It’s Different For Girls

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I’ll relate to you one more Bradley story before I get back to talking nonstop about Ziggy.

The night we’d told Bradley and Marvelle we were hiring them both, we ened up at Jordan’s. When Carynne had talked to him to vet Marvelle, he’d mentioned we should drop by the loft late if we were around.

Apparently there was some music industry function—I don’t remember what—and it was Jordan’s usual M.O. to get people together socially because that so often lead to them maybe working together professionally, later, with each other as well as him. Maybe. (Or maybe Jordan just liked to have parties and that’s what happens when you know people.)

Anyway. The upshot was we went, and I figured now that I had hired Marvelle I could ask Jordan to tell me more about him, but I never actually got around to it during the party. Instead I found myself sitting in the corner by the keyboards and recording equipment watching everyone and wondering whether it was really true that other people enjoy parties more than I do or if it’s that they’re just better at acting like they’re enjoying themselves.

And that led me to thinking about the definition of enjoying one’s self. I mean it wasn’t like I was having a bad time. I wasn’t in a bad mood. I wasn’t hungry or deprived or afraid of anyone there. It was kind of pleasant watching people I knew talking to one another. If I didn’t feel bad, and I felt okay-good, why was I worrying about it? I dunno. Somehow I was still convinced that I was missing something–in myself, or in the way being a human was supposed to work.

But it wasn’t bad, really. I’d had a couple of conversations that night of the content-free type that I was pretty sure was just meant to be so they could later tell people they had met me. It was a fairly large party as one of Jordan’s gatherings went. Fifty, sixty people? More than I could easily count, anyway.

Bradley came and sat down next to me but didn’t say anything. He had a bottle of beer in his hand but didn’t appear to be drinking it so much as carrying it around like a movie prop. We watched the crowd together for a long time, I think.

Then at one point I looked at him instead of at everyone else, and he looked back at me, and we just kind of nodded to each other.

When I felt ready to say something, which was a while later, I said, “I often end up sitting alone at parties.”

“You seemed like you wanted to. I hope it was okay I decided to sit alone with you.”

“Totally okay. What’s funny is I’m trying to figure out why that worked.” Right? Why did it still feel like we were sitting alone, if we were sitting together?

“Maybe because neither of us is demanding a lot of social interaction from each other.” He crooked his neck. “That’s why I wanted to sit by you.”

“Because I’m not demanding socially?”

“Yeah.” He seemed to be staring into the beer bottle instead of looking at me. “I don’t know which is more exhausting, trying to work my way into conversations or dealing with the people who jump in and want to talk to me when they see me standing alone. They both are.”

I nodded. “It’s different when I know everyone.” Very different. My gaze strayed across the couch where Ziggy and I had won the blow job competition.

Bradley seemed to agree. “So this is what the big time is like.”

I thought about that. “I guess? Trav’s parties aren’t like some of the parties I’ve been to.”

“Yeah?”

“Mostly in LA, but I’m sure they happen here, too. Coke and people being stupid. At least at Jordan’s parties people don’t seem to be stupid.”

He nodded. “So he’s Ziggy’s producer?”

“He produced M3’s second album, and he’s kind of kept me and Ziggy in his sphere ever since.”

“He’s the one who got you back together?”

I had to turn and look at his face then to see if he was serious or not. He was. “Is that what people are saying?”

“People aren’t saying anything; I’m just trying to figure out how everyone’s connected.” His cheeks grew mottled red, though, as if he’d said something wrong.

Which he hadn’t. I suppose technically there was a way you could look at it that Jordan did get me and Ziggy back together, musically, in a roundabout way, with “Breaking Chains.” But instead of trying to get into that explanation, I said, “I’m trying to figure that out, too.”

“You mean like, on the cosmic scale?” A half-smile.

“Yeah.” I suddenly wished for a beer bottle in my hands, too. Just to have something to do with them. There was no guitar in sight or in reach, either. I suddenly remembered that was my way “normal” way of dealing with parties and group social situations. How weird to have forgotten. I guess I hadn’t needed that crutch in a while. “The one who is the real expert on who knows who and how is Carynne, though. I always end up having to ask her later who everyone was because I can’t remember at the time.”

