Ruth Pearce & Kirsty Lohman

Trans Music Isn’t: De/constructing DIY identities

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Abstract

This paper takes the researchers’ experience of playing at London’s Bar Wotever as the starting point for an investigation into ‘trans’ performance events in the UK. Our analysis draws upon empirical data from a variety of sources, including: interviews with a small number of participants involved in DIY live events as performers and/or organisers; our own experiences in the punk band Not Right; related digital media (including blogs, interviews and Facebook pages).

We argue that a trans performance community has emerged in recent years. A key feature of this community is the open attitude taken towards gender(ed) identity and the organisation of events. Both entail de/construction through strategies of ‘cut and paste’ (Bornstein, 1994) and ‘genre evasion’ (Steinholt, 2012). This de/constructive process enables new ways of organising and understanding culture/identity in a manner which intentionally avoids clear boundaries.

Our research began with the question: Is there a music scene based around trans identity? The processes we describe undermined the very basis of this question. Former Crass member Penny Rimbauld argues that punk “isn’t”. In a similar sense, we have come to understand that trans music isn’t.

Biography: Ruth Pearce

Ruth Pearce is a postgraduate researcher based at the University of Warwick, with research interests in the fields of transgender studies, feminism and online ethnography. Her PhD research explores intersecting UK-based ‘community’, ‘activist’ and ‘professional’ discourses of transgender health in the context of Internet bulletin boards, social media and NHS web pages.

Ruth is interested in forging links between the worlds of ‘academia’ and ‘activism’. She has been involved in running a number of open, ‘DIY’ conferences, including Spotlight on: Genderqueer (2013) and Spotlight on: Asexuality (2011) at the University of Warwick, and Trans* Education and Determination (2010) at King’s College London.

Further activities include trans/queer activism on both a local and national level, events promotion and music. Ruth performs on bass and lead vocals in a number of bands, including Midlands-based punk trio Not Right.

Biography: Kirsty Lohman

Kirsty Lohman is a PhD student at the University of Warwick. Her research interests include musical/cultural participation, gender, feminism, and political engagement. Her thesis is an ethnography of the punk scene in The Netherlands focusing particularly on political and lifestyle choices of participants as they negotiate ageing as a punk. This work is funded by an AHRC studentship attached to the project entitled ‘Post-Socialist Punk: Beyond the Double Irony of Self-abasement’. Her background is in cultural history during the Cold War period. She currently teaches in the Department of Sociology at Warwick and organizes the Graduate Seminar Series for the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender. She plays in the Midlands based punk band Not Right, and helps to run Coventry’s punk night Revolt.

 

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