In light of today being Trans Day of Remembrance, I wanted to take the opportunity to honour trans lives, and discuss music with one of my very talented friends, Elliot. As a transgender man, Elliot uses many of his platforms to be a voice for his community, and alongside this, he is incredibly musically talented. Whilst we discuss music, we also take the time to reflect on the importance of Trans Day of Remembrance.
Rose: Hey Elliot, how are you? How has the pandemic been affecting you?
Elliot: Where do we even begin? I think the first lockdown was particularly difficult not only in terms of mental health but also, for me, I think the biggest struggle has been lip reading. I’m deaf so I rely on lip-reading, and with masks and everything it’s practically impossible to do, but of course, we need masks so it’s kind of hard to overcome. I think the pandemic has also been hard on trans people, who unfortunately are at home and might be stuck in homes with people who misgender them.
R: When did you first get into music?
E: I think I’ve always made weird sounds with my mouth and enjoyed doing so. At school, I guess I got into music but also one Christmas I asked for a keyboard and kind of went a bit nuts. I played on the keyboard pretty much every day and would look at videos and look up pieces to play on it. I also experimented with the guitar and ukulele.
R: What’s the first song you remember being a favourite of yours?
E: I vividly remember long 5-hour car journeys from London to Cornwall and the song I always had on repeat is a bit of a funny choice (it’s from the Lion King) “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”. I also remember learning the chord pattern from Cee Lo Green’s ‘F*ck You’ on the guitar and piano.
R: Do you have a particular favourite artist or band?
E: Well when I first began experiencing a bad state of mental health I listened to a lot of Daughter. I also like Rex Orange County – they’re always fun to listen to and cover. Have you heard of Sufjan Stevens? Well, two of his songs are in the movie “Call Me By Your Name” and his wider music is brilliant in the way that it is composed. He uses multiple instruments and melodies and the way that it is created is just amazing.
R: What does music do for you, mentally and physically?
E: When I was younger I often looked after my younger brother and as soon as we got home from school, I told him you have an hour to do whatever you want, and I would go and play the piano. Just so I could take the time to play what I wanted […] I connect emotionally, mentally and physically and so I express how I feel, for example, hitting the keys harder or softer depending on how I’m feeling. I also rely on the vibrations so it feels more physical in that sense.
R: Since you always cover music, are there any songs you plan on covering in the future? Or perhaps… your own music one day?
E: I mean, eventually I would love to write and release my own music, but in the meantime, I’ll probably cover songs on my YouTube. I like to put my own twist on songs; music is such a creative exploration process for me. If I’m gonna cover a song I want it to be different and unique, and to put my own energy into it. I would also like to post some of my mashups onto YouTube, for example, my mix of Phantom of the Opera with Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’. I looked up the Dua Lipa chords first and it sounded like something else I had heard, and then it clicked that I think they both fit funnily together. I am planning on covering one of the two songs I mentioned earlier as part of Trans Day of Remembrance.
R: Considering Trans Day of Remembrance, are there any particular songs you feel you can relate to as a trans person?
E: So there are two songs that come to mind: ‘Home’ by Cavetown, who is a non-binary identifying artist, and ‘The Village’ by Wrabel. That song, in particular, has a music video about someone transitioning. The lyrics are quite relatable to something I experienced myself, yet there’s so much more music out there by trans people that I have yet to explore and hear. But I think it’s important to recognise not every trans artist has to write about their transition. Just because a trans person is creating something, doesn’t mean it will be in relation to them being trans. It’s so much wider than that. Like, we also experience love and might want to write a love song. I’ll never stop having discussions about being trans, but it’s also necessary to recognise that’s not all trans people have to offer.
R: What does Trans Day of Remembrance mean to you?
E: I think Trans Day of Remembrance is self-explanatory but it’