“Is she mad at me?” Bradley asked.

“I don’t think so,” I said honestly. “I think she’s mad at herself and it comes across as her being mad generally. She usually comes right out and tells me if she’s pissed off at me directly.”

“Oh.”

“I think she’s mad about you, a little, though, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

“Maybe?”

I didn’t want him to be freaked out first day on the job so I tried to explain. “I think she’s still beating herself up about not getting things to work for Sugargum, so she feels she failed you, and I think she’s also mad at herself for not dealing with your transition well. But she’ll just have to get over it.”

Bradley nodded. “That’s pretty much my attitude with everybody. ‘Get over it.’ Thing is, anybody who can’t get over it, I pretty much need to cut them out of my life. That’s kind of hard to do if she’s your boss, though.”

“She’s not your boss. I’m your boss,” I said then, not even sure why my hackles prickled. Feeling kind of protective/defensive but I’m not sure who I was defending, myself, Bradley, or Carynne. Or all three of us from each other’s stupidity. I don’t know. “And she’ll get over it. I assume. I’ll be honest. I think you’re the first transgender person I’ve met going in this direction and my brain is flipping out a little trying to figure it out.”

“This direct–? Oh, you mean FTM.”

That might have been the first time I heard that term, “eff-to-emm,” but it was obvious immediately what it mean. “Yeah. And by flipping out I mean just trying to get it right. And by get it right I mean, not just pronouns but…trying to see you for who you are, for who you want to be.”

Bradley’s mouth hung open slightly like he wanted to say something to that but wasn’t quite sure what words to use, and my anxiety spiked and got the better of me and I spilled out the following: “I mean, my entire life all I’ve wanted is for people to judge me by my talent and to value me for it instead of for what I look like or who I’m attracted to or any of that shit. And so I try to treat other people like that, but I really can’t get on a high horse about it because I fuck it up regularly, I’m sure.”

“Um.” Bradley looked at the beer bottle then back at me. “Thanks. I…thanks. I feel like…there’s more to say about that but I don’t really know what to say right now.”

I chuckled at that. “That’s me in every conversation at every party, ever.”

That made him laugh and smile, too.

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Comments 10

  1. chris wrote:

    When I first read the decision to use both drummers I was wavering between “genius” and “easy way out”… then I tried to remember if I’d ever seen a show with 2 drummers and immediately thought of the Queen tour in 2014 and I had really enjoyed it. So, of course I had to Google it and was blown away by how much music I’ve listened to that featured two drummers… Zappa…and never knew. Cecilia and Daron have broadened my horizons AGAIN.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    And how cool is it when the two drummers for Queen are Roger Taylor and his own son, right?

    [Reply]

    Claudia Perry Reply:

    Roger Taylor’s son is now drummer in a band called The Darkness. Almost metal parody.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Interesting. Must check em out.

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Apr 2016 at 11:25 am
  2. s wrote:

    Your description of whether or not you are having a good time at a party is eerily familiar. I don’t like the big parties where I don’t know many people either. They give me hives.

    I’m really glad we’re going to get to know Bradley. I like him. I like his attitude. I like that he gets the concept of alone together. I just like him.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    You like him because I like him. ;-)

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Apr 2016 at 11:36 am
  3. G wrote:

    I commend you, Daron. You handled that very well. And, it’s okay to sit and people watch. I like to just hang alone and experience things, maybe even contemplate what I’m seeing. I’m glad you didn’t force yourself, and I’m glad Bradley joined you.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Yeah, Jonathan used to say when I didn’t want to talk to people anymore it’s like a force field goes up around me, and people start leaving me alone. I’m not sure when I got that superpower but I’m glad it works or I’d have to flee or hide instead. And that’s no fun.

    Bradley and I seem to be on a similar wavelength.

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Apr 2016 at 12:25 pm
  4. Lenalena wrote:

    Wow, Joe Jackson in back to back chapters.

    I saw him live back in high school. A very talented musician. I think he is younger here than when I saw him, he seems more baby faced.

