A History of Gender-Bending Performers in Pop Music

Lindsay Zoladz at Bookforum:

For many of the artists in this book, music and performance’s inherent haziness is able to envelop everything in an intoxicating fog, which allows artists the freedom to try on different gender identities without always revealing where, exactly, their “authentic” selves begin. (Of course, it offers similar possibilities to the complex and questioning people listening, too.) This is the “alternate ribbon of time”—a phrase Geffen borrows from the queer indie pop star Perfume Genius—that links the butch blues singer Lucille Bogan’s 1935 recording of “BD Woman’s Blues” (the initials stood for “bull dyke”) with, say, the crusading punk group Against Me!’s 2007 song “The Ocean.” Five years before the band’s front person Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender woman, she sang in that song, “If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman / My mother once told me she would have named me Laura.” Presuming poetic license, no one batted an eyelash. Grace “assumed everyone around her would pick up on her overt confession of dysphoria,” Geffen writes, “but couched in a song, it glanced off the world.”

more here.