about him now, he’s dead and there’s no danger of supporting a worthwhile artist and helping make their life easier. He’s frozen as an icon. Now I don’t sneer quite as much when someone cries over the death of someone they never met and now never will. I turn the “Dead Radio” on again: “I don’t get any younger, you don’t get any older”.

Autoluminescent (2011)

The last word on the subject, for now, is this documentary by Ghost Pictures where various people who loved and/or worked with Rowland eulogise him. The subject matter is tragic enough but it’s really hammered home by the endless procession of icons (Henry Rollins, Lydia Lunch, Nick Cave, etc.) looking absolutely shattered, struggling for words to describe the man’s talents. This is no hagiography, though: it looks that way at first, but in the second half his addictions are examined unsparingly. A boy who was, effectively, Rowland’s adopted son speaks movingly of his relationship with him in the early years of his life. Footage of him in the hospital at the end of his life contrasts with him onstage in The Birthday Party: a reverse chronology from a sad, broken presence to the force of nature grappling for the spotlight with Nick Cave. However it’s not all that clear cut: even at the end of his life he was a force to be reckoned with and knew how to command a stage, and even as a healthier young man his fragility was apparent and unconcealed. Even at the end, he left us wanting more.

Autoluminescent Rowland S. Howard (2011) – Official Trailer


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Dennis Cooper’s Blog: Dan Wreck and Marilyn Roxie Present … Rowland S. Howard (Part 1)

Originally posted on the previous incarnation of Dennis Cooper’s Blog.
Rowland S. Howard (1959 – 2009) was a member of The Young Charlatans, Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party, Crime & the City Solution, and These Immortal Souls. He also made a frustratingly small number of solo records, and collaborated with Nikki Sudden, Lydia Lunch, and HTRK, among others. Most famous for his song “Shivers”, and although he may not be a familiar name, there’s a chance one of your musical heroes either played with him, alongside him, or just idolised him. He was a guitar hero with none of the machismo and idiotic posturing that phrase implies. He was a greatly underrated singer with an incredibly bruised and beautiful voice. He held his own alongside and somehow stole the show from Nick Cave at the peak of his smacked-out Aussie Iggy mania. He was a thin, frail androgyne with a delicate birdlike face and a broken boxer’s nose. He will be missed.


Rowland S. Howard & Ollie Olsen – Interview on ‘Music Around Us’
Young Charlatans – “Shivers”


For our two-part feature on Rowland S. Howard’s work, Dan will be taking the reins with the writing, with Marilyn providing editing, images, and audio/video selections, and also stepping in for a moment later on to discuss Rowland and Lydia Lunch’s collaboration.


Boys Next Door / The Birthday Party


“I’ve been contemplating suicide, but it really doesn’t suit my style”


The Boys Next Door – “Shivers”

Rowland apparently wrote “Shivers”, a song that would later become his albatross, when he was sixteen (according to Nick Cave). He went on to write better songs, but only marginally. Irritating for him but fine when you consider what a great song that is and one you’d be happy to have written at any point in your life. Howard says it was a satire of over-dramatic love-songs, but it’s one that could only have been written by the tortured romantic he was (if the accounts of those who knew him and the documentary are anything to go by).

So the story goes, Nick Cave’s first words to Rowland were the question “So are you a punk or a poof?”, an early demonstration of his way with words that would lead to widespread critical acclaim later in life. This was the unlikely beginning of a beautiful friendship and a highly influential collaboration. Their first recorded work together is on the second side of the Boys Next Door album Door, Door (1979). The first side is quite tame and uninteresting compared to what they later went on to do, but out of context I’m sure it’d be a good listen.To be fair, the second side with Rowland playing on was recorded quite a while after the first (six months, which is an eternity for a developing young band), but the leap in quality really is astonishing. Cave hates the record now which is a bit strong: it’s got “Shivers” on it so can’t be all bad, there’s nothing really terrible on it and it’s an interesting document of some artists developing.


The Birthday Party’s self-titled debut (1980) isn’t a million miles away from the Boys Next Door record but is definitely a step in the right direction. It’s out of print, apparently, but you can get it along with the Hee Haw EP (1979) on the Hee Haw disc (for the collectors). There’re a few Rowland sung tracks from this time period, including “The Red Clock” (which I’ve only just realised is him, I thought it was Cave til I looked it up). There’re very few songs I’ve heard that Rowland both wrote and sung I’d call inessential but they’re all from around this time. If you’re only going to listen to one track, make it “The Friend Catcher”: Nick Cave’s vocals here anticipate Jamie Stewart’s on the more restrained Xiu Xiu songs, he gives a great performance. It’s also bookended by some incredibly beautiful and noisy Rowland guitar feedback-shaping, turning noise into melody and melody into noise. It sounds futuristic now, I can only imagine how it did then: one of his great performances.

Prayers On Fire (1981) was despised by the band at first, who were worried they’d made a slick record. Time has proved them wrong, and while it’s undoubtedly less raw than their live sound it’s leaps and bounds from everything they’d done up to this point and definitely not over-polished (unlike, say, later Bad Seeds records The Lyre of Orpheus / Abattoir Blues or Nocturama). The band are, well, on fire: Cave’s unhinged rants set against Tracey Pew’s sleazy, speaker thumping bass; Phill Calvert’s frankly insane jazz-punk drumming; Mick Harvey’s all-around skill both on rhythm guitar and most of the keyboards on the album; and of course, Rowland (who also takes the mic on “Ho-Ho”). Henry Rollins said it best when he described it as being “surf guitar in hell” although there’s something free jazz-esque about his playing here too. It stumbles around, sounding as addled as the band (Mick Harvey aside) no doubt were, especially on “King Ink” when he plays the descending melody line post-chorus along with Cave’s vocals and Pew’s bass.


Junkyard (1982) is yet another improvement. Though just as I’m not buying that Rowland was just satirising over the top love songs, I’m not convinced “Release The Bats” is just a “satire” of goth. Not from a band with a bassist who wore a see-through fishnet top and leather trousers, with that androgynous alien lead guitarist. Not to mention Nick Cave charging around with an atom bomb explosion of backcombed, dyed black hair, dressed in velvet suits. If The Birthday Party weren’t a goth band no one was. End of story. They were also the best.


This is made all the more apparent by the opening seconds of “She’s Hit”, that bleak empty plain atmosphere created by splashy cymbals, rumbling bass and of course the twin guitars of Rowland S. Howard and Mick Harvey. Not a single note is wasted here or across the rest of the album. The free-jazz influence is most apparent here on the songs where Mick Harvey drums (“Dead Joe” and “Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow)”) and contributes atonal sax skronk (“Big-Jesus-Trash-Can”). Rowland’s lifelong friend and musical accomplice Harvey is in many respects as underlooked as him: he made more money out of music, undoubtedly, played on more prominent records, but I don’t think enough people who listen, really listen to this music realise that it’d all fall to pieces if you took his contributions away.


Nick Cave’s vocals on this album are terrifying: he does the insane gibbering madman thing perfectly but even his crooning vocals are scary on this. His screeches on the title track and “6″ Gold Blade” are almost inhuman. It’s as hard to believe the noise he made came from a human throat as it is to believe that some of Rowland’s guitar sounds didn’t. Incredible as the performance is, I do wish Rowland had sung the one he wrote (“Several Sins”): Nick even phrases it like Rowland would’ve. The influence of the Pop Group is just as obvious here as on Prayers On Fire but this is the record where, for me, The Birthday Party sound was really honed. Shame it’s their last proper album.


The two EPs, The Bad Seed EP and Mutiny (1983) are the best stuff The Birthday Party did. They’re available collected on the one CD and if you’re going to get one thing by them make it this. “Sonny’s Burning” opens with a cry of “Hands up, who wants to die?!” and that just about sets the tone for everything that follows. Mick Harvey is now drumming on everything, replacing Calvert’s busier style with a rhythmically eccentric primal stomp, leaving Howard playing most of the guitar. Which makes it easier to single him out for praise: as Mick Harvey’s tribute to his friend on 2011’s Sketches From The Book of The Dead demonstrates, he was pretty good at playing in Rowland’s style too. It’s hard to decide which my favourite is, between “Deep In The Woods” and “Wildworld”. “Deep In The Woods” is Cave’s best vocal performance and lyric up to this point, an unhinged post-punk blues murder ballad. The band’s understanding of dynamics is streets ahead of many contemporary acts, best shown in the cavernous gap of near-silence that can’t be more than a second but is still somehow louder than the sonic overload that preceded it.
The Birthday Party – “Deep In The Woods”

“Wildworld” is less sinister, more darkly romantic, Cave’s twin obsessions with the sacred and the profane popping up again with “our bodies melt together, we are one, post-crucifixion, baby.” This is a seam he’d continue mining up to the present day, still surprisingly successfully at times. The guitar moment of this song for me isn’t, surprisingly, the juddering Link Wray explosions in the chorus but the almost slinky down-strokes playing off Pew’s bass during Nick’s grunt solo at the end.

I don’t think Rowland even plays on the highlight of the Mutiny EP, “Mutiny In Heaven”: one of my all-time favourite Cave lyrics and vocal performances, from the opening howl to the multi-tracked speaking in tongues and snarling, held in place by Pew’s perverted-Motown bass riff. He’d left by this point, replaced by Blixa Bargeld from Einstürzende Neubauten. Blixa was later to be a Bad Seed, only leaving after Nocturama (which would make me leave too, although the opening and closing tracks of that album would both make my own personal two disc Bad Seeds best of). Their playing styles are quite similar but I don’t think it’s a question of influence, other than maybe being influenced by similar things, just a shared sensibility. Nick definitely had good luck with guitarists. Rowland does, however, play on the rest of the EP which contains another eerie murder ballad in the form of the pitch-black, capital-G-Gothic “Jennifer’s Veil”. It’s a shame the two couldn’t have worked together longer, the differences obviously being more artistic than strictly personal as Howard pops up on a few Bad Seeds records further down the line (contributing backing vocals and guitar to tracks on Kicking Against The Pricks, Let Love In, and Murder Ballads).


Crime & the City Solution


Just as Nick took Mick Harvey and a man who plays guitar in a similar way to Rowland and formed The Bad Seeds, Rowland took Mick Harvey, led by a man who sings in a similar way to Nick (Simon Bonney) to form the 1985 incarnation of Crime & the City Solution. The two bands appear side by side in Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire, the Bad Seeds performing “The Carny” from Your Funeral, My Trial (my favourite Bad Seeds album) — that’s enough about Nick Cave, though, as this day isn’t about him — and Crime & the City Solution with “Six Bells Chime” from 1986 release Room of Lights.
Wings of Desire (1987) – “Six Bells Chime” by Crime & the City Solution
3129055.jpgAfter Room of Lights and the song appeared in the film, this version of Crime & the City Solution was no more, with Simon Bonney forming a new line-up for 1988’s Shine. Rowland went on to collaborate with Nikki Sudden, playing guitar on his solo album Texas (1986) and making an EP and album with him, Wedding Hotel and Kissed You Kidnapped Charabanc (1987). Also in 1987, he formed These Immortal Souls with two other former members of Crime (his brother Harry Howard on bass and Nikki Sudden’s brother Epic Soundtracks on drums) and romantic and musical partner Genevieve McGuckin on keyboards.


Nikki Sudden & Rowland S. Howard – “Wedding Hotel”


These Immortal Souls




The first These Immortal Souls album Get Lost (Don’t Lie!) (1987) is my favourite of Rowland’s works alongside the first solo record Teenage Snuff Film, a fact I realised listening to it now as I write this. I’d forgotten about it like pretty much everyone else in the world has. It was the song “These Immortal Souls” prompted this realisation. Now I’m a sucker for bands naming songs after themselves (or vice versa): it can’t be a coincidence that the best thing Black Sabbath ever did was that self-titled track, but that’s just an aside. The song “These Immortal Souls” is a brooding 8 minute epic starting in slow jazzy “Wild Is The Wind” territory with rolling, ride cymbal heavy drums, dramatic piano and glimmers of sheet metal guitar in the background. When the tempo picks up Rowland switches from a croon to a feral desperation closer to Nick Cave’s early delivery than anything else in Howard’s solo career. This album is a great showcase for Rowland’s guitar playing, and the rest of the band (including his brother Harry on bass) are on fire too. There’s a rawer edge to his vocals absent on the rest of his work, and it comes highly recommended for fans of Swans more accessible material.


