Local artist Jash Huggins (formerly of Evasive Backflip) has spent the last few months compiling music from local artists who identify as trans, non-binary (nb) or gender non-conforming (gnc). This week that effort will be released as the Trans Lib Comp. They recently chatted with CHIRP volunteer and DJ Amelia Hruby about the project and the status of marginalized communities in Chicago's music scene.
Amelia: Can you tell us a little bit about the project as whole?
Jash: The Trans Lib Comp is a collection songs by trans/gnc/nb musicians. All artist are based in, or from, the Chicago area. I'm dubbing a run of 30 cassettes, and throwing a release show with artists appearing on the tape at a local diy spot. All proceeds from the tape, and the show are going to the Trans Liberation Collective. TLC is a local group that organized a very large demonstration earlier this year. They also have free self defense classes and continue to organize. You can reach them at their fb page here: /TransLiberationCollective/
Amelia: What inspired you to start this project?
Jash: I think a couple things lead up to the idea. I had occasionally snuck some queer/gender theory-inspired lyrics into the mix [in Evasive Backflip songs] ("Milk Milk Lemonade" is basically a Judith Butler crash course with some tossed off body-horror and gross-out lines, and I like to think my lyrics to the goofily-titled "This Face Isn't Going To Sit On Itself" are a genuinely subversive, pansexual, genderqueer take on hip-hop braggadocio (at the very least the sight of a trans-femme singing the lines "such a big gun/makes my pussy so wet" elicits a response of some kind, nervous laughter, typically)).
It's also not by accident that "Pussy Up" is the heaviest, most brutal, release in the Evasive Backflip discography. The election of Donald Trump and the dissolution of my former band left me to with the desire to create work that was more explicitly political. Creating a tape like this seemed like a fairly concrete way for me to use my talents to Do Something and to connect with others.
Amelia: Who were some of the artists you reached out to?
Jash: Initially I reached out to the small handful of other trans/gnc artists I knew. My friends Rachel from Thanks For Coming, and November Onoto of ONOTO and November Onoto Band were the first 2 people I contacted. I also recruited my co-worker who plays music, but is in no way involved in the local or DIY music scene, and Red of Red's Garden, who I met while volunteering at Girls Rock! Chicago last summer.
November and Red gave me some great suggestions, and encouraged other people to reach out to me, some of whom also had recommendations. Most of the people on the tape were suggested to me by others, I think 1 or 2 responded to a call for trans/gnc artists on Facebook, but most came in thru the grapevine.
Amelia: How supportive do you find the Chicago music scene to be for LGBTQIA+ artists?
Jash: As a queer trans femme, I can lay claim to quite a few of those letters, but I can't speak for everyone. Cis gay men, for example, may have concerns or critiques that are only tangentially related to my experience. I think the best way I can answer that question is to say that the Chicago music scene is supportive of queers and femmes, to the extent that queers and femmes have carved out space for themselves. In many ways I view the work of women and queers in the DIY scene to be a parallel or oppositional movement within the larger DIY culture.
At it's very best, I would say that the DIY scene is marginally more inclusive and accepting then society at large. If I'm allowing myself to be critical (and I am) I would say that the DIY scene often functions as a haven for serial abusers and rapists with enough social capital to avoid accountability.
For every prominent women or queer sticking it out in the music scene, I can point to another who has fled the scene (or even the city altogether), because the DIY scene will repeatedly shrug off the offenses of men and minimize the concerns of women and queers. I am so sick of cis white boys with guitars playing fake-ass revolutionary, tbh...
Personally, as someone who was closeted when they entered the scene and began to transition from within it, I can say without a doubt that I was made to feel that the expression of my femininity/trans-ness was directly related to how 'serious' of a musician I was perceived to be. Even people who I worked with directly, who were supposed to be (and considered themselves to be) my allies would often treat me in a much more frivolous and dismissive manner then they had previously.
You can find Jash's solo work here, and get more information about the tape and the release party here.