The first time I met a transgender person was with my grandmother in a restaurant.
My grandmother lives in DC, and we would often go out to eat.
At one of her regular haunts, she knew the manager. I had been there many times before with here and loved it. The manager was always very sweet to me.
But there was something about the manager that intrigued me and I didn’t really know what it was.
This particular day in 1997, I was about ten and my grandmother randomly whispered to me that the manager was “transgender”.
I had never heard that word before.
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
My grandmother told me it was when someone is born a certain gender but they want to change it.
When I heard that it felt like a thousand crystals exploded inside my brain. Stars aligned in the sky of my inner universe.
I felt something very recognizable inside myself.
Growing up in a small city, with nothing fundamentally queer
I grew up in the North of Denmark in a city called Aalborg – the 4th biggest city in Denmark but in spite of that rather small. There was absolutely nothing queer about that city back then.
I spent most of my childhood and early teens traveling back and forth between Aalborg and Washington DC.
I was born in DC, where my dad is from, but grew up in Aalborg, where my mom hails from.
There’s a huge contrast between Aalborg and DC, as you can probably imagine. Everything in Aalborg is small.
My experience was that it was very homophobic and transphobic and it’s been known for many years to be a bit of a rough harbor city. It’s pretty hard growing up there as a transgender person.
When I was a young teenager, there was practically nothing around me that indicated that ‘trans’ existed, nor queer, nor gayness. Only binary cisgendered heterosexual love and lifestyles.
The Internet wasn’t quite yet what it is today; there were no smartphones and social media was just on the brink of breaking through.
I remember going into the only gay bar in town one late night, alone, sneaking around the corner hoping that no one would see me.
It wasn’t like the glitter and glamour I associate ‘queer’ with today.
Going back home shapes my music
In my recent adult years, when going back to Aalborg, my impression is that it’s much less homophobic and transphobic now and that they’re pretty much keeping up with the queer times.
In fact, they recently opened a brand new clinic for treatment and counseling for trans people, and I’ve heard it’s one of the best departments in Denmark for treating trans people.
Ten years later, in 2007, I went to visit an old friend in Rhode Island and one day we wandered around in Providence and went into a random bookstore, I picked out a random book from the shelf, and flipped the pages.
The first page that caught my eye was a photo of an androgynous person, very gender fluid looking. This photo was of musician and DJ, JD Samson, from the queer political “JD’s Lesbian Calendar” (MEN, Le Tigre). When I saw that, I knew that I wanted to be that.
I wanted to be queer, I wanted to be gender fluid, I wanted to break borders and ideas for what gender and body can be and I wanted it to be political.
I wanted to do it through music and visuals and I wanted to be explicit about it.
Music helped me work out my queer and trans identity
I wrote my first song when I was 13 in my Dad’s house in the countryside of Maryland, MD on a brand new white Fender Stratocaster. A gift from my Dad.
This same strat is still the one I use when I play shows, and I have a sticker of Jimi Hendrix on it, who was my biggest idol at the time and the reason why I wanted a white strat.
When I wrote my first song, I felt deeply in my heart that I wanted to use my music to do something constructive in the world one day, when I ‘grew up.’
As I came into adulthood and a queer identity I knew that this was the cause I would be writing about and using as a force in my music. It is now being realized on the forthcoming debut album ‘Feathers & Scars’ with my electro pop duo Feel Freeze.
The first single ‘Let Go!’ is about letting go of boxes and categories and breaking borders as to what you can be, where you can be and where you can go.
To let go of expectations as to which genders fit certain bodies, which sexualities fit certain people and which bodies desire certain bodies.
The music and my identity are closely combined; you can’t have one without the other. I am a queer and transgender person; therefore my music is queer and trans political. Which is also one of the reasons why the album is so political.
When I express my feelings and situation it automatically becomes a political statement because trans and queer people still do not have the same visibility and rights as gender and sexuality conforming individuals.
Putting my new found identity front and center
Creating visibility and awareness that trans bodies exist is really important to me. That’s why I want people to see what my body looks like. So we decided to show my transgender naked upper body on the artwork of the record.
Its about claiming a space in pop music culture, that have frequently been taken by cis men throughout the history of popular music.
Alongside this imagery, I hope my singing also challenges the ideas and norms of what a man looks like.
I have a high-pitched voice and a non-binary body due to not taking hormones.
Our societies are molded for specific bodies, genders, sexualities, lifestyles.
When you’re transgender you have to make up these spaces yourself and within your communities. There is no given.
You have to create your reflection, your own narrative because there is no narrative.
But we wanted to create and imagine a world and universe where the rules of gender and sexuality and lived life as we know it is different.
I’ve often spoken with my queer friends about this gender utopia where you can just be and not think about your gender or your body. Where you don’t have to be molded by society to fit into a cast that you don’t fit.
But why should this be confined to a sci-fi gender utopia? Let’s make it happen in our world too. My Gran clearly knew it counted to tell me about other trans people.
Until then, I hope Feel Freeze creates a gender-free utopia until we get there here too.
Feel Freeze is signed to Swedish label Icons Creating Evil Art. The first single ‘Let Go!’ available now, the full album “Feathers & Scars” to be released October 12th.