The single “Marry Me (Lie! Lie!)” is one of those mystifyingly overlooked twisted pop gems he seemed to have so little trouble writing when he felt like it. Why it wasn’t more of a success I don’t know: the cascading piano is a great opening hook, the chorus is infectious and that voice (equal parts Joey Ramone, Mary Weiss and David Bowie) gets under your skin and lingers. The problem was probably that it was too dark for the already codified “indie” types, but too funny for the goths and too intelligent and passionate for both. The accompanying video has some stunning shots of Rowland, one minute wide eyed and incredibly pretty the next minute looking like the perfect anti-heroin PSA.


These Immortal Souls – “Marry Me (Lie! Lie!)


I’m Never Gonna Die Again (1992) is another unjustly underlooked record. The opening lines of the first song “King of Kalifornia” make a similar argument to the one I’m making now, “You must allow me my significance.” “So The Story Goes” is my favourite, an incredibly moving song, and one that with the right exposure could’ve been commercially successful, as could many of his songs; he was a great un-pop songwriter after all. It’s the self-awareness of the lyric that cuts deepest (another recurring theme), but here the unflinching self-analysis is set to an alternate universe power ballad arrangement with pretty piano arpeggios and cymbal heavy drumming.


These Immortal Souls – “King of Kalifornia”

“Hyperspace” has a hypnotic riff, mood-swing drums and a fantastically snotty vocal performance that is in places double-tracked. The ominous piano line all but buried in the mix is a nice touch. Finally, “Crowned” is the highpoint of the record, with outbreaks of fuzz guitar tantrum married to splashy reverb piano and propulsive tribal drums. Not only is this song full of the kind of religious references that are a staple in the work of his former Birthday Party sparring partner, but “through the vaporous veil of my shotgun bride” seems to be a reference to his project with Lydia Lunch, Shotgun Wedding (1991).


Lydia Lunch & Rowland S. Howard – Shotgun Wedding (1991)


Marilyn: Lydia Lunch has always scared me. A lot of my own baggage around gender had gotten in the way of me being able to appreciate strong women — personality, talents, the whole bit — until very recently. Lydia is the sort of artist I had run away from, mentally screaming, too sonically intimidated to get involved. I did go through a period a few years ago of replaying “Atomic Bongos” just because it is so damn catchy, but other than that, I was just brimming with a mixture of fright and confusion over why her bored murmur or scary caterwauling was considered artistically relevant. I stayed far away, I rolled my eyes and scrolled right past if one of her photos appeared wherever I was browsing around online.

Then, Dan had gotten me into Rowland S. Howard, thanks to the inclusion of “Undone” from Teenage Snuff Film (which you’ll find out about in part 2) as the final track on a playlist for me – and who could not be smitten by that? Before long, I just had to listen to everything Rowland had to do with, and revisited the Birthday Party with a more acute knowledge of the role of his guitar-playing…before long, I realized I would have to come back to revisit Lydia, thanks to this collaborative album from 1991. I was partially upset about the idea of Rowland’s music running out eventually, trying to listen to things as slowly, piece by piece, so I put it aside for that reason as well. I made some exciting discoveries in the process, namely that he figured in haunting keys and guitar parts for HTRK’s Marry Me Tonight (2009), also covered in part 2, an album that I have listened to repeatedly without a clue of his involvement.


So, Shotgun Wedding, apparently “Lydia’s hymn to living in New Orleans”, does nothing to make me any less scared of Lydia, but I am for once able to rest within the fear somehow. I am safe because there is at least something familiar here (Rowland’s ever-majestic guitar); safe, even with titles like “Burning Skulls”, “Solar Hex”, and “Endless Fall”.


Lydia Lunch & Rowland S. Howard – “Burning Skulls”


Nearly 10 years earlier, Lydia and Rowland had collaborated on an unsettlingly weird, still enjoyable cover of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra’s “Some Velvet Morning”.


Lydia Lunch & Rowland S. Howard – “Some Velvet Morning”
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Dennis Cooper’s Blog: Marilyn Roxie presents … Asian Male Ball Jointed Dolls

Originally posted on the previous incarnation of Dennis Cooper’s Blog.

“Ball-jointed doll” is a descriptor that can be applied to any doll, past or present, made with balls inserted into the joint sockets for human-like movement. However, today the acronym BJD (sometimes ABJD) tends to refer to ball-jointed dolls produced in Asia, or those made in a similar style to such dolls. These dolls often function as heavily customizable art objects for rather than toys. BJDs come in a variety of styles – realistic, anime, anthropomorphic – and sizes, from a tiny 4 inches (12 cm) to 27.5 inches (70 cm) and up. Since they are handcrafted, BJDs can be expensive, ranging from $200 to $500 and more, even before including clothing, hair, and costs like custom face design (“face-ups”), which are occasionally available as add-ons from the company or can be purchased separately. Big-name BJD companies include Volks, SOOM, LUTS, DollZone, and Iple House.

My introduction to BJDs was through following a Tumblr user called puppet who has been sharing photos of a variety of dolls since 2008. Being a fan of the big-eyed Blythe is what originally had brought me to puppet’s site, but soon I was also intrigued by these other types of realistic-looking dolls that I had never seen anywhere before. It didn’t fully occur to me that there were male BJDs available as well as the female dolls I was used to seeing until browsing around last year and finding ~Deleted Dollshe*’s site, where the dolls look like male fashion models and are photographed well in very human poses and natural environments.

The idea of waify, ethereally pretty boy-dolls that I could customize to my liking really appealed to my own aesthetic viewpoint, the more that I thought about it. I thought back to how I had wished as a kid to have a guy doll that actually looked cute to me, that didn’t look like Barbie’s Ken. Before long, I was conducting research on the Den of Angels forums and saving up for a Dollshe BJD, making my purchase in June and, over the past few months, slowly assembling a wardrobe for “Raphael”, my Dollshe Hound. Now that I have my own, I appreciate ever-more the painstaking process that certain other BJD owners go through for their photo sessions and crafting just the doll they are seeking.

Here I have gathered 25 of my favorite male BJD pictures. There are some people, even within the hobby, that find certain dolls a little uncanny; I have chosen to deliberately emphasize this unsettling aspect with many of the photos I selected. There is quite a diverse range of looks for these dolls and a number of eerie looks and settings, along with the more conventionally attractive, represented. All photos are Creative Commons, linked and attributed to the source.

‘8’ by Jimena del Rio Torres


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Dennis Cooper’s Blog: Marilyn Roxie presents … The Music in Dennis Cooper’s Books

Originally posted on the previous incarnation of Dennis Cooper’s Blog.

It’s no secret that there are musical references in Dennis Cooper’s work. At times music has played a quite prominent role in his stories and the subject has been discussed before. But it was only after I become acquainted with his music journalism through Smothered in Hugs and had read Guide a few months ago that I stopped a moment to wonder just how much of the musical component in his books I had missed. I had been so intensely wrapped in my new interest in Cooper that I had breezed through everything I could get at the San Francisco Public Library at an unreasonable speed. So, I decided to read it all over again both to better understand my appreciation of his works as well as to tackle the project of cataloging the music in these books. Happening a upon a Guide-and-music-focused blog called The “Guide” Thing further encouraged me in this endeavor.

You can view Musical References in Dennis Cooper’s Books over at Rate Your Music and listen to the corresponding Spotify playlist here. Following the text below I have also selected a few music-referencing passages from Cooper’s books and added music videos to supplement them. Horror Hospital Unplugged was particularly enjoyable to take a closer look at for this purpose, because there are many references tucked away that I missed on first, second, and even third passes through, from the integration of lyrics in the background of scenes, to the atmosphere of the record store and bedroom shelves packed with albums.

I am already an obsessive list-maker and, relatedly, a library tech — imagine my delight at finding the best-of lists tucked away at the back of Ugly Man! — so I desired to fill this perceived gap as soon as I found out that someone hadn’t done this already. But I also felt it important due to the reasons why his writing, as a whole, is important to me personally and how I came to read these books in the first place.

I found out about Dennis Cooper around 2009 through this list of Richey Edwards’ Favorite Books, where Frisk was listed. [Richey Edwards: a member of the Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers whose history was posted about here at DC’s in 2012] I had never heard of Cooper or this book before, and became intrigued. Shortly thereafter I read Frisk as an eBook and Closer as a check-out from my college library, without reading any summary or review beforehand – no clue what to expect. Afterward, I didn’t know whether I was supposed to be haunted or enthralled. Not until much later did I decide that it was perfectly okay to hold both in my head at the same time.

It is significant that I began reading Dennis Cooper’s books around the same time I was finally coming to terms with my gender and sexual identity. In short, I don’t identify as a man or a woman, but I do strongly identify with gay male sexuality. It occurred to me that the subject matter of many of these books reminded me of the content (rather than the writing style I lacked and still lack: the immaculate, enviable crispness of words Cooper often uses to great effect) of my own bizarre scribblings in my teenage years. Reading an author like Dennis Cooper has somehow made me more comfortable with my identification and creative modes of expression than more positive bastions of “hope” or “transformation”. This is likely not despite but because of the preponderance of devastatingly pretty boys in ethically problematic situations. So much of what “squicks” some people out about his books are exactly what has drawn me in, because I am somehow reminded of what both mixed me up and interested me about sexuality in my past and something that is at times uncomfortable to recognize that is still inside of myself. This is probably the reason why it took me about two years from reading Closer and Frisk to make the decision to go on to read more.

And here we come to music. It has not been unusual for me to follow an interest in a particular artist to their own influences and interests. This not only helps me better understand and appreciate the interest that I started with, but expands my own tastes. In the case of the Manic Street Preachers, getting into them greatly expanded my literary reference pool. Through Cooper I have, perhaps inevitably, circled back around to music again through my tracking of these references. Music has been long established as a lens that I can better understand the world through, especially in the realm of making sense of emotions. Dennis Cooper, through his use of music, makes it clear that it is not just a plot prop: he loves music himself, and so it isn’t surprising that it often plays a significant role in the world/s of his characters, including at times characters with music taste dissimilar to his own.

When I read Dennis Cooper, it doesn’t resonate at all with some sense of self-hatred or whatever else people who think his writing is invariably about “shock value” feel is there. For me personally, reading Dennis Cooper’s books challenge me to interrogate the concepts of chaos, beauty, masculinity, and lust, and on a more intimate side, there is a connection with my own sphere of self-identity and attraction. That he does not hesitate to integrate his kickass music taste when it is fitting to do so makes the journey through this dark landscape that much sweeter.


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GENDERQUEER AND NON-BINARY IDENTITIES – What Does it Mean to Be Genderqueer?

Presented at A Night of GenderQueer Readings at the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco on May 4th, 2013

There are at least two ways to find out what it means to be genderqueer, whether you are genderqueer or consider yourself an interested ally. One way is to look up definitions in books or on the Internet and be inundated with interesting, but frequently contradictory information from many different viewpoints. These definitions can lend a voice to the variety of genderqueer experience that exists out there, but this is also an area where caution around inaccuracy and erasure is needed.

Here are just a few definitions of the term genderqueer:

In the anthology Nobody Passes, Rocko Bulldagger wrote that their own “personal definition of [someone who is] genderqueer” includes those who are “painfully deliberate and consciously political in their gender expression.”