    Early morning after the concert, I had to give my friend, who’d I’d gone with, a ride on the back of my bike to Amsterdam Central Station (a good 40 min by bike), where she’d left her own bike before the concert. (All big artists played in Rotterdam those days, because Amsterdam had no big venues at the time, so we’d gone by train). After we picked it up we decided we couldn’t be bothered to go to school after such a great concert and we ended up skipping class all day and hanging out at sidewalk cafes. Next day, the school office guy stopped me in the hallway and asked why we hadn’t been there. I told him and he said: “Cool, I’ll rip up the note for your parents.” We still had to do detention, but my parents never knew I skipped that entire day.

    There, that is my Joe Jackson story.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    That is excellent. :-) And yeah, he is really young here.

    One thing I never knew, apparently he’s always been pansexual and never let anyone pin him down about it. I only learned that recently.

    [Reply]

    sanders Reply:

    http://cosmicamericanblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/real-men-real-queer-80s-pop-song.html

    This gives an interesting (and I think flawed) analysis of Jackson’s 1982 song “Real Men”, which is pretty upfront about sexuality and gender. I didn’t discover the song until Tori Amos covered it for Strange Little Girls, but it seems kind of revolutionary for a guy who was doing decently in mainstream sales.

    [Reply]

    Lenalena Reply:

    Real Men is one of my favorite Joe Jackson songs (together with Slow Song, Breaking Us in Two, etc.). That analysis is interesting, but I don’t agree with it either. To me that song has always been more about toxic masculinity and putting people in boxes, than about Jackson lamenting that he doesn’t know what it means to be a man anymore these days. To me, what Jackson is saying is that there’s more to being a man (gay or straight) than the one dimensional image we get shoved down our throats. And of course it’s not a song about homosexual rights, it’s a song about toxic masculinity in both the straight AND gay community. And it is also clear that he considers himself to be part of both.

    Also: the interpretation in that blog post is annoyingly American-centric. Jackson is English, the song made the top 40 in many European countries and the early 80s were the launch of a whole bunch of openly gay bands into the (European) mainstream music scene (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Erasure, Culture Club, Soft Cell, Bronski Beat, Pet Shop Boys, etc.) There really wasn’t any icky-homo-song vibe to it’s supposed ‘unpopularity’. Not in Europe anyway.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    Also, I can’t believe we haven’t used “Real Men” in a chapter title yet. Daron, get on that.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Tomorrow’s chapter could use it, or “I’m The Man” possibly. Or, wait, maybe we should save that one. Yeah, I’ll got look for a YouTube video now.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    In the very very early days of MTV they played “Real Men” a little but that was back when I was so deep in denial that I pretended the song didn’t exist. Then “Steppin’ Out” came along and they seemed to replace all their previous Joe Jackson videos with just more runs of that.

    [Reply]

    Lenalena Reply:

    We didn’t get MTV until 1987. I remember it well. A few years before that we got Super Channel, though, that had some music programming (besides therefore unknown quality series like Green Acres). But that wasn’t quite the seismic shift that getting MTV was for the teenager I was.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Yeah, whereas we got MTV just early enough to be very very impressionable to me, shortly after it launched, and I was in junior high. First time I heard/saw Siouxsie and the Banshees.

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Apr 2016 at 6:03 pm
  5. TJ wrote:

    Two drummers:

    Grateful Dead
    Doobie Brothers
    Elton John

    and even Fleetwood Mac on and off if I remember correctly, although one tends to play percussion more than basic beats…

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    There are a ton of bands who have one drummer on the kit and another percussionist doing other stuff, too. But yeah, what I want is two kits.

    I saw King Crimson recently in a new incarnation that was Fripp with THREE drummers on kits. Sometimes in unison, sometimes not. It was fantastic.

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Apr 2016 at 7:43 pm
  6. Janie Friedman wrote:

    Also Allman Brothers Band.

    That’s how I “party”, too, Daron.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Party on, dude. \m/

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Apr 2016 at 10:51 pm
  7. marktreble wrote:

    Daron, congratulations. An open mind about gender identity will serve you (and Bradley) well.

    I, too, welcome Bradley. He can give us a different perspective on inner turmoil, and can probably teach you some things.

