Listen-In #3: G.L.O.S.S. – Trans Identities in Hardcore

One of the reasons why I got into hardcore in the first place were the politically charged lyrics of some of the bands. As of late, I do not listen to too much hardcore anymore but when I do, I mostly listen to political bands that provide some sort of representation and address important topics in their music. For that reason, in today’s post, I am going to talk about the band G.L.O.S.S. . This is an acronym for ‘Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit’ and I think that name is about as punk as it gets and does a good job of communicating the band’s mindset.

They were a hardcore band from Olympia in Washington and they were very vocal about the struggles that being transgender can bring with it, providing some great representation that is direly needed in the scene and in society overall. Additionally, they wrote great political hardcore tracks in the process. I am going to let the following clip speak for itself.

This is one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen in a long time. After taking their time to talk to the audience for a couple of minutes, G.L O.S.S. start their set acapella with their self-titled track and everyone screams along. The entirety of the gig is online, so definitely check it out. video by Andre Westrate on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOOfXDkSvMA

Since you should now have a vague idea of what the band stood for, I am going to illustrate this in more detail by looking at some of their songs’ lyrics. By doing so, I will analyse how the band conveys being trans and how the singer empowers fellow trans folks in the process. This is a topic that is unfortunately still overseen in the hardcore scene and we seriously need to talk about this because if hardcore is not truly inclusive, it is not worth a thing. So let’s have these discussion and actively make the scene and society a more safe and welcoming space for everyone.

In this post, I am going to talk about toxic masculinity and some other topics that I have already addressed on this blog, so feel free to check out my older posts if you want to learn more about this topic. https://sovlpvnk.com/2020/04/20/listen-in-1-challenging-heteronormativity-and-toxic-masculinity-letlive-s-lemon-party/ In the next chapter, I am also going to briefly explain the concept of transgender to provide a basis for the following analyses.

What does Transgender Mean?

According to the Gender Wiki, ‘Transgender is an umbrella term for anyone whose internal experience of gender does not match the sex they were assigned at birth (normally based on first and secondary sex characteristics)’ (Gender Wiki I). If someone is transgender, they do not identify as the sex they were considered to be at birth due to their sexual organs.

The opposite of transgender is cisgender, i.e. if one’s sex and gender identity allign with one another, for instance when a male person identifies as a man (Gender Wiki II). Both terms go back to Latin with cis meaning something along the lines of ‘on this side’ and trans being the opposite ‘on the other side’ or ‘across from’ (Gender Wiki II).

As with so many identities, transgender people are not homogenous. ‘Transgender’ is an umbrella term that can cover various identities, similar to asexuality and aromanticism. The trans- ‘spectrum’ can cover men, women and non-binary persons and the way they express their identity as well as their sexual orientations may differ. They may also experience gender dysphoria (or distress) due to their sex and gender identities not alligning with each other but that is not the case for everyone (Gender Wiki I). Similarly, not everyone may want to transition and adapt their body to fit their gender identity.

The trans pride flag. Picture taken from https://pixabay.com/de/users/katlove-636853/

When it comes to this topic, it is important to be considerate and to respect people’s identities. If someone identifies as something other than their sex assigned at birth, it is merely a matter of respect to accept that and use the correct pronouns. When referring to other cis people, it is also not a problem to remember and apply the right pronouns, so asking people to use the correct pronouns when faced with trans folks is not asking for too much. This leads us to the topic of gender.

Essentially, you differentiate between the physical sex and the internal experience and the way people identify (gender). What may this look like? A trans-woman, for instance is a person who identifies as a woman. Her gender is female but she was assigned the male sex at birth, while a trans man identifies as a man and was assigned the sex female at birth (Gender Wiki). Apart from that, people may be born with traits that cannot be classified as just male or female. These people are labeled as intersex. A final identity that goes beyond static binary gender divisions, is non-binary. If someone is non-binary, they do not identify as male or female and these terms may simply be insufficient to describe their identity.

A similar but yet another umbrella identity is gender queer, which can cover various identities. I feel like gender queerness is similar to grey asexual identities, as in cases that are not necessarily that clear or clean-cut. This is not supposed to be an evaluation it is just my impression. Since it is another umbrella identity and the focus of today’s post is more on trans-women, I am not going to address gender queerness in detail today because there would be much more to consider.

