Tonight at 10PM (9PM central time), PBS is screening a documentary called Real Boy. If you’re hanging at home tonight, check it out!!
I had the opportunity to see this film twice now:
Last fall, my neighbors and I went, as part of the annual LGBT film festival where we live. I’d have to say that I was a little bit jaded at that time – here is yet another story about young, white, binary, trans-masculine people. Seen that / heard that!!!
The parts about his (Ben’s) mom, and family dynamics were what held it together for me. My neighbor was really touched by it in a different way – there was a lot about singing/songwriting/creativity, and also about recovering from substance abuse and other destructive behaviors.
Then, two weeks ago, I went with my spouse and her parents. It was a free showing, and the two main “characters” were there in person to answer questions and play some of their music as well. I felt really happy that we all saw it together – we then went out to eat and talked about how we related or didn’t, with the movie. Awesome conversations.
I would say that, for me, the second time’s the charm, haha. For one thing, closed captioning was on, so we could all listen and read the dialogue simultaneously, which was kinda necessary because some people mumble more than others. I got a lot more out of it – the way that Ben’s navigating his new life / roles / perceptions as a very young person (I can’t imagine transitioning at that age!!! Hormones are already on full alert and then to mix it up so drastically, must be stressful – both positive and negative stress.) And the male bonding that was going on between the characters felt a lot more touching to me this time for some reason. He has a mentor / protegee dynamic going on with an older musician, and then a housemate / brotherhood with a trans-guy he met through mutual friend.
In terms of content notes, I would give this warning: Topics that are potentially sensitive to those in recovery are brought up: mostly grappling with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as self-injury and family issues / rejection. Also, we follow along as Ben and his housemate move forward with getting top surgery with Dr. Garramone in Florida.
I’d say catch this movie if you can! Although it didn’t really speak to me the first time, I came around to really like it!
My spouse and I are coming off of a four-day weekend, and as part of that, we traveled and saw an awesome “rockumentary,” directed by Madsen Minax. He was there in person, answering questions after the film.
Riot Acts: Flaunting Gender Deviance in Musical Performance was made between 2006 and 2009, in a really impressive way: the director was in a band called Actor Slash Model, and as his band toured, they reached out to other bands with trans-members to play their shows with. They’d play the show, crash for the night, and then wake up super early to interview that band and get other footage of them playing, and then move on to the next city/band. Sounds exhausting!
They filmed in various formats – video, DV video, 16mm, and super 8 (plus including footage from the bands, which was probably in lots of different formats as well, which gave it a pretty rough, incongruous feel, but that’s an aesthetic choice that kind of worked for this film. It felt pretty informal and dated, which the director seemed very much aware of – like it’s a snapshot of a time in trans-representation in music/media, and things have been changing a lot, even just in the last 5 years. Almost everyone included, I had never heard of. Here’s a list of those included:
Anderson Toone, currently from SF, has a long history in music, going back to forming a post-punk band in the early 80s called The Bloods, who opened for The Clash, Gang of Four, The Slits, The Go-Gos, Au Pairs, Adam Ant, The Lounge Lizards, Richard Hell, Johnny Thunders,The Fall, REM, DNA, Lydia Lunch, Bush Tetras, ESG, Allen Ginsberg, Nona Hendryx, The Treacherous Three. First time I’ve heard of them – sounds like the kind of band I need to track down for my radio show!
Lipstick Conspiracy from SF – “Glitter, sneers, and ridiculously high heels are abundant, as are raging keyboard riffs and catchy lyrics.” – San Francisco Weekly. It was kind of hard to tell if they are currently active.
Katastrophe – a hip hop artist from SF. He’s pretty famous, so maybe I don’t need to say a whole lot about him. One great thing from the film – he got his start, before transition, doing slam poetry. He went to the Michigan Womyn’s Festival with the Sister Spit Tour sometime in the late 90s / early 2000s. He went to check out Camp Trans, and was blown away – from that moment, he started identifying as a transman and never looked back. He also co-founded Original Plumbing in Oct. 2009.
Trannysaurus Sex, also from SF. Could not find much on this band (the link is to a song from the film, on YouTube). Definitely seems like they are not currently active.
Basic Fix from Portland, OR. Couldn’t find much on this band either, but the lead singer/drag performer is still making music (electro/pop/R&B) under his name, Kelly Moe. He starred in The Gossip’s music video “Listen Up” in 2006.
Ryder Richardson from Seattle – Not much on him either. He currently has a personal Facebook profile as opposed to a musician/band page. Looks like he is teaching carpentry to kids. 🙂 Any other info connecting him to music was through info about Riot Acts.
Tough Tough Skin from Minneapolis – Again, couldn’t find much current info about this punk/homocore band, but there are quite few videos from live shows on YouTube. Here is one of them.
Venus DeMars also from Minneapolis. Founded in 1994, Venus DeMars and All the Pretty Horses (glam rock band) is still going strong, having recently toured with Against Me!
Adhamh Roland is a singer/songwriter currently living in MA. A lot has changed for him since the film, and he appears to be very much still active. In the film, he was living in St. Louis and talking a lot about not wanting to medically transition because he was worried about what T would do to his singing voice. (This was a HUGE topic in the film). Looks like he decided to take the leap; seems to be working out for him.
Ryka Aoki De La Cruz is a LA based writer, performer, and professor (at Antioch and Santa Monica College). She is super active in the trans-community. Among a huge resume of accomplishments, she has been honored by the California State Senate for for her “extraordinary commitment to free speech and artistic expression, as well as the visibility and well-being of Transgender people.”
Jessica Xavier is from the Washington D.C. area and is an accomplished activist first and foremost. She came out as trans in 1989, and fronted a band called Me Neither, wrote a song about Stonewall. This link is a super dated website from 2004, but it’s got a lot of biographic information…
The Shondes were formed in 2006, right as this film was being made. Since then, looks like their music has been blowing up – their website (link) is super active – full of photos, tour information, press, tweets, etc. This is another band that recently toured with Against Me! (amongst a bunch of other well-known bands. They’re from Brooklyn.
Novice Theory (Geo Wyeth), also from Brooklyn, is a multidisciplinary musician/performance artist. Looks like you can hear his music / see his videos / see interviews on all kinds of sites (spotify, amazon, bandcamp, etc.) but in terms of image or professional website, all I could really find was his tumblr. Still, check this guy out! He is awesome!
The Degenerettes are a punk trio from Baltimore. Looks like their website was last updated in 2011… I saw them in my hometown, probably in 2008? Super entertaining! I have a friend who used to work with the lead singer at a video store in Baltimore!
Systyr Act are from Boston. The link is to their facebook page – looks like it was last updated in 2013. They’re a jokey/party type band, posing as nuns.
The Cliks are huge. They’re from Toronto. If you haven’t heard of them, check them out!
Coyote Grace is a roots/acoustic threesome from Sonoma County, CA. They have a lot of output as a band, and as each member, individually as well.
Whew! That was a lengthy rundown of some trans/gender variant people in music from the mid/late 2000s. Some have disbanded, some have taken off. Who is out there now? Please comment with info about current bands!