    The first transgender I knowingly met and worked with was a MTF. She was an asshole. I shortly learned that pre-surgery he was also an asshole. Brilliant woman, top expert in a highly technical field, who was dismissive and derisive of anyone not as smart as she. I finally had to fire her because no one was willing to come near her, let alone work with her – me included.

    Our HR department warned me to be careful because of the transgender status. I ignored them; I would have fired a non-transgendered employee for being that much of a disruption in the workplace, and equal treatment is equal treatment. If I’m not going to discriminate against a transgender, I’m not going to discriminate in favor, either.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    I find I just can’t get worked up about the whole gender thing. So he used to be a woman…why should that matter to me? Maybe it’d seem weirder to if I’d known him before, but I dunno. I guess I try to take people at face value no matter what their past is.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    I’m reminded of Samuel R. Delany’s groundbreaking book TRITON (republished as Trouble on Triton, I believe). Among the many things going on in the book, Delany explores societal norms around gender. (They have the medical technology to change genders and also just to change some characteristics that have loosened social gender norms in the planets of the outer solar system, i.e. there’s a character who is male but who is lactating so he can feed his child.) The main character though is a somewhat self-absorbed jerk who in the course of the novel decides to transition entirely to female… and the main takeaway I got from the book was that a change in gender didn’t change that. In the end the protagonist is still a self-absorbed jerk, just a female one.

    (I was probably supposed to glean something more from the book, which was intended as a rebuttal/conversation with two other science fiction books of the time, Joanna Russ’s THE FEMALE MAN and Ursula K. LeGuin’s THE DISPOSSESSED, but that’s what’s stuck with me.)

    [Reply]

    Posted 08 Apr 2016 at 1:06 pm
  8. marktreble wrote:

    Just read ctan’s travel schedule. It’s her birthay, too. When contributing to the bonus pool, is it allowed in the purpose field to list “airfare?” Or, ctan can let us know what her preferred airline is, and we can take it from there.

    She has so much to contribute, and supporting her teaching, evangelism and professional development supports DGC.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    I think she prefers whatever airline is having a fare sale at the moment. (She likes JetBlue but they don’t fly everywhere.)

    [Reply]

    Posted 08 Apr 2016 at 1:10 pm
  9. Tim wrote:

    An excursis on adjectives and nouns

    Just since the band is heading out with a transman musician, after reading comments the last few posts I thought it might be good to post this link that is for people who speak, write, or simply find themselves conversing about transgender people.

    http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender

    Most non-gay non-queer people know how to respectfully talk about sexual orientation at this point, but a lot of people, inlcuding gay and lesbian people, don’t know the equivalent about transgender people, so just thought I would pass on GLAAD’s guide to writing/speaking about transgender people and issues, as its very helpful. I have sent it to many PR and organizational spokespeople who have asked me for a guide, since GLAAD is among its other functions, an anti-defamation organization so they are prettty much the authoritative source.

    For example, as innocuous as it seems, you never call people ‘transgenders’ or ‘a transgender’. Its always a transgender man, women, person, people, whatever (or transman, transwoman). Its the same as other adjectives describing a person. Depending on the context and cultural history, it is highly nuanced. Saying ‘a black was standing at the crossing’ sounds like apartheid South Africa. Same with transgender.

    Although this one is less obvious, maybe, because its heard a lot, saying ‘the gays’ also is usually used by anti-gay speakers. I have even heard things like ‘are you a gay?’ It may be linguistically normal to turn adjectives into nouns, but its often in racist or biased speech, or by people who have simply only been exposed to such speech by those who are using it.

    There are some words that are used as both, for example a Catholic is Catholic and a Baptist is Baptist and there is nothing really insulting about saying a Catholic book (although it IS semantically funny) but this is technically a contraction of Catholic Christian or Baptist Christian.

    While these (and other such) are ok nowadays, others are not. a person is a Jew, but is adjectively ‘Jewish’. Saying a ‘Jew book’ rather than a Jewish book sounds horrible and anti-semetic. There is a lot of variety and it can get confusing when you deal with a community you don’t know well. For example you can say Latino or Latina, bc the o and a includes the person, it means a Latin man or woman with just that extra letter. That only works in the actual language, or we get the colonial construct objectification of Negress, Jewess and other horrors lol.