Another key topic when it comes to trans people is the transition, which ‘is any action a transgender person takes in order for the external world to better recognize and reflect their internal gender’ (Gender Wiki I). There are various ways of transitioning, such as adopting a new name or pronouns, changing your clothing style or via surgery (Gender Wiki I). Transitioning can be a long and difficult process and I think that we should just respect people for who they are because as a cis person, you do not experience the struggles connected to this. For instance, a (non-binary) trans person may experience dysphoria because of their anatomy and misgendering tied to that while cis persons like me never experience that kind of struggles. So try to be empathetic and don’t be transphobic.

J.K. Rowling Unfollows Stephen King Over Trans Support - visionviral.com
My Twitter highlight of 2020. It’s hilarious to see how Rowling instantly deleted the tweet when King spoke in favour of trans women. Terf pettiness in action. TERF stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminism. They are ‘feminists’ who do not acknowledge the validity of trans-persons, essentially making them bigots.

Another important thing to mention about transitions is that trans people have different needs and not everyone may want or feel the need to transition. If someone does not want to do so, that does not take away from their validity. You should never ask a person about their transition as that is just utterly disrespectful. Apart from that, we might talk about gender reveal parties at this point but I think it should be clear by now why celebrating a baby’s genitals is questionable.

Similarly, sexuality is a whole other topic, since you have to consider the influence of the gender binary on the labelling of sexual orientations. If a trans woman defines her sexuality, does she define this based on her gender or the sex she was assigned at birth? This is a matter of identity and it again illustrates how heteronormativity and the gender binary just fail to describe the reality, as they cannot provide an answer to this question. For example, a trans-woman may identify as a lesbian if she is only into women. Just because she transitions, she is not necessarily interested in the opposite sex. This illustrates that trans people can have various sexual orientations, just like cisgender folks (Gender Wiki I). If someone is trans, it is a matter of their gender identity and not necessarily of their sexual orientation. The latter is a whole other topic and up to them to decide. ‘Decide’ as in deciding which label suits them best and fits them well. If you question someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation, I would like to ask you how you think that it is of your concern. In all honesty, how someone else identifies does not affect you in the slightest and I will never understand how someone can get upset about something like that. That being said, trans folks and queers in general are valid. (I do not use queer in the derogatory sense).

Since I have provided a short overview of the topic, I am now going to analyse how G.L.O.S.S. tackle this topic in some of their songs. All of them are taken from bandcamp. Enjoy!

G.L.O.S.S. (We’re from the Future)

https://girlslivingoutsidesocietysshit.bandcamp.com/track/g-l-o-s-s-were-from-the-future

This self-titled track starts with the following lines as you could see in the clip shown before:

‘THEY TOLD US WE WERE GIRLS/HOW WE TALK, DRESS, LOOK, AND CRY/THEY TOLD US WE WERE GIRLS/SO WE CLAIMED OUR FEMALE LIVES/NOW THEY TELL US WE AREN’T GIRLS/OUR FEMININITY DOESN’T FIT/WE’RE FUCKING FUTURE GIRLS LIVING OUTSIDE SOCIETY’S SHIT!’

These lines address both, toxic masculinity and transphobia. The first half of the excerpt reflects how toxic guys try to degrade people whom they consider feminine, hence ‘they told us we were girls, how we talk, dress, look and cry’. Mannerisms like these typically trigger toxic wannabe alpha males as they challenge their notion of masculinity. If someone assigned with the male sex at birth says that it’s ok to cry, that calls the assumption into question that ‘men must be tough and mustn’t express their vulnerability’.

The same tough guys who question others’ masculinity also tend to be the ones who then question the femininity of trans-women: ‘So we claimed our female lives. Now they tell us we aren’t girls, our femininity doesn’t fit’. This illustrates how presumptuous those kinds of toxic people are: Others’ identities do not even concern them, yet they want to define other people’s identities for them in order to hold on to their own toxic notion of what it means to be a man.