In a book called The Transgender Child, we are told that “genderqueer people embrace a fluidity of gender expression and sexual orientation.” We are also told that this is an “adult identifier” and not for children.

In Evolution’s Rainbow, genderqueer is referred to by evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden as an “experimental genre” of gender where “young butch lesbians and young trans men are exploring interesting and appealing new combinations of the masculine and the feminine as full-fledged lifestyles.” This author, a transgender woman herself, unfortunately overlooks in this limiting definition the significant presence and contributions that those of trans feminine backgrounds have brought to the community. While likely unintentional, it nonetheless contributes to the idea that being a member of the genderqueer community must somehow be tied to birth sex assignment.

The most complete definition I have encountered so far is one that I’ve arrived at through my own life as a genderqueer person, my intensive research through the City College of San Francisco LGBT Studies program, and at my website ( This definition incorporates the major ways that I have actually seen the term used, rather than how I think it should be used. It goes something like this:

Genderqueer is a term that has been used to describe non-normative gender identity or presentation, whatever that may mean in the given society where the term is utilized. Genderqueer has been used by people to describe themselves in one or more of the following ways:

they may be both man and woman,
neither man nor woman,
they may move between two or more genders,
they may have an entirely different name for their gender that does not reference a binary at all,
they may have have an overlap or blur of gender with orientation and/or sex.

Finally, there are those who “queer” gender, that’s “queer as a “verb”, through presentation or other means. They may or may not see themselves as having a gender that is queer. They may be consciously political or radical.

Usage of this term can be traced to the early ‘90s and is found throughout the world, though it is concentrated heavily in the United States, Australia, and Great Britain. For those uninterested in identifying with the political or Western connotations of the term, or who still are reeling from less savory experiences with the word queer, the more neutral term non-binary is available, as well as culturally specific terms for non-binary genders. For these reasons, I recommend taking care in using genderqueer as an umbrella term, only applying it with certainty.

If you recall, I said there are two ways to find out what it means to be genderqueer. The other way that is not so strictly definitional is to find out what it means in the context of the lives of genderqueer people. Talk to people who are genderqueer with respect, getting to know what their lives are like, the parts they want to share with you. Even if you are genderqueer yourself, the version of others may not remind you of your own. Still, you may learn more about yourself in the process than you had thought possible.

One aspect of this ongoing dialogue may include finding out about the curious things people have said to someone who is genderqueer when they find out about their gender. These reactions that can come about due to, yet again, a lack of understanding of meaning. Here are a few things that people have said, in physical as well as digital spaces, when they find out that I am genderqueer. This word, for me means to not see myself as a man or a woman, while identifying with gay male sexuality:
“Are you going to have…the surgery?” I asked if they knew what surgery they were even talking about, as there were quite a few possibilities. They said no.

“They, them, and their are grammatically improper as a first-person pronoun set.” I wish I would’ve known then the little bit of English grammar trivia that I know now: “in 1850, male grammarians petitioned the British Parliament to pass a law declaring that all gender-indeterminate references be labeled he instead of they.” (Reflect and Relate, Second Edition)

“Androgynous? I can’t handle all of these different names that you put to your identity!” This was said after the description of my identity has remained fairly consistent for several years.

“So does that mean that you’re into strap-ons?”

“Oh, okay. So it’s like the bisexual of gender.”

“Please stay a girl. It’s what everyone loves and knows you as.”

And, finally, the dreaded: “Why are you labeling yourself?”

There are people who bemoan the ever-expanding list of so-called “labels” for gender. I respect and recognize as valid anyone’s decision to not name their gender identity or to find it indescribable. Since there’s so much pressure to pin a description on oneself, it is certainly a viable course of action to take. There are many types of identity and expression that there are not adequate single words to describe: language has its limits.

However, I recognize my right, everyone’s right to accurate self-description, to create our own lexicon and make it meaningful. This is an important part of how we form communities and know that we are not alone. Before this term, and the communities that come with it, I only knew to type in “gay man trapped in a woman’s body” on Google. It took awhile for me to learn the best way to speak about myself; that is, the way that felt right to me. The course of my life has changed, my studies, my career trajectory, all because I wanted to understand myself and help other people not feel lost like I had felt. I needed to know how to find other people for whom the words “man” and “woman” were confusing, challenging, and interesting, and those who could see further dimensions previously hidden. Learning about genderqueerness is what brought me to this point, to be able to both teach and continue to learn from others.

I still get questions about whether or not it is okay to identify as genderqueer if the person only realized it as a teenager or adult. These people have been told you must be gender non-conforming as a child for it to be real. I still get questions about whether presentation must have anything to do with gender or sex. The short answer is: it doesn’t have to, but you can if you want it to. This work is necessary to bring comfort to those who are newly exploring gender possibilities.

People who identify and present between, beyond, and without reference to the binary are slowly but surely coming into the spotlight of gender and sexuality rights. Misunderstandings and prescriptive declarations will not ensure the strength of our community. Let us all who are out as genderqueer and willing to to tell our story of what it means to us to be genderqueer also accept the descriptions of others, even if they don’t fit our own personal model.

Constantly interrogating, expanding, and bringing to light the multi-faceted meaning of this little word called genderqueer should be enlightening, but please don’t forget that it is through lived experience that the word has any meaning at all. In the end, this is what it means to be genderqueer.

Source: GENDERQUEER AND NON-BINARY IDENTITIES – What Does it Mean to Be Genderqueer? by Marilyn…

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Selected Links on Non-Binary Gender in Japan: Xジェンダー


Xジェンダー (x-jendā) is the most common term I’ve found in my research thus far on an identity that is neither man nor woman in Japan, comparable to the English-language terms genderqueer or the more neutral term non-binary. Collected here are a list of some of the most informative and engaging sites I could find on the subject, some provided with annotations.

Intersections: An Introduction to X-Jendā: Examining a New Gender Identity in Japan: This was one of the only pieces I could find in English about the term, so I would heartily recommend checking it out for a comprehensive look that explains the identity within the framework of Japanese terminology and culture and outlines a history of the word’s usage and other similar terms.

クイアな必然 (Kuia na Hitsuzen; A Queer Inevitability): This is the blog of Nosuma, who identifies as Xジェンダー and as XTX specifically; compare with uses of FTM, MTF. Also, please note that the terms FTM and MTF are presently very common in discourse around gender identity in Japan, even more so than transgender man and transgender woman. They are also an artist and have designed a series of shirts defining Xジェンダー at their Atelier Saranse shop.

虹色ろんど (Nijiro Rondo; Iridescence Rondo): This is a blog by Seiji, who is quite humorous and often adds illustrations to his blog articles. Seiji describes himself as identifying as FTM in a more lengthy biographical description and オナベ野郎 (Onabe Yarou; a Male-Identified Rascal) in the fill-in box for their gender identity – yes, although you’re required to pick male or female to start, Ameba lets you fill your gender in with text afterward! Seiji has done blog posts defining gender terms, such as this piece, a Sexual Minority Glossary, which defines such terms as coming out, neko and tachi (terms often used in the lesbian community to denote passiveness or activeness in sexual intercourse), danāzu (trans men who are attracted to other trans men), femme, and 熊系 (kumakei, bear system, preference for the bear type in the gay community), and this entry which explains the difference between FTM, FTX, and related terms.

ちぃのGID-MtFの4コマブログ(Chii no GiD-MtF no 4 Koma Burogu; Chii’s 4-Frame Comic GiD-MtF Blog): Although focusing on MTF identity typically, this particular comic and article discusses Xジェンダー: [4コマ]☆Xジェンダー☆. Chii describes the differences between 中性 (chūsei) and 両性 (ryōsei), wanting to identify between man and woman (男と女の中間でありたい!) and wanting to identify as both man and woman (男女どちらの性でもありたい!) respectively and relates an anecdote about an Xジェンダー person in junior high who was uncomfortable wearing their high school uniform because it was in a girls’ style.

Xジェンダー Groups on Ameba: Groups available range from the large, with over 15,000 members such as 性別?そんなの知りません!(笑) (Seibetsu? Son’na no shirimasen! (Wara); Gender identity? I don’t know what that is! (Laughs)) that encompass a variety of gender identities, including binary associated ones, to the small Xジェンダーの憩いのお部屋 (X-jendā no Ikoi no Oheya; An X-Gender Room for Relaxation), which I should note is also managed by Nosuma (mentioned above). Member blogs are listed under メンバーのブログ within each group and include many entries by people who identify outside of the binary. See also the Xジェンダー Group on Mixi.

Euphoria: ~Xジェンダ-中心の総合情報サイト~ (Euphoria: X-jendā Chūshin no Sōgō Jōhō Saito; Euphoria: Comprehensive Information Site on X-Gender): This site includes a glossary of terms concerning gender, sex, and sexuality and detailed information on FTX identity.

Xが集まれる場所 (X ga Atsumaru Basho; X Gathering Place): Relatively new site gathering information about Xジェンダー and related terms, including books and links.

Xジェンダー@Wiki (X-Gender Wiki)

Archived Twitter Discussions of Xジェンダー on Togetter

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How to Explore Gender and Sexual Characteristics in Second Life’s Virtual World: Getting Started


Second Life is an engrossing 3D world accessible online. Second Life is free to join and when you do, you can select from humans, vampires, animals, robots, or vehicles to represent your avatar. There are also items for sale on Second Life Marketplace and in stores in-world (some are free, most cost Linden Dollars which can be obtained by purchasing them with real-world cash or earning them in other ways within Second Life).

Even though the character that you sign up with may be referred to as having a male or female body, their initial body characteristics need not limit you – in fact, kinds of body parts, attachments, clothing, and so on that you can use with your avatar are as infinite as the ever-growing array of products in the marketplace is.

Virtual worlds offer an exciting opportunity to explore presentation and body types, both those possible and as yet impossible in the real world. An avatar could function as a canvas to work out your ideal self – or maybe just a persona you’d like to slip into once and awhile. In this post, I will detail the ways in which you can use Second Life as a tool for these purposes.

Here, I primarily focus on how to get started in Second Life with a few notes about presentation and sexual characteristics. I may be more specific about gender, sex, and sexuality and places to explore in another feature later on.

1. Getting Started

If you want to skip reading through this step, Second Life Quickstart may be for you!

In order to become a Second Life resident, you’ll not only need to become a member (don’t worry about the character you choose to start if there’s not a default one that you’re happy with you’re happy with – you will be able to customize yourself quite highly before too long) but also download the Second Life Viewer. If you’re on wireless, see the Third Party Viewer Directory instead. I personally recommend Firestorm Viewer.

I won’t go into how to control your character here and other basics, but you can check outGetting Started with Second Life and the Second Life Knowledge Base for some help on this front. Let me just say that: saving Outfits of what you’re wearing (including body and skin) and remembering to create Landmarks of places you want to remember to come back to are two of the most time-saving, useful features I’ve encountered.

Once you familiarize yourself with the controls and your viewer of choice, you may want to take some time to explore using the Destination Guide.

I also won’t be going into items that do not have to do with character appearances here – if you want to find out about having a house and buying land, check the Knowledge Base. Note that Second Life Premium is a paid membership with additional perks, but a Premium upgrade is not at all required to have a good time in Second Life. In fact, I still am not a Premium member myself!

2. Free Stuff in the Marketplace!

Once you’ve worked out the controls and done some exploring, you’ll want to get clothing, body types, skin, and accessories that are better suited to you than the default character you came into SL with. The good news is that you can have a great time in SL with customizing your character without spending any real-life money if you don’t want to or can’t afford to – there are loads of items available for free! I will describe how to ‘unpack’ items you get in the Marketplace in step #3 and the actual process of customizing your character within Second Life in Part 2.

In the Second Life Marketplace, select a category from the sidebar (and then a sub-category, if desired) or enter a keyword in the search box. The areas we’ll be dealing with in this guide will be Apparel, Avatar Accessories, and Avatar Appearance. Then, set the price range from L$0 to L$0 and hit enter. This will cause all of the free items to appear.