    You may be wondering why I’m frontloading all these extraneous examples. It’s because cisgendered people sometimes feel compelled to argue about how their usage is perfectly normal, correct, and not offensive, and that transgender sensibilities or understanding is what is wrong or in error, using all kinds of examples like this. What they should actually say is ‘omg I’m sorry, I didn’t realize’ but I think for the majority of the human race, that is not the first gut reaction to any critique, myself included.

    Yes, for some objects and people, it is ok to use an adjective as a noun. But for others it isn’t. I suspect that there may be a few people on tour with Darren and Ziggy who would never defend the use of ‘Redskins’ for a sports team because NA people object to it, but who would argue with Bradley about calling him one of the many inappropriate words our society has for trans people lol! Of course in the early 1990s few people cared much about any of this except those on the recieving end lol.

    I guess when adjectives are used as nouns for majority groups or people in power, its usually ok. For minority or oppressed groups of any kind it sounds mostly like a variant of ‘you people’. Transgender and the usage around the term is definitely not a word that is there at this particular time.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    This is awesome. I’ll link to it from the next post for those who might miss it.

    I’ll also note that some “accepted practices” and standards of behavior (even within trans communities) of 1991 aren’t accepted now, and that the way transgender people are treated by the medical & psychiatric establishment has changed pretty drastically in the past 25 years (at least in some places). I’ll be having to make repeated decisions while writing about Bradley whether/when/how to use terms and ideas that were common at the time or whether/when/how to “update” them even if it’s anachronistic. And ’91 was a time of change in so many ways, there’s no single “accurate” representation. I welcome feedback as we go along–this is one place I’m willing to edit and retrofit if I go off track.

    [Reply]

    s Reply:

    Thank you! After you held your tongue last week, I wanted so badly to say, “No! Please, teach us!” As a person who is frequently asked professional questions on my private time, I didn’t want to do that to you, so I didn’t. I’m so glad you posted this. I have learned so much from this story and the fandom, but there is ALWAYS more to learn.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    This just reminded me of what I think was a shift in the mid-80s from “transgendered” to “transgender” — possibly just a shift in awareness that those who used the term “transgendered” were only those outside of the transgender community (i.e. medical professionals referring to patients) while within the community “transgender” was the preferred term for one’s self, so using “transgendered” was a marker of someone outside the community and considered rude/intentionally othering if a person kept using the term after being informed it wasn’t cool. I recall many grammar pedant fights at queer activism meetings that usually boiled down to the transfolk saying “if your orthodoxy around English grammar is more important than my community’s right to label ourselves, then you’re saying we’re not welcome here.” Thankfully here in the queer/bi/leather/pan circles I run in, that argument carried the day and transfolk have been and continue to be vital leaders in our coalitions as a result. (I understand in some places that wasn’t the case.)

    [Reply]

    Bill Heath Reply:

    Thank you, this is incredibly helpful. I make two promises.

    1. I will do my best to be respectful.

    2. I will, nonetheless, stumble.

    [Reply]

    ctan Reply:

    I’ll probably stumble, too. Life of a writer. <3

    [Reply]

    sanders Reply:

    Thank you for this. My initial reaction was to wince and want to go back to see which mistakes I made so I can apologize. I spent most of college living with transmen and genderqueer people, and I still trip over language and pronouns on too frequent a basis. I appreciate being called out on it, and I feel so badly when my fumbling has to turn into a teaching moment for anyone else, even when I value the lesson.

    [Reply]

    Posted 11 Apr 2016 at 8:55 am
  10. Tim wrote:

    Daron, my spellcheck changed your name. I have 2 advisees named Darren and it does it automatically. My apologies!

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    No worries. Apparently the reason it’s spelled the way it is is that Digger wanted to name me Baron but my mother argued that was only a fit name for a golden retriever or german shepherd and not a boy, and they compromised on Daron. (Apparently at one point before my birth my mother did feel I was worthy of consideration as a human. Shocking, I know.)

    [Reply]

    Posted 11 Apr 2016 at 8:58 am

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