Thursday, January 7, 2010

Intersex and Music

Hello readers. I'm going to switch gears for today and talk about one of the great loves of my life, music (don't worry, I'll go back to my usual serious self after this post). It has occurred to me that, as far as I know, there has never been an out intersexed professional musician.

 There was a rumor that Lady Gaga is intersex.  These rumors are based on some jokes she made during and interview and tweeted about, and an 'accidental' flashing during a concert.  Her manager has denied these claims, leading me to agree with the majority of music blogs, that it was a publicity stunt. I find this kinda sad since, at 1 in 2000 births, we are not as uncommon as most people think.  With the very emotional circumstances we undergo, and our unique perspective, we could write some great songs that could increase intersex visibility.  In any case, intersex people should never be used for publicity. If I am wrong, and Lady Gaga is an intersexual, I would hope she would use her position to further our cause, not make jokes and start rumors to further her career. Until I (or another intersexual) starts winning Grammys, there are a few good songs out there that I think really capture the intersex experience. The following songs make up my small, but nice "intersex" playlist on itunes. If you can, you should listen to them and comment this post with your opinions on them, and if you know a song that should be on the list and isn't, let me know, I'd love to hear it, enjoy!

Androgyny by Garbage
Postings on the Bodies Like Ours intersex discussion forum crowned this song the intersex anthem. While it does not directly mention intersexuality, the song is all about gender nonconformity in positive light. I think the refrain really sums it up nicely:
"Boys in the girl's room, Girls in the men's room
You free your mind in your androgyny
Boys in the parlor, Girls getting harder
I'll free your mind and your androgyny
Boys - behind closed doors and under the stars
Girls - it doesn't matter where you are
Boys - collecting jewels that catch your eye
Girls - don't let a soul mate pass you by"

Half Jack by The Dresden Dolls
According to their singer Amanda Palmer, this song is actually about her estranged father. The lyrics are so poignant toward the intersex movement that personally I have trouble interpreting it any other way. It is even used as background music on some pro-intersex videos on You Tube. For example, how could the following lyrics be about anything but intersex:
"its half biology and half corrective surgery gone wrong
you'll notice something funny if you hang around hear for too
long ago in some black hole before they had these magic pills to take it back
I'm half Jill and half Jack
two halves are equal, a cross between two evils,
it's not an enviable lot
but if you listen, you'll learn to hear the difference
between the halfs and half nots"

Hermaphroditos by Frank Black
This song is quite powerful, it can be interpreted to include the issues of surgery, suicide and how intersex people are historically mythologized, but its lyrics are quite strong, not to be listened to by the faint of heart:
Hermaphroditos is my name
"How do you love me
Deeply with your scalpel?
I got a mouthful
Of suicidal drugs
I am a dog
I am a sculpture
You hate my features
You name me for a God"

Herm Aphrodite by Stephen Lynch
Some intersexuals may not like this last song since it is meant to be funny. I like it, and say take it in the spirit it was intended, its all in good fun. It also makes some comments on gender roles in society and one verse has a good (probably unintended) message for keeping intersex people un-mutilated:
"Somethings are white, somethings are black
some girls wear makeup, mine shaves her back
but she is still beautiful, she is still fine
it's too bad her package is bigger then mine"