Beware: “demo” items, while free, are for the purpose of trying out (often watermarked in some way, so not attractive). Other than the frustration of the few demo items that will turn up in a L$0 search, everything else is up for grabs with no strings attached. Other useful keywords Marketplace searching are “gift” and “freebie.” If you did purchase or otherwise obtain Linden Dollars to use in SL, “dollarbie” is another good keyword (for items that cost only L$1).

Once you’re browsing as described above, you can start searching for the items to customize your avatar with. Don’t feel tied down to a particular “image” for your character or feel the need to make separate accounts – you can always save different skin, body, and clothing combinations as Outfits, then switch between the Outfits however often you wish. Separate accounts are not at all necessary to switch between different identities.

Some areas to begin with might include basic elements like hair (which includes a section for unisex hairstyles!), complete avatar sets (includes both skin and body, may come with outfit), and avatar components (skin, shape, eyes, tattoos). Still, don’t feel limited by what you see – any skin can be combined with any other body shape; you don’t have to pair the skin and body that came together in a set with one another at all! Mixing and matching different looks – as often as you want – can be great fun and get you closer to how you want your avatar to look.

Checking out Apparel and Accessories should come next. The body of your character, unlike many other virtual world settings, does not determine what kind of clothes you can wear (although some clothes may fit certain body types better, depending on how the creator of the item made them; I’ve overall noticed that most items are rather flexible). You may also want to look into Animations to provide your character with more realistic (or unrealistic!) gestures.

In order to search for genitalia for your avatar, BDSM and Gorean items, and related Marketplace areas, you will need to be 18+ and set your viewer to access content categorized as Adult on SL. See Age-restricted content for more on this. The sexual parts for characters that cost less L$ look less realistic than those that cost more L$, but still – there are some free options available.

Swapping out clothing, bodies, skins, and sexual characteristics for new and entirely different options at will, all within the same avatar, is one of the biggest reasons why I view SL as such a great platform for exploring gender presentation and sexual characteristics in a virtual world. You’re not limited by the human either – science fiction, fantasy, animal, and other types of characteristics abound!

Note that you can also explore shopping within the Second Life viewer itself via the fashion destination guide, but don’t expect to find a lot of freebies.

3. Free Items within SL! + Unpacking Your Items

The Marketplace is not the only place to find Second Life goods for free and to purchase – you can also find them in-world, although the process is less streamlined and can require some hunting around. A couple of places to check out are Freebie Galaxy and Freebies Sunland. See also SL Index’s list of places to get free stuff and the Second Life Freebies website.

To unpack any items you get in-world or on the Marketplace, you’ll need to do it at a sandbox. See Opening boxes for more information.

4. Get Dressed!

To put on an item, you can simply drag and drop it onto your avatar from your inventory. See this video tutorial with accompanying text if you need help: Putting on Clothing. To save a selection of equipped items as a cohesive outfit that you can put back on later, refer to the Working with outfits section of the Second Life Wiki. Please note that you may want to visit an uninhabited region to get changed privately as dressing rooms are not very secure, or a mature-rating sandbox to get changed publicly if you are not bothered by others being able to view your avatar while being changed. If you have put-together Outfits, you can just drop these folders onto your character wherever you are and you’ll be fully dressed!

5. Putting It All Together

For now, you have much to work with in terms of customizing your appearance and plenty of new places to explore. In a future piece, I will focus more specifically on how Second Life can be a powerful tool for identity expression and connecting with others in the realms of gender, sex, and sexuality.tumblr_inline_mkarlcxxNQ1qz4rgp

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A Future in Noise Interview: Pictureplane


Pictureplane (Travis Egedy) has been a dominant presence in my music listening since I re-listened to Thee Physical (2011), which I had reviewed favorably here on A Future in Noise when it came out, and realized how excellently it has stood the test of time and how much of body of work in general seems to not only hold up but have an improved impact with additional listening. “Trancegender” in particular had an especial impact on me, as I had spent the past few years entrenched in trans* issues and matters of my own personal identity — bringing about the idea of “go[ing] beyond pure physical”, to be able to say “I don’t care what we mean to them”, reached the heart of my desire to just be, whatever my other identity characteristics may be. Between that and “Black Nails” just being a kickass song to play on repeat or throw into a dance mix, the seeds of my interest were firmly planted.

Pictureplane is an artist that you cannot just scratch the surface with. This is not merely music to dance to, although Pictureplane can serve that purpose if you like; for a start, Pictureplane’s “witch house” referred literally to occult-influenced house music (more of his thoughts on that here). The existence of man’s music proves that those who think music “isn’t good anymore” or “not going anywhere” are not paying enough attention. His music incorporates not only this individual aesthetic but also what he has inherited from a lineage of electronic greats and diverse stylistic influences (check out his primer on Psychic TV). I was recently able to do an interview with Travis via e-mail, which the reader will find below, along with some recommended tracks.

AFIN Track Picks: “Black Nails”, “Trancegender”, “Goth Star”

Photo used under Creative Commons from Caesar Sebastian


A Future in Noise / Marilyn Roxie: What are you working on currently with your music or remixes? Any particular sources of inspiration for this recent work?

Pictureplane / Travis Egedy: i am working on a whole new full length album. it is still kind of in its beginning stages, i have a lot to do, but i am really excited about it. it is going to be a record about chaos magic and poetic terrorism. hacking 3rd dimensional reality and breaking down walls and barriers.

AFIN: Are you still planning on rapping as Immortal Cash?

TE: i just recorded a song with DJ Dog Dick and sewn leather, who together are Dog Leather. i rapped on that song… but i really dont know what my rap name is haha. maybe “lemonade indigo” . immortal cash is a great name too though. but i dont think i am going to put out a rap EP like i had been saying… i need to focus on my new album

When can we possibly expect a new Pictureplane mix or album release?

TE: im not sure! hopefully early 2013

AFIN: As it seems to be very prevalent in your aesthetic, how do you feel your interest in occult and magic has informed your music and other areas of your life?

TE: magic is a daily practice for me. its just how i live my life, magically. its really just about being open to the universe and interacting with it and telling it what you want. it is just a personal interest of mine, so it in turn informs my art and music. 

AFIN: I have seen some references online to a couple of albums earlier than ‘Slit Red Bird Throat’: a self-titled release in 2004 and ‘Covered in Blood, Surrounded by Text’ in 2005, but have been unable to find them. What’s the story with these and are they / will they be available anywhere?

TE: i think slit red bird throat is floating around online. but the other one is so old!! i dont know if i even want people to hear that stuff haha. i have an old page (pre myspace) under the name “area66” that has tons of my old music on there. it is still up with a picture of me when i was like 18 . search for that. haha

AFIN: What does your composing and recording process generally involve?

TE: just a lot of me messing around and playing with sounds. play and experimentation have always been paramount to my recording process. i dont have a set way of doing things. its very open. 

AFIN: If you could describe your fashion aesthetic in five words…

TE: dark art jock on acid

AFIN: Favorite tracks / albums you’re listening to right now?

TE: light asylum, TRUST, physical therapy, unicorn kid, dean blunt and inga copeland, death grips, everything danny brown


Pictureplane:  Blogspot | Facebook | MySpace | Tumblr | Twitter

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GENDERQUEER AND NON-BINARY IDENTITIES – When someone tells you that “they/them/their” is…

Something interesting I learned in my speech class textbook, Reflect and Relate (Second Edition) about they/them/their in the English language, page 187:

A language’s regulative rules also change. When you learned to speak
and write English, for example, you probably were taught that they is inappropriate as a singular pronoun. But before the 1850s, people commonly used they as the singular pronoun for individuals whose gender was unknown—for example, “the owner went out to the stables, where they fed the horses” (Spender, 1990).

In 1850, male grammarians petitioned the British Parliament to pass a law declaring that all gender-indeterminate references be labeled he instead of they (Spender, 1990). Since that time, teachers of English worldwide have taught their students that they used as a singular pronoun is “not proper.”

I always thought that “they” was considered grammatically improper as a singular pronoun because of the possibility of confusion with the plural “they” (an additional factor also explored in this paper), although it is also worth noting that you/your/yours is used in the singular and plural, generally without confusion, frequently. I wanted to see if their were other sources on the above and there are! I was interested to learn about this in particular because, time and time again, I’ve heard people rudely remark on they/them/their being “improper” after someone would mention this as the pronoun set they’d like people to use in reference to them – both online and off. They/them/their is also the pronoun set I have gelled with best in reference to myself. If anyone has more info on this, I’d love to know about it!

Source: GENDERQUEER AND NON-BINARY IDENTITIES – When someone tells you that “they/them/their” is…

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Amplify: Queer Theory for Youth? It Isn’t Just For Academics

Just a few years ago, I didn’t know what “postmodernism” meant or even what “privilege” really meant, in the context of queer theory or feminism. In my daily life, no one around me, no one at school used these words. I was a teenager grappling with my own gender and sexual questions, but without any answers, in a small town with no one I felt comfortable asking for help. Even though I felt like my parents would likely be supportive, as they were when I finally came out as genderqueer a couple of years ago, I didn’t know where I would go from there, so I didn’t do it. If I could only tell them, I thought, it could possibly cause me to feel even more isolated, since they would be the only ones to know this “secret” about me.

Read more: Queer Theory for Youth? It Isn’t Just For Academics – Amplify

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A Reignited Love for Wikis

As a college student, I’ve experienced many of my class professors, upon touching on the need to evaluate sources, quickly disallowing the use of Wikipedia as a source for citation in research projects and essays, since, as an encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone (well, apart from locked pages), not all of its content is reliable. As such, I have come to fall out of the habit of even looking at Wikipedia. Until recently.

Wikipedia’s blackout in protest of SOPA got me thinking about how important the resource has been to me and about my love of wikis in general. Before high school, I found out about Wikipedia from my teacher (!) who found it to be a great starting point for research and learning. One should of course look upon articles with a skeptical eye, particularly those peppered with “citation needed”, but the content of a Wikipedia article may be enough to get the wheels turning on, say, refining a topic you had in mind for a project. What you can (often) cite are the references and external links provided, which can be a goldmine of resources to explore and potentially cite, depending on how well-developed an article’s section of these links and books is. Wikipedia has a host of hidden gems as well, one of which I found out about recently thanks to Mindhacker: the Unusual Articles section.

As TV Tropes (another fine wiki) puts it, a Wiki Walk is often the result of what may have begun as casual exploration or to follow some leads for research ideas. Maybe you’ll learn a new word or learn about a concept you never heard of before, find a new author, a new video game to play, a new way of looking at things, even. Now that I know how to evaluate sources, I appreciate what Wikipedia does offer more than ever.

Wikis apart from Wikipedia are also fabulous ways to collaborate with others on a specific topic that is broad enough to allow for many sub-topics within it, but includes certain areas of narrow specificity, or lack of “authoritative” citations, necessity of personal opinion being part of the content, or an abundance of trivia, for example, that Wikipedia would not be able to house. I’ve enjoyed the following in particular:

TV Tropes: All about tropes used in media (TV and beyond). You will get lost in here if you look up a favorite book, video game, or band. Trust me.

William A. Percy: This historian has decided to make his official site a wiki! Percy’s page is filled with info relevant to queer and sexological studies.

Megami Tensei Wiki: I have only since last year gotten into this video game series (Persona 3 and 4) – avoid if you don’t want spoilers, but if you don’t mind or already enjoy the series and want to learn more, dive in! This newly created wiki will serve as an information portal for nonbinary identities and practical resources – I have begun contributing here regularly and I’m quite excited to see this in development.

Wiki technology has changed our internet for the better and allowed the general user to become a participant in shaping encyclopedia-style content – how empowering is that for information access and development?