The final line expresses the emancipation of the singer, as she announces that she lives independently from the antiquated standards of society: ‘We’re fucking future girls living outside society’s shit!’

‘WE’RE FROM THE FUTURE/NOT FROM THE PAST/WE LIVE OUR OWN WAY NOT UP HISTORY’S ASS/WON’T REENACT WON’T PERFORM THEIR HARDCORE/THE STRAIGHT-BOY CANNON IS A ROYAL BORE’

The verse following the intro further illustrates the emancipation of the band from others’ standards. She claims that they live their own way, ‘not up history’s ass’. The singer extends this to the hardcore scene by saying they won’t reenact and perform ‘their’ (heteronormative hardcore) because ‘the straight boy cannon is a royal bore’. According to its own self-perception, the scene is open and inclusive, however it mainly consists of cishet dudes while women, let alone transgender or other more diverse groups of people are still not entirely normalised in that scene. The aforementioned lines reflect this: the scene is oversaturated with straight males and there is some dire need for more diversity. It is on the right way and most people would probably shun homophobes or transphobes but at the same time, queerness has not yet been normalised in the hardcore scene.

With the following lines, the singer again emphasises that this is about the queers and trans folks, specifically, giving them validation and empowering them in the process. By stressing that it is not just about any outcasts but the ‘faggots and femmes’, she makes this point very clear. Hardcore kids often see themselves as outsiders and consider themselves different from ‘normies’ ouside of the scene and the aforementioned line refers to that point, highlighting that especially non-cishet people might need some representation:

‘THE FUTURE/FAGGOTS AND FEMMES!/THE FUTURE/NOT JUST ANY OUTCASTS [as in hardcore kids] /GIRLS/LIVING/OUTSIDE/SOCIETY’S/SHIT!’ (emphasis added)

The empowerment goes even further with the lines ‘WHAT’S THE POINT IN SUCKING THEM OFF/TRENDY MUTANT SKINHEADS CAN JERK THEMSELVES OFF/WE DON’T NEED VALIDATION FROM THEM/THEY THINK THEY’RE THE SHIT BUT THEY CAN’T HANDLE HARD FEMMES’. Instead of trying to please others, the singer proposes to just be oneself, hence the trendy hardcore guys can jerk themselves off. You are valid and do not need anyone’s validation, no matter if you’re transgender, cisgender, gay, bi, pan, or identify as any other sexual orientation. -That is a great and empowering message, delivered with some great vocals. Additionally, the last line of that quote puts forward another great point: people who try to define you and tell you that you have to please them are probably just unable to handle the fact that you do not live according to their heteronormative standards, so you should not care about what they think.

Finally, the singer again emphasises that this song is not about any outcasts but more specifically about queers and femmes.

‘THE FUTURE/FAGGOTS AND FEMMES/THE FUTURE/NOT JUST ANY OUTCASTS’

With this song, G.L.O.S.S. deliver an important message: You are valid and you should never mind anyone who tells you otherwise. Toxic masculinity, homophobia, transphobia and bigotry as a whole are outdated mindsets and you should not let any advocates of these mindsets impact your life.

Masculine Artifice

https://girlslivingoutsidesocietysshit.bandcamp.com/track/masculine-artifice

This song offers a perspective and insight into what it can be like to be transgender and thus faced with the gender binary and the pressures tied to it. ‘MEDICALIZED/UNDER THE KNIFE/EXPECTED TO BE GRATEFUL/TRAPPED IN THE LENS/OF THE CIS-GAZE/JUST ANOTHER SAD TRANSEXUAL’. All of this are things that cisgender people are not exposed to. We do not transition and do not know the struggles and efforts connected to this. Additionally, we are not constantly judged by others for our cis-identity but the judgemental cis-gaze focuses on trans persons. Apart from that, not every trans person transitions and it is definitely not their duty to do so to be valid, hence ‘medicalised under the knife, expected to be grateful’. These might be considered expectations towards or clichés about trans folks that of course do not apply to all of them, e.g. not everyone transitions but that does not take away from their validity and they do not have to be grateful to anyone.

‘MASCULINITY/WAS THEIR ARTIFICE/RIP IT AWAY/FEMININITY/ALWAYS THE HEART OF US!/TRANS GIRLS BE FREE!’