I’d love to hear wiki recommendations! Interested in starting your own? Check out MediaWiki.

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MARILYN ROXIE: Postmodernism

I’m reading this book at the moment – A Teacher’s Introduction to Postmodernism, by Ray Linn and I want to get down some thoughts here while my mind is turning them about – I hope I’ve not gotten anything crucial misinterpreted. I feel like my mind is expanding / exploding at any rate!

I’ve already been getting into understanding this theory for awhile and have plodded along ambivalent on accepting its tenets in full, but interested nonetheless, particularly concerning gender and queer theory (Kate Bornstein and Riki Wilchins) in an attempt to uncover “the real me” and the potential fallacies surrounding the notion that there even is a “real me” to be uncovered. Some of the challenges (and practical applications) I see with postmodernism is in its stance regarding personal interpretations of creative works or things as they exist in nature, that is all up to one’s own opinion and even consensus found amongst the majority of a group of people is no guarantee that they have arrived at the “truth”. It is a critique of the seemingly insatiable truth-finding and often cold rationality of modernism and a project to reassess the ways that human beings use language.

This has a special purpose in constructing and deconstructing gender and sexual identity. As I have posted about here before and on GQID, I have grappled with confusion over gender identity since I was a teenager. Or, more like a certainty that I do know exactly what my interests and desires are in this realm – wherever they may have come from, which is still to me largely a mystery – just not in regards to what to “do” about them. Is there really anything to do but be myself? Or, rather reinventing myself whenever I see fit?

It would seem like, in a postmodernist world, whether I am “male” or “female” or something else entirely is up to my own interpretation and the interpretation of whoever interacts with me. How I am “read” or how I “pass” is based on social cues and symbolism which is only ingrained through repetition. If I did not see a clearly labelled world around me, would I have separated human beings into two sides only? (well, I wouldn’t have, but I have long been thinking of such things critically) Is there an innate need to label?

Being that humans have the capability of using language to describe the world, this can come down to the individual’s terms and sense of purpose and does not necessarily have to correspond to an overarching “truth”. Postmodernism is not just another type of nihilism like some cynics over the concept would believe – it encourages playing with new potential meanings, new presentations. This means quite a lot in the realm of gender.

In my teenage years, knowing that I was not “female” (whatever that means) meant distinguishing that I was not like others who I understood as “female” for a multitude of reasons. Then again, I never felt “male” judging from others who I understood as “male” alone either. It is primarily through my attraction to gay/bi male sexuality and subculture that I thought that somewhere in me was “male” as well as an inability by and large to relate to “female”. Hence the potentially erroneous figuring of myself as “a gay man trapped in a woman’s body” and so forth. Arriving through to this conclusion produces sheer torture and desperation, as I can say from experience. All the same, I am still not entirely sure what role biology has in how one person may come to understand their own “gender identity” one way, and another person another way (physical sex is by no means the determining factor, and hormones probably aren’t either), in comparison and contrast to this social constructionist business – I suspect that they both play a part, though the scale (by my estimation) is likely tipped in social and individual determination.

A series of questions with the same answer –

Can I be as I “really feel” in this body, without having to change a thing unless I decide that Iwant to at some point, because of my own pursuit of new meaning? Must I take hormones or have surgery to confirm my “inner” “maleness” or only if that corresponds with the way I want to see myself? Can being “non-op / no-ho” serve as one way for me to see myself that I can be happy with? Can I play with how I present myself to others as I see fit, which is subject to change from day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, decade to decade? Can I acknowledge my attraction and identification with a certain type of body and a certain type of presentation and sexuality common in my culture at this particular time, but understand that it is subject to change along with my own potential flux? Yes, of course I can.

This does not mean that there aren’t similarities between the kind of self-expression that can be found across humanity and how people form groups and common ground – but groups based on gender and physical sex membership are going to exclude those who “don’t belong”  – yet another way to segregate others and you’ll get those who want membership and aren’t granted it or are granted it irregularly, causing a problem despite the relatively positive original purpose of finding others with like minds and bonding through this.

Even those constants that one wants to hold dear for some kind of reassurance may topple over at the slightest crack in the foundation. Gender may well be one of them.

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Websites and Free Software that Enhance Productivity

Lists and Storage:

Listography allows you to make color-coded and topically arranged lists that are public or private as you choose. Great for to-do lists, lists of on-going projects, lists of thematically sorted links or ideas, and sharing lists with others.

Listography is not so great for unwieldy collections of links and assorted ideas. Evernote is much better for that, which allows you to quickly ‘clip’ an article, a link, or a full page and assign tags to help you find what you’re looking for later. I use a combination of Listography and Evernote to keep my immediate to-do items organized, store wish lists, and share lists of links with others (Listography) and quickly (and privately) store lots of articles, pictures, and links to access later (Evernote).

DropBox is what I use for sharing files that I will need to access elsewhere or collaborate with others on since managing permissions is easy and I can access my files on my own laptop as well as on-line from anywhere else (on one phone, too, if one has that capability). I use OpenDrive for music links.

Research and Learning:“the World’s largest library catalog”. You can type in keywords, such as author and title names, and when you find what you’re looking for (easy since WorldCat has many options to help restrict your search), it will display a list of libraries near you that have the item in their collection and links to the catalogs of these libraries so you can find out the item’s call number and where to find it.

Google BooksProject Gutenberg, and Internet Archive

On the more explicitly learning-centric front, Anki is an excellent digital flash card program using a spaced repetition system (meaning, you’ll see flash cards more often that you’ve marked as not knowing or not knowing as well, and you’ll see flash cards less often that you’ve marked as knowing well).

Text: Creating and sharing text.

OpenOffice is the suite of programs I use on my laptop. Google Docs is what I use on the web and to easily access my documents (and make private or share, as desired) from anywhere without having to burn them to a disc, e-mail them to myself, or use a memory stick.

Creative Resources:

Audacity (sound recording and editing),COLOURlovers (for exploring colors, palettes, and patterns), and GIMP (a free alternative to Photoshop).

Everything Else:

SourceForge: Over 300,000 open source software projects are included here which range from celestial simulations (Stellarium)to FTP Clients (FileZilla). Narrow down your results to find exactly the type of software you’re looking for.

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GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: Labels vs. Self-identification


Who wants to be labelled as something one isn’t? Not me. Is there a value to putting a name to one’s own identity, or identities? I think so. I was doing research for the Genderqueer History and Identities project I’m working on and while at the library I came across a book called Understanding Transgender Diversity by Claire Ruth Winter. In the back, there was a glossary and amongst the words included was “label”, defined below:

Label: Name or category applied by someone else, as opposed to self-identification.

The image of labels I have in my mind tends to be of someone putting a sticker on a jar to show what is in that jar or how much it costs. This kind of labeling is useful for possessions, but not so useful for people, as a mental labeling of others’ attributes can at its worst lead to prejudiced, harmful behavior, while letting others label you and being content with the labels that they administer on their terms is relinquishing your power to define yourself. As I better understand myself, I can use my own self-descriptions to my advantage by claiming words that matter to me, that I feel are to my benefit, and utilizing them for empowerment.

GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: Labels vs. Self-identification

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GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: “It’s just a phase.” So what if it is? And, so what if it’s not?


Genderqueerness, gender fluidity, bisexuality, and pansexuality, quite different identities that they are, are all sometimes are confronted with the assumption that the above are “just phases” on the way to another identity, generally cisgender status and heterosexuality. Perhaps because these identities appear to exist in the in-between or on the outside. However they’re interpreted, I’m sure many of us have had experiences of doubt as to the validity of our identities, not only an initial or continuing lack of understanding but the assumption that we will at some point “grow out of it” or cease being this way. Assumptions that we’re confused or are still questioning ourselves and will at some point figure it all out.

What I say to that is…why should it matter so much if I do drop one identity description for another one that fits me better later on? That doesn’t mean I “never really was” . Additionally, what if these identities remain valid and important to me for life – does that make mine somehow more valid than someone who acquires them later or drops them? Isn’t that what is most important and powerful about self-description? I certainly think that people should take identity descriptions very seriously, especially in the way of activism and personal fulfillment, while I also acknowledge that not everyone is going to have the same gender and sexual identity forever. The stigma that comes both with the assumption that genderqueer-related identities, bisexuality, and pansexuality are invariably stepping stones to another identity, and also the assumption that if there is change or questioning along the lines of any identities, it is somehow more spurious, are assumptions that only cause harm.

Why are these identity groups somehow more likely to be seen as confused about themselves than cisgender or monosexual identities? Members of these groups often take some time to question and find out what they want and what they want to be sexually as well. Again, what about people who have such identities for life? Are they somehow more ‘really’ than those who transition from one identity to another? I don’t think so.

What’s so bad about someone taking some time to figure themselves out anyway, if that’s the case? What about gay men and lesbians who thought they were straight or were encouraged to be straight until they realized it wasn’t for them? What’s so bad about identifying one way and then another way later on? Identifying the same way for the rest of your life? Couldn’t any identity be a step to another later on, a personal exploration? Or not. Neither a fixed nor fluid identity are inherently bad things. It’s the assumptions that certain identities are more changeable than others, and that if changeability exists that it is suspect, that I take issue with.

I personally doubt that, as my life goes on, I will identify much differently than I have since I was a teenager. I have always been attracted to men and as soon as I was old enough to conceive of it and develop a more concrete sexual identity, I have had a very strong gay male identification (while not identifying as a man). I already knew I didn’t identify as a woman when I was younger, and “man” doesn’t fit me either, so genderqueer and androgyne are the most accurate descriptors for me in the way of gender. I feel very comfortable with identifying as an androsexual / gay-male identified gq androgyne. The relief the understanding of these identities brings and knowing that other people out there exist who I share similarities with equals immeasurable comfort. All the same, I can just hear the reactions of people in the future, should I decide other words are more appropriate, or perhaps if I make a transition-related move like wanting hormones and surgery. “Aha! They were really an all along.” I know that is so, so, so not true. I know I am very much what I am right now and I am prepared for that to either stay very much the same, or even to potentially change, down the road in my life.

GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: “It’s just a phase.” So what if it is? And, so what if it’s not?

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GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: “Isn’t everyone genderqueer?” No.


I just had to address this search query I noticed that directed someone to Genderqueer Identities. Here goes:

Short answer is no. Implying that everyone is genderqueer is similarly incorrect (and even harmful) as implying that everyone is “really” bisexual or pansexual. Monosexualities,…

GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: “Isn’t everyone genderqueer?” No.

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GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: The Non-Binary vs. Genderqueer Quandary


Recently, I have noticed a tendency for non-binary to be used as the go-to umbrella term for non-normative gender (gender not along the lines of man or woman, specifically) and as an alternative to genderqueer, and a tendency to perceive genderqueer as a specific identity rather than as an umbrella term. Currently, both of these terms are being, and have been, used in an umbrella capacity, and in the case of genderqueer only, as singular identity as well. Genderqueer, when used in its wider sense, is also meant to be a much larger umbrella than non-binary; queer gender (identity or expression) covers a lot of ground; non-binary refers to non-binary identities specifically. They’re not exactly interchangeable.

I have seen some assertion that genderqueer is/should “not” be used as an umbrella term, even at the generally great Queer Dictionary which claims that genderqueer is “sometimes also incorrectly used as an umbrella term”. This bothered me particularly because of the overwhelming amount of research and pouring over books and websites that I’ve done to uncover the history of “genderqueer” and its usages, many of which have defined genderqueer as an umbrella term. It would be more accurate to say that the usage of genderqueer may be shifting away from being used as an umbrella term in favor of non-binary when used in reference to identities rather than expression only, not that using it in this way is somehow wrong, or worse, that it never was used this way. Remember, the terms you prefer are entirely up to you! What you feel describes yourself best and considering the utility of umbrella terms are what is most important. I am writing this piece primarily to find out the relationship and differences between these terms.

To put this complicated issue as simply as possible: non-binary refers to gender that is not binary (not man nor woman) and genderqueer refers to gender that is queer (non-normative). Because gender that is not binary may be regarded as “queer” because it is not normative, it becomes easy to see why these terms have been used interchangeably. However, queer is also often used in a radical or political context, so some who may otherwise have considered themselves genderqueer may feel distanced from the term, or more closely aligned with it, due to this association. In short, genderqueer is often non-binary (except for in the case of referring to expression / performance exclusively), but not all non-binary identified people may consider themselves genderqueer for a variety of reasons, which I will discuss. 

An excellent example of an individual at odds with the notion of genderqueer as an umbrella term can be found in Nobody Passes (2006) in this essay by Rocko Bulldagger, excerpted here:

From Time Out New York, February 3, 2005: “Genderqueer: This umbrella term refers to anyone who doesn’t fit into the traditional binary male-female system-from androdykes to trannyboys.” My own personal definition of genderqueer: (1) A person who is painfully deliberate and consciously political in their gender expression. (2) Someone who identifies with efforts to subvert oppressive power dynamics by undermining traditional gender expectations. (3) A person whose gender presentation is over determined by traditionally gendered signs—somebody who displays excessive femininity or masculinity.

In my research, both academic and personal, I have frequently encountered genderqueer in these capacities, sometimes overlapping:

  • as an umbrella term for identities “other” than man and woman
  • its political/radical implications
  • to refer to “queer” gender performance / expression
  • a stand-alone identity

As a stand-alone identity, genderqueer may cover the “it’s complicated” arena of gender, refer to presentation as well as personal identity, and/or be used in place of or alongside more specific identities that may be considered non-binary (androgyne, bigender, and so on). The clearest way I’ve found to describe genderqueer is using a 5-pronged definition: genderqueer identities may include those who identify as 1. both man and woman, 2. neither man nor woman, 3. moving between two or more genders, 4. third gendered or other-gendered (includes those who prefer “genderqueer” or “non-binary” to describe their gender), 5. having an overlap or blur of gender and orientation and/or sex”. The downside to this is potentially incorporating individuals who would not identify themselves as genderqueer; when this may be the case, it is generally better to use the specific identity in question rather than a term that the individual or group may not prefer.

Here are a variety of definitions and mentions of genderqueer that I’ve come across that point to meanings of the concept; they vary and you may not identify with some or all of these definitions:

“People who identify as genderqueer or intergender may consider themselves as being both male and female, as being neither male nor female, or as falling completely outside the gender binary. Some genderqueer people see their identity as one of many possible genders other than male or female, while others see genderqueer as an umbrella term that encompasses all of those possible genders…Genderqueer people are united by their rejection of the notion that there are only two genders.” (Serving LGBTIQ Library and Archives)

“Genderqueer is also a colloquial or community term that describes someone who identifies as a gender other than ‘man’ or ‘woman’, or someone who identifies as neither, both, or some combination thereof. In relation to the male/female, genderqueer people generally identify as more ‘both/and’ or ‘neither/nor’, rather than ‘either/or’. Some genderqueer people may identify as a gender and some see it as a third gender in addition to the traditional two.” (Creative Encounters: New Conversations in Science Education and the Arts)

“Genderqueer people-those who choose to live their lives somewhere between the usual gender roles-are softening the boundaries of gender and demonstrating what life without the binary might look like.” (Dossie Easton, The Ethical Slut)

“Genderqueer: 1. A term which is used by some people who may or may not fit on the spectrum of trans or be labeled as trans but who identify their gender and sexual orientation to be outside of the binary gender system, or culturally proscribed gender roles. As with any other groups that may be aligned with transgender identities, the reasons for identifying as genderqueer vary. 2. People who identify as both transgender and queer, individuals who challenge both gender and sexuality regimes and see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected.” (Trans* and Queer Wellness Initiative)

Although there are nuances with these definitions, they largely cover the same region of gender other than man and woman and illustrate that some may consider themselves genderqueer and see genderqueer as the gender that they identify as, while others understand it and utilize it in a broader sense. While the meaning of genderqueer as a concept may be relatively clear, what it means to individuals will vary and, particularly, where political and radical concepts may be applied will create variation and divergent reactions to the potency of a term like “genderqueer”. It is important to note that the earliest usages I’ve come across are all utilizing genderqueer either as an umbrella term or a term with a meaning of something along the lines of “not man and woman”.

What about non-binary, then? Non-binary gender is a term I’ve encountered most often in academic texts, though less often overall than genderqueer and (so far) never encountered in a glossary (check out these Google Books results for a sampling). It needs to be understood that the widespread usage of this term as an alternative to genderqueer’s umbrella capacity is a relatively recent development.

There are pros and cons to the umbrella usages of these terms. Genderqueer is problematized by (mis)understandings of the implications of queer and that some people use it as a stand-alone identity as well; non-binary is only recently gaining currency as an umbrella term of choice for a wide range of identities. The discourse around these terms seems to indicate that non-binary is more inclusive somehow because of the association of genderqueer with female-assigned individuals and the United States. I would challenge that it is more of an assumption than association, because many of the pioneers of genderqueer identity and “gender outlaws” themselves were actually male-assigned (Riki Wilchins and Kate Bornstein, for example) and, from the two surveys I’ve conducted right up to the Genderqueer Health survey I’m scanning through now just completed a couple of days ago, people who identify themselves as genderqueer are an incredibly diverse bunch and are not strictly from the U.S.

I am divided personally about where I stand with this issue. Genderqueer is the term I’ve encountered most often in my research and is the initial word that really clicked in my head and made me think “This is me!” I think queer itself is a term with fantastic utility, as well as recognizable limitations, although I think many of these perceived limitations come from assumptions rather than actualities. Non-binary, however, doesn’t seem to have the baggage that genderqueer may carry and thus may, in time, end up being the umbrella term of choice in reference to identity. As an exchange I had with Nat (@quarridors) recently reminded me, not all genderqueer people identify as non-binary, because the term is also used in reference to their expression rather than identity. 

Ultimately, I would like to make it clear that, historically, genderqueer has frequently been employed as an umbrella term and is still being used that way, although this usage is increasingly being questioned (a great thing, I think) and the alternative of non-binary is more often being brought to the table when it is applicable. Again, the distinction should be made between the wide-reaching purpose of genderqueer, and the identity specific utility of non-binary.

GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: The Non-Binary vs. Genderqueer Quandary

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Center for Sex & Culture intern Marilyn Roxie shares their experience with CSC! If you have participated in, conducted, or been an audience member at an event at the Center, been an intern, or been otherwise involved with the Center, we would love to hear your stories – submit them here: 
My name is Marilyn Roxie and I have been an intern at the Center for Sex & Culture since the summer of 2011. Through doing social media and work with the Center’s library collection, I have come to be even more passionate about my fields of study at City College, where I am pursuing a double major in LGBT Studies and Library Information Technology, and my efforts at education and activism at I feel I have already learned so much in this short span of time, keeping abreast of the current climate of sexual expression in a variety of arenas, and, importantly, the people involved in bringing about positive openness and change, and through getting familiar with the impressive sexological and erotological library collection. The Center is such a fantastic, welcoming place to explore these topics and although I have only recently become a part of it, I am sure to remain connected and interested beyond the length of my internship.

I first found out about the Center for Sex & Culture from interviewing Carol Queen in March 2011 for my LGBT American History class. Carol was one of the first people that came to mind when this oral history assignment came up, as she has been very inspiring to me. The book PoMoSexuals: Challenging Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality (edited by Carol Queen and Lawrence Schimiel) was instrumental in helping me finally come to accept my own identity as a queer, non-binary trans* person who didn’t fit any of the dominant narratives available. Reading this work was a springboard to exploring her other written works, particularly Exhibitionism for the Shy (I’m still personally working on the “shy” bit, as anyone who encounters me in person will quickly learn!), and finding out about her role as Staff Sexologist at Good Vibrations and founder of the Center for Sex & Culture. When seeking out an internship over the summer, after such a good and insightful experience with Carol and her partner Robert who was also present and participated in the interview, I decided to look into the Center, found out about their internship program, and have been working with the fabulous Library Vixen since.

Since I am in the midst of making an inventory of what’s in the Center’s library that is shelved so far -there are many more boxes of treasures left to uncover!- I thought I would share my top three favorite finds of books in the collection so far that you can look forward to accessing in the future (open hours are not far off!):

  1. Taschen art and photography books: I was familiar with Taschen’s The Big Book of… series from encountering them at Good Vibes but it wasn’t until recently that I became aware of the scope Taschen has covered, especially the exquisitely packaged multi-volume sets The Complete Reprint of Physique Pictoral and The Complete Reprint of Exotique.
  2. Gay Sunshine/Leyland Publications: A stack of brightly colored, smuttily titled books stood out to me in particular the first time I shelved books at the Center. LUST introduced me to the Straight to Hell (“S.T.H.”) chapbooks and a world of hot vintage erotica I hadn’t known about before.
  3. Kate Bornstein – Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws: This isn’t so much a discovery since I already knew about and admired Bornstein (My Gender Workbook is on par with PoMoSexuals for the impact it had in my life), but seeing Hello Cruel World on the shelf reminded me that I needed to read it. How warmly, frankly, and often with a dash of humor Bornstein deals with this serious topic! Highly recommended.

Marilyn Roxie elsewhere on the web:
@MarilynRoxie on Twitter
All the Lovely Lovelies (Masculine Beauty Tumblr, NSFW)

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Sleepwalking Mag (Guest Post): Making a Case for the Horrors


Originally posted on Sleepwalking Mag

The Horrors‘ newest release “Primary Colours” is one of a select few albums I have bought physical copies of this year, the other two being the new “War Sucks EP” from Spectrum, on vinyl, and the Natural Snow Buildings / Isengrind / TwinSisterMoon 2CD “The Snowbringer Cult” (which actually came out in 2008). The Horrors had made their new album available to listen to a week in advance on their website and at the NME, not long after it had leaked (you can still listen to it for free- I’ve embedded the code from their website at the bottom of the article). The initial press response seemed overwhelmingly positive, though, sure enough, the naysayers began to appear…

There were the disillusioned fans who missed the 60s garage/freakbeat style of “Strange House” and critics who scowled at the amalgamation (or pilfering, in their eyes) of post-punk, krautrock, and shoegaze sounds of days gone by. On the flip-side, there were newly won fans and critics, many of which previously had dismissed them as copyists of The Birthday Party and The Cramps, now praising them for their artistic expansion. But, tackling the Horrors and their music isn’t really as clear-cut as all that.

My introduction to The Horrors was in spring of 2007, shortly after the March release of “Strange House” and when Free Napster still allowed a non-subscriber to listen to more than a handful of tracks per month. I made the (perhaps unwise) choice of listening to “Sheena is a Parasite” first, a song which is still a bit much for me, cherry-picked a few more…and did not revisit the album again until this year! In autumn of 2008, I found out about Blast First Petite’s plan to release a limited-edition EP each month of different artists covering Suicide songs. Suicide happen to be, in my opinion, one of the greatest bands of all-time; they’re a synth-proto-punk duo (Alan Vega on vocals and Martin Rev on electronics) that formed in the early 70s, whose 1977 self-titled album was way ahead of its time (maybe still is). One of the bands doing a cover song for the series turned out to be the Horrors, who covered “Shadazz” (from Suicide’s 1980 release, also self-titled). My reaction upon listening? WHOA!

This was a very different Horrors from what I remembered. Singer Faris Badwan wasn’t growling out notes this time, sounding very cool and just as stylish as the music, which seemed to be the polar opposite of their previous output. It was a chance search on Google Blogsearch in March 2009 for news about HTRK’s new album Marry Me Tonight (released on Blast First Petite, oddly enough) that I came upon this is offset‘s post on the new Horrors single “Sea Within a Sea”, which was (and still is) available for free download upon signing up to the Horrors’ mailing list. Yes! My inclinations about the direction they would take, after hearing “Shadazz” months prior, were correct, and based on the loveliness of “Sea Within a Sea” (with some bass activity that’s reminded people, including myself, of Can’s “Mother Sky” and Neu!’s “Hallogallo”), I was filled with anticipation to hear their new release.