In the chorus, which you can see above, the singer emphasises how gender roles are a social construct: ‘masculinity was their artifice, rip it away’. ‘They’ (society) force gender roles upon people based on the one they are assigned at birth. If someone is transgender, these roles do not apply to their gender but just to their sex, essentially forcing something upon them that is not right for them. Therefore, you should do away with them (rip them away).

In contrast, femininity is ‘always the heart of us’, which again emphasises that there is a discrepancy between societal gender roles and the gender of individuals. In the case of the singer this manifested in her being considered a guy and being met with expectations based on that, when she was actually a woman.

The final part of the chorus shows why we have to talk about these issues and why we need to acknowledge the pressures tied to gender: it is the basic requirement for trans liberation, hence ‘Trans girls be free’. We have to try to understand trans folks and support them but not decide for them, which goes for all other groups of marginalised people as well. If we do not support them but take over their fight for their rights and mother them, trans-women and men cannot be free.

In the second verse, the singer highlights this aspect even more: ‘I’M NOT PATHETIC/I’M NOT YOUR PROJECT/I WASN’T PUT HERE FOR YOU/SAME BULLSHIT STORY/ABOUT MY BODY/MEDIA DOESN’T HAVE A CLUE’. There are many misconceptions and people try to be saviours but strip those whom they want to help of the right to decide for themselves. Therefore, she says ‘I’m not your project, I wasn’t put here for you, same bullshit story about by body’. We have to support trans people without degrading and mothering them in the process. What they do with their bodies is none of our concern but it should only be up to them to decide.

After this verse, the chorus returns and is followed by the outro, in which ‘GET OFF MY BACK!’ is repeated and followed by a scream of frustration ‘AHHGHHH’. We should not use the fight for trans rights as a way to present ourselves as progressive but we should actually help them in a way beneficial to them because otherwise, we are part of the problem.

Targets of Men

https://girlslivingoutsidesocietysshit.bandcamp.com/track/targets-of-men

The final song that I am going to address today is Targets of Men, a song about sexism, heteronormativity, transphobia and women’s sexual autonomy. Women includes trans-women, screw TERFS!

In this song, the singer describes a scenario that happens to (trans-)women daily. She describes how someone stalks and catcalls her and proceeds to offend her after realising she is trans, calling her trans- and homophobic slurs. However, she stands up to it:

‘BACK OFF/GET LOST/HELL NO/YEAH RIGHT

ON THE STREET/YOU FOLLOW ME AROUND/CATCALL FROM BEHIND SEE MY FACE AND CUT ME DOWN/”TRANNY”/”SHEMALE”/”FAGGOT”/”WHORE” ‘.

She is above this and does not tolerate the abuse either: ‘BUT I’M A FLAWLESS BITCH AND YOU’RE A FUCKING BORE/THIS MAKEUP IS FOR MY EYES/THESE FISHNETS ARE FOR MY THIGHS/THIS WALK IS HOW I GOT THROUGH LIFE’. She explains her appearance and stresses that it is just who she is and nothing of concern for the bigot. Then she asks him if he wants the pepper spray or pocket knife first, presenting herself as ready to defend herself. She is not having any of his BS:

‘YOU WANT THE PEPPER SPRAY FIRST OR  THE POCKET KNIFE?!/TARGETED BY MEN/WE’RE TARGETS OF MEN/TARGETED BY MEN/WE’RE TARGETS’

The following excerpt illustrates the basic issue about this topic: toxic men oftentimes do not bother about consent and behave in ways that are inappropriate, thinking that this is flattering, when in reality, their behaviour is intimidating and predatory. Therefore, the singer poses the following questions and tells the sexual predator to buzz off:

‘DID I SAY YOU COULD LOOK AT ME?!/DID I SAY YOU COULD TALK TO ME?!/YOU REALLY THINK WE’D BE FRIENDS?!/SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTH AND HANG YOUR HEAD/I DON’T REMEMBER INVITING YOUR WORDS/I DON’T REMEMBER INVITING YOUR GAZE/I’D NEVER ASK YOUR OPINION OF SHIT!’