This is a band that haven’t ever been afraid to wear their influences on their sleeve, which seems to irk some people out there. After hearing Primary Colours in early April, and enjoying it so much that I wrote a review right away, I became interested in who their influences might be. A Quietus feature from March includes a Spotify playlist of bands influential to the Primary Colours sound, including Neu! and Can (of course!), the Psychedelic Furs, Wire, the Velvet Underground, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Jesus and Mary Chain, all of which were bands that I had already loved. Quietus writer Luke Turner says, aptly: “many of those strange beings who do not know any light save from the glow of their messageboard-displaying computer monitors remain doubters, accusing new Horrors material of being derivative…In terms of bright and glaring reference points (and the odd bracing steal) “Primary Colours” is aptly named, but this is a record that is far more than the sum of its parts…and those parts, as our playlist shows, are choice ones indeed.” Digging back into influences for their previous release turned up scans of articles the band members had written from their tour fanzines, including an article by Tom on Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, an A-Z of psychedelic bands compiled by Spider Webb, and compilations of 60s garage rock, space-themed music, and girl group music, all of which served to endear me to the band further still.

The physical copy of “Primary Colours” that I had ordered from Rough Trade included a bonus CD of the mix that members Tom and Rhys made for Vice Magazine (it’s worth noting that hearing the Hypothetical Prophets’ “Person to Person”, for the first time, in this mix set me on a coldwave quest) and also came with Rough Trade’s The Fold, a guide to the month’s releases, with the Horrors being the foremost feature. The album is described here as “a dense, layered sonic approach, building epic soundscapes out of motorik rhythms, washes of guitars and spectral, claustrophobic synths”.

Besides the description and a message to the listener from the band, there are three albums listed as influences, Arthur Russell – “World of Echo“(1986), The Pretty Things – “S. F. Sorrow” (1968; this is one I had previously heard), and Steve Reich – “Different Trains” (1989), which lead me to even more music-exploration!

That should be part of what great bands should strive to do, shouldn’t it? Encouraging both the exploration of their catalog as well as the music that is so much a part of who they are as musicians is an element that I think is very important, and seems all but lost in popular music. Shamelessly derivative or innovatively interpretive? That’s up to you do decide through listening, though I sincerely feel that it is the latter.

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Academic Writing: Genderqueer History and Identities

Note: This project was included in a set of college writing samples that won Roxie the Jack Collins LGBT Studies Academic Scholarship.

What is “Genderqueer”?

Last updated December 30, 2011. Original was a project for an LGBT American History class by Marilyn Roxie, May 17 2011. Revision made as recent as the last update indicated above. Click here for a bibliography of sources utilized and cited for this project.

Defining genderqueer:

Genderqueer is a term that may be used to describe those with non-normative[1] gender, either as an umbrella term or a stand-alone identity, typically encompassing those who are in one, or more, of these six categories:

    1. both man and woman (example: androgyne)
    2. neither man nor woman (agender, neutrois, non-gendered)
    3. moving between two or more genders (gender fluid)
    4. third gendered or other-gendered (includes those who prefer “genderqueer” or “non-binary” to describe their gender without labeling it otherwise)
    5. having an overlap or blur of gender and orientation and/or sex [2] (girlfags and guydykes)
    6. those who “queer” gender, in presentation or otherwise, who may or may not see themselves as non-binary or having a gender that is queer; this category may also include those who are consciously political or radical in their understanding of being genderqueer

Group #4 is differentiated from group #2 because those who identify as neither man nor woman, such as neutrois, may either see their identification as agendered (without gender, #2), or as a “third gender” (#4, having a non-binary identified gender). Note that group #6 may include those who are binary-identified (man or male, woman or female) that “queer” gender in presentation or other ways. Binary-identified genderqueer people may occupy a contested space in the realm of genderqueer identity due to issues of appropriation; see also Questioning Transphobia: Appropriation of Genderqueer Identities and The Biyuti Collective: On “Trenderqueers” for more on this. However, policing identity boundaries can have the unfortunate effect of denying legitimate self-identification and creating a hierarchy of identity “validity”. Different people will have very different reasons for identifying as genderqueer, as shown in the list above: all of these are important to explore for a more complete understanding of genderqueer as a concept, as well as who identifies as such and why.

A collection of definitions of the term “genderqueer” from web and print sources can be found in Definitions of Genderqueer. Common genderqueer-associated identities are defined in Terminology. History and political applications are discussed in History.

Breaking down the term leaves one with “gender” and “queer”. Consulting the Oxford Dictionaries Online definition for “gender”, a usage note reads: “Sex tends to refer to biological differences, while gender refers to cultural or social ones”. Gender according to Oxford is defined as “the state of being male or female”, although as genderqueer communities and individuals show, there are plenty who have what they interpret as a gender identity that is not restricted to one of these two options. Unpacking gender as a concept is a difficult task since there are both psychological and socio-cultural elements at work in the shaping of gender identity. Further defining gender is a topic I must leave aside here, as it is too complex and wide-reaching for the scope of this project.

Next, “queer”, which has been used as an insult can still be used in that sense today, is now more frequently used as an umbrella term to refer to LGBT rights and theory, as in “queer theory”, and to refer to all non-normative sexualities and gender identities[3]. Some may have a discomfort with the term “queer” or “genderqueer” due to connotations of insult, radical identity, or political implications that they do not share.

Genderqueer identities don’t have a de facto connection with physical sex. There may be nuances and ties to physical sex concepts on an individual level, so there are non-operative and no-hormone, pre-op / pre-ho, and post-op / post-ho genderqueers. For example, a neutrois person may wish to dress in a neutral fashion not identifiable as masculine or feminine, or this may be accompanied with a desire “to lose the physical traits that cause them to be socially read and treated as”[4] men or women. Apart from some in group #5, as sexual orientation is tied in with gender identity for them, genderqueer people can be of various orientations: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual and so on.

“Transgender”, while often considered an umbrella term for persons whose gender expression and identity is non-normative, an umbrella, as such, under which genderqueer may belong, is a term that tends to be associated with the binary identities of male and female, such as Female-to-Male (FTM, trans men) and Male-to Female (MTF, trans women), and with the process of transition, physically or in presentation, along binary lines. Identifying as transgender specifically may not express a genderqueer-associated or non-binary identity as clearly as the term “genderqueer” does, which may be seen as its own “umbrella” category as differentiated from, and overlapping with, transgender. Sexuality and law professor Nancy J. Knauer wrote in Gender Matters: Making the Case for Trans Inclusion (2007):

In some circles, the term genderqueer has emerged as an umbrella category that is distinguished by its oppositional stance to gender and its critique of the binary…Genderqueer recognizes that gender matters.  It rejects, but does not deny the binary…genderqueer allows for the realness of gender, but declares it to be ultimately malleable and fluid. The label genderqueer signals an oppositional stance to gender as a primary mode of identification…Even if you reject the proposition that we are all a little genderqueer, you will have to allow that we all experience gender and to varying extents we all participate in the gender system.

Non-binary refers to gender that is not binary (not man or woman) and has overlap with the term genderqueer, while they are not to be used interchangeably. While genderqueer can include those who are non-binary g(except for in the case of referring to expression / performance exclusively), not all non-binary identified people consider themselves genderqueer.

Next section: Genderqueer History → OR Related Identities and Concepts


[1]: Normative gender is related to the concept of heteronormativity, which “describes a binary gender system, in which only two sexes are accepted. Adherents of this normative concept maintain that one’s gender identity and one’s gender role ought to be congruent with one’s external genitalia, and that one ought to display a heterosexual sexual preference.” Stringer, JAC. “GenderQueer and Queer Terms.” Trans & Queer Wellness Initiative. 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. <>.

[2]: Ibid.

[3]: Meem, Deborah T, Michelle Gibson, and Jonathan Alexander. “Glossary: Queer.” Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBT Studies. Los Angeles: Sage, 2010. 433. Print

[4]: Feldman, Stephe. “Neutrois – FAQs.“ Neutrois. 1 Nov. 2006. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. <>.

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A Future in Noise: Starter Guide: The Fall

Originally posted on A Future in Noise

Photo Credit: © Kevin Cummins

The Fall are a band that inexplicably escaped my attention for far too long. I only became aware after someone posted an mp3 of “Dead Beat Descendant” at the Killlers Network in spring of ‘05. I liked the song, it quickly became a mix CD staple, and I recalled that I had read somewhere about LCD Soundsystem having been influenced by them, but it wasn’t until a year later that I went any further, when I somehow happened upon the YouTube videos for “Telephone Thing” and “Cruiser’s Creek”… and was completely hooked in. The acerbic wit! Stream-of-consciousness-style, poetic lyrics! The oddly charming “-uh” suffix attached to certain words! The…oh dear, how am I supposed to decide what album to listen to, the discography is immense!

Where to begin…?

With the only constant member being frontman Mark E. Smith through the group’s 27 studio albums, the first being Live at the Witch Trials (1979) and the latest Imperial Wax Solvent (one of my top album picks for 2008), and numerous changes in band members and style of music, delving into the world of the Fall could be quite a task without 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong: 39 Golden Greats, my first Fall-related purchase, and stand-by recommendation for anyone’s introduction to the Fall.

50,000… is a compilation documenting the group’s stylistic transitions, with the first disc representing the jangle-punk of late 70’s tracks like “Repetition” and “Industrial Estate” to the deepening of the unique Fall sound through the 80’s with the classic “Totally Wired” and “Hip Priest”, and onto the introduction of Mark E. Smith’s then-wife Brix Smith as guitarist for 1983 album Perverted By Language through ’85 single “Cruiser’s Creek”, the catchiest and most borderline-commercial single the Fall had released up to that point. Disc 2 explores the late 80’s and 90’s Fall singles, including some curious, re-inventive covers: “Mr. Pharmacist” (originally by the Other Half), “There’s a Ghost in My House” (R. Dean Taylor), and “Victoria” (the Kinks), up to “Green-Eyed Loco Man” from 2003 release The Real New Fall LP.

Key Albums:
Live at the Witch Trials (1979) Despite the title, this is a studio album, though the freewheeling delivery of Mark E. Smith and relentless pace of the band throughout gives the impression of a live set.
Hex Enduction Hour (1982) Hailed as a classic amongst a great many Fall fans, Hex is perhaps the Fall’s most difficult album, leaning towards their complex, art rock side, and containing one of the longest tracks in the whole discography, “And This Day”, clocking in at 10:22.
This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985) My personal favourite and the first Fall LP I had heard in full, this album is one of their most simultaneously cohesive and varied, reeling from the spooky (opener “Mansion” and “I Am Damo Suzuki”, tribute to the Can vocalist; it’s worth noting that John Lydon, frequent point of comparison to Mark E. Smith is also a Can fan) to the simply cool (“Bombast” and “L. A.”).
The Infotainment Scan (1993) The Fall’s biggest foray into the electronic in their catalog, and even offering up a Sister Sledge cover (“Lost in Music”), every track is glorious, with Mark E. Smith’s tone and lyrics sharper then ever, particularly on “Glam Racket” and “It’s a Curse”.
The Real New Fall LP (2003) Aside from the recent release Imperial Wax Solvent being such an achievement (and, indeed, one of the darkest, and strangest in the Fall’s long span of output), this was the Fall’s return to form in the 2000’s, including the infectious stomper “Theme From Sparta F. C.” and electro-drifter “Recovery Kit”.

The Legacy:
Long championed by influential British DJ John Peel (who described them as “the band against which all others in our house are judged”), with the Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004 compiles all of the Fall’s 24 such sessions over six CDs, with many of the tracks rivaling their studio album versions.

A wide range of musicians have been influenced by the Fall, among them Sonic Youth (who covered four Fall songs in a 1988 Peel session), Radiohead, Elastica, Pavement, Franz Ferdinand, and Bloc Party, though the music still remains relatively unknown outside of critics and musicians (at least in America). Take this chance to dive in- your ears will be richly rewarded.

Further Reading:
The Fall Online – The most comprehensive source of Fall information on-line; the Lyrics Parade is of particular note!
The Story of The Fall – Track by track reviews and analysis from 1977’s “Dresden Dolls” to 2008’s “Exploding Chimney”.
The Fall – Mick Middles, Mark E. Smith – In-depth journey through the Fall’s inception and later years, with dialogue from Mark E. Smith throughout and thorough insights and discography.

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A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Gig Review: Manic Street Preachers w/ Nico Vega, 9/24/09 at the Fillmore SF

Originally posted on A Future in Noise

Well, this is the first gig I’ve been to since starting A Future in Noise, making this is the very first gig review as well! This is the most biased piece of music journalism you are likely to read here because I do deeply love the Manic Street Preachers and all.

at the Fillmore in San Francisco yesterday…seeing as they haven’t been here in 10 years! That and being encouraged by the recent setlists (archived at Forever Delayed) being wonderful, with an eclectic mix from past and present releases, I knew it would be a show I could not afford to miss. Also, I had my heart set on meeting Nicky Wire – I bought him a bouquet of pink roses beforehand and attached a little note.
It wasn’t that crowded when I got there, so I was able to sidle up right to the front ahead of time. I hadn’t been too familiar with the opening act, Nico Vega, but after watching their live show – wow! Aja has such a powerful, raw presentation in her voice (and near-tribal dancing!), while Rich (the guitarist) and Dan (the drummer) madly tear away through instrumentation. One never knows what to expect from an opening act, and I thought I would be in the position of just waiting for it to end, but I really enjoyed them and will have to check out their studio / EP releases now!
It felt like such a long haul before the Manics came out, with the instruments and sound being tested, the Journal For Plague Lovers banner slowly rising up and replacing Nico Vega’s glowing insignia on the back of the stage wall, and the expected accoutrements appeared; the Welsh flag, a row of tiger plushies, and Nicky’s feather-boa-ed mic stand. Needless to say, I felt very, very nervous indeed! And then they came out.

I felt like my heart was going to leap out of me since not only was Nicky wearing that lovely sailor hat (as has been his custom lately), but a black suit as well. Genius! Oh, the music? Right then – they opened with “Motorcycle Emptiness”, their usual opener lately, which was simply surreal to hear and see being played so close to me, as I suppose is always the case with any song you’ve listened to over and over again in your own time. James Dean Bradfield’s voice sounded even more powerful in person, and seeing and hearing him up-close confirms that he truly is one of the unsung guitar greats – his hopping around stage, kicking out like a bit of a madman is fun to watch too! Sean Moore was hiding behind his drumkit (as usual), so I didn’t get that great of a look at what he was up to. Nearly every poignant musical moment was punctuated by synchronized leaps and steps from Nicky!
They played twenty one songs (setlist at the bottom of the article), with my personal highlights of note being the tracks they played from Journal For Plague Lovers (“Peeled Apples” – the bassline is even more scrumptious live! – “Jackie Collins Existential Question Time”, “This Joke Sport Severed”, and “Me and Stephen Hawking”), opener (“Motorcycle Emptiness”) and closer (“A Design For Life” – not really a favorite track before, but everything sounded better live), an unexpected acoustic “The Masses Against the Classes”, and “You Love Us” (the track the audience seemed the most excited about). The crowd sung along to most of the songs, particularly as the night went on, and the band looked like they were having a lot of fun up there, sharing occasional anecdotes before songs, happy to be in the States after so long!

After it was over, I had to track down Nicky…their tour bus was right outside the front of the venue, so I waited there with my cousin (who was patient enough to come along with me and deal with my temporary insanity!). After awhile, my cousin said, “The guy in the sailor hat is over there.”, but I didn’t hear her. Then she had to say it again, and I stammered, “…WHAT?!”, plowing through the crowd until there wasn’t any more room to do so. I waited as others got their picture with him and had him sign items they’d brought along. I had my pink rose bouquet with me, and when I was right in front of him said, “These are for you, Nicky!”. I think he said, and my cousin will back me up on this, “Oh those are lovely! Thanks – cheers, babe.” After that I have no idea what I said or did, getting my picture I’d brought along signed, and my photo taken with him (he put his hand on my back and shoulders – I thought I would tear apart into shreds!), and just saying, “Thank you so much!”. I certainly hung around until he was gone, just looking at him in that sailor hat, be-jeweled eyes, and hearing him talk so close by was addling my head to a great extent. JDB and Sean had disappeared by this point, so I’d missed my chance with them, but Nicky was my top priority so – mission accomplished!
The Manics are a band that have so much history attached to them, and to feel like you’re part of it just for a little while is a special thing indeed. It was a truly fantastic gig experience – if they pop up in your area, you must see them!

1. Motorcycle Emptiness
2. No Surface All Feeling
3. Peeled Apples
4. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
5. La Tristessa Durera
6. Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
7. Let Robeson Sing
8. Faster
9. Everything Must Go
10. This Joke Sport Severed
11. From Despair To Where
12. If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
13. This Is Yesterday (acoustic)
14. The Masses Against the Classes (acoustic)
15. Send Away The Tigers
16. You Stole The Sun
17. All Or Nothing (Small Faces cover) / Motown Junk
18. Me And Stephen Hawking
19. Little Baby Nothing
20. You Love Us
21. A Design For Life

A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Gig Review: Manic Street Preachers w/ Nico Vega, 9/24/09 at the Fillmore SF

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A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Starter Guide: Post-Punk


 Post-Punk, frequently associated with ‘gloomy’ late 70’s/early 80’s acts, can often actually be split into two varieties there’s the jangly, guitar-oriented kind (Television, the Feelies), and the dark, bass-driven kind (Joy Division, Bauhaus). After coming to the realization that an enormous portion of my music library contained artists considered post-punk and, more recently, through my crazed work on the 6-disc RYM Ultimate Box Set for Post-Punk, I thought that now would be the prime time to give overview and insight to this complex music movement that has provided such a large portion of my music listening enjoyment over the years.

Influences on Post-Punk:

  • Punk: Many artists later appearing under the umbrella of post-punk formed and recorded when the original wave of punk had not yet dissolved: Television’s 1977 album Marquee Moon could be said to bridge the gap between the two genres, injecting an arty sophistication into the punk model and turning it into something altogether new. The Birthday Party’s output and early Pere Ubu and Wire, Killing Joke, and even the mighty Fall and Gang of Four also stood on the edge of punk-meets-post-punk.
  • The Lou Reed-David Bowie-Iggy Pop Triangle: There seem to be just a few patches of music that have been left untouched by the sweeping arm of the Velvet Underground’s influence, with post-punk being affected by this and Lou Reed’s solo work as well. David Bowie’s ‘Berlin Trilogy’, Low (1977), “Heroes” (1977), and Lodger (1979) and Iggy Pop’s The Idiot (1977; this would sadly later end up as being the last record Ian Curtis listened to) served as important blue-prints for the post-punk sound.
  • 1960’s Psychedelia: Echoes of the Doors and/or Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd can be heard in the work of bands like the Teardrop Explodes, Echo & the Bunnymen, Siouxsie and the Banshees.
  • Krautrock: This 60s/70s German music movement, characterized by much experimentation and delving into prog (Can, Faust) or synths (Cluster, Kraftwerk). Julian Cope’s Krautrocksampler serves as an excellent guide.

First Wave of Post-Punk:

  • Joy Division: The premiere post-punk band, they released two (perfect, in this author’s humble opinion…) albums while they were together: Unknown Pleasures (1979, pictured at the start of this article) and Closer (1980). As much as Ian Curtis’ talent has been (rightly) heralded after his 1980 suicide, Joy Division were a band in which all the members were crucial: Peter Hook’s signature bass sound, elevated above Bernard Sumner’s guitar stylings, and Stephen Morris’ adept, machine-like percussion all heavily shaped the dark atmosphere that surrounded Curtis’ distant, distinctly cold vocals and lyrics. The rest of the lads went on to form New Order, with 1981 release Movement still clinging to their post-punk past, with Sumner now at vocals (apart from Hook’s lead vocals on tracks “Dreams Never End” and “Doubts Even Here”, where his voice bears an eerie similarity to Curtis’). Power, Corruption & Lies (1983) began the transition to the dancier, new wave elements that would characterize the rest of New Order’s career.
  • Public Image Ltd.: Post-punk in the literal sense, it wasn’t too long before John Lydon set to work on something completely different than what was accomplished in his former group, punk barrier-breakers the Sex Pistols. Influenced by krautrock like his frequent point of comparison Mark E. Smith (the Fall). Recommended albums: Public Image (1978), Metal Box (1979; also available as Second Edition), the massively underrated Album (1986), and The Flowers of Romance (1981).
  • Original Gothic Rock: Though the modern conception of what constitutes ‘gothic rock’ is typically, according to NME Originals – Goth and doing a bit of research into genres, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, and the Cure are all considered original Gothic rock, a branch of post-punk, with darker themes expanded upon and no small amount of camp about it all! Recommended albums: Bauhaus – In the Flat Field (1980) and Mask (1981), Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Scream (1978), Kaleidoscope (1980), Juju (1981), The Cure – 17 Seconds (1980), Faith (1981)
  • Neo-Psychedelia: Not every post-punk group leaned towards psychedelia (despite the 60’s version being a prime influence), though Echo & the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes were chief among those that did. Echo & the Bunnymen’s output from 1980-1987 is highly recommended, though Heaven Up Here (1981) provides the most post-punkiness. Kilimanjaro (1980) is the Teardrop Explodes album to hear, while Julian Cope’s solo material delves further into the neo-psych side.
  • The American Scene: Frequently new-wave-tinged and fabulous: Pere Ubu, Devo Pylon, Chrome, Tuxedomoon. (Thanks to reader Princess Sparkle Pony for the reminder!)
  • Ladies of Post-Punk: Aside from Siouxsie, post-punk gals are all-too-often cast to the wayside! Recommended: Essential Logic – Beat Rhythm News (1979), The Seduction – Ludus (1981), The Raincoats – Odyshape (1981), The Slits – Cut (1979) and the compilation from the band Kleenex (later known as Liliput) Kleenex / LiLiPUT not released until 1993.

And More…:

  • The Chameleons: Recently included in our 15 Brilliant Out-of-Print Albums piece (along with the following band, the Sound), the Chameleons were forerunners of shoegaze , putting an atmospheric spin on post-punk in their first album Script of the Bridge (1983), with What Does Anything Mean? Basically (1985) and Strange Times (1986) moving farther afield into an even more unique, distinctly Chameleons sound.
  • More Recommended Albums: Nick Cave – From Her to Eternity (1984), The Fall – This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985), The Sound – Jeopardy


  • Associated Genres: Shoegaze (The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine), New Wave (Devo), Coldwave (see So Young But So Cold compilation), Dance-Punk (Liquid Liquid), No Wave (James Chance and the Contortions, Lydia Lunch; see also No New York)

Post-Punk Revival in the 2000s:
Some of those who have made the big splashes…
Bloc Party – Silent Alarm (2005)
Editors – The Back Room (2005)
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand (2004)
The Horrors – Primary Colours (2009)
Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)

Further Exploration:
RYM Ultimate Box Set > Post-Punk

Post-Punk Diaries, by George Gimarc
Tape Delay, by Charles Neal
Rip it Up and Start Again, by Simon Reynolds

A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Starter Guide: Post-Punk

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