This is how you show trash their place. I love the sass in this. However, this is not too realistic unfortunately, as you can never know how someone reacts in this kind of situation. Therefore, I think that we have to work on the problem behind this, i.e. sexism, patriarchy and bigotry and normalise feminism and direct opposition to predatory behaviour and bigotry to prevent situations like these from happening in the first place.

To end the song in style, the singer just remarks ‘/MY BODY/MY RULES/GET ON WITH IT’, which is another key aspect concerning this topic: we are still not at the point where women and especially trans-people can govern over their own body completely as they see fit; there are still people who want to determine how they should behave and who try to seize control over their bodies. Another example of this is the criminalisation and stigmatisation of sex work. There is lots of bias about this topic and sex work is often depicted as ‘not real’ or ‘less valuable’, which stigmatises sex workers. However, that is a topic of its own.

What Can We Learn from G.L.O.S.S. ?

A Lesson of Self-worth

  • You are valid, no matter what others tell you
  • Do not let others define you
  • You do not have to live according to society’s standards, which often serve as a means of repression, as the singer experienced because of her gender identity
  • Live the way that makes you happy and live ‘outside society’s shit’

A Shift of Perspective

  • cis folks like me have to try to understand what it is like to be trans
  • we have to support the struggle for trans rights but should not make any decisions over their heads, which also applies to other groups like POC, for example
  • the singer provides the perspective of a woman who is faced with a sexual predator, giving an insight into how gross that can be
  • the Targets of Men reflects what women go through, potentially every day, being targeted by men as a trophy or sex object
  • it is NOT OK to harass women, be it through dick pics, catcalling, abuse or in whatever way that makes them feel unsafe and insecure

G.L.O.S.S. were a great band providing a voice for trans people in a scene in which their voices are still largely unheard. Hardcore definitely needs more bands like them who openly address topics like gender, misogyny and bigotry and call out the status quo in the scene. It is still a sausage fest and unfortunately, (trans-)women are often not seen as valid in it, which sucks considering just how tolerant the scene likes to present itself. We need to talk about these topics and normalise them. If hardcore is not inclusive of all kinds of people, it is not worth a thing because then it betrays its own values. For a final time: trans women and trans men as well as non-binary folks are valid.

Why do we still have to talk about ‘trans-women and -men’? It should be an established truth by now that they are valid but we are not yet at the point at which this is the reality. Trans- people are still being discriminated against and examples of people like J.K. Rowling and some of her supporters who question the definition of transphobia to justify the former’s transphobia illustrate this. Accordingly, we still have to talk about trans-women etc. because this part of their identity can still impact their lives in a negative way. By just talking about men and women, we fail to acknowledge this. Please just try to be understanding and treat others with respect.

This was the first post in a while because I was busy moving and I needed a small break after that. I have several posts planned for the upcoming weeks and I am looking forward to getting back at it again. As always, if you are interested in discussions, check out my Twitter or just comment below.

As always thank you for reading and until next time.

-sovlpvnk

Sources:

Gender Wiki I. ‘Transgender.’ In: gender.wiki.org, URL: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/sovlpvnk.com/4567, Accessed on September 18, 2020.

Gender Wiki II. ‘Cisgender.’ In: gender.wiki.org, URL: https://gender.wikia.org/wiki/Cisgender, Accessed on September 18, 2020.

G.L.O.S.S. . ‘G.L:O.S.S. (We’re From The Future).’ DEMO, via TOTAL NEGATIVITY/NERVOUS NELLY in the US and SABOTAGE in Europe, 2015.

G.L.O.S.S. . ‘Masculine Artifice.’ DEMO, via TOTAL NEGATIVITY/NERVOUS NELLY in the US and SABOTAGE in Europe, 2015.

G.L.O.S.S. . ‘Targets of Men.’ DEMO, via TOTAL NEGATIVITY/NERVOUS NELLY in the US and SABOTAGE in Europe, 2015.

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Published by sovlpvnk

This is my personal blog about culture and sustainability. It is mainly concerned with topics that I'm interested in, mostly the alternative music scene and its ethics as well as LGBTQIA+ -related topics and veganism. I post my content in English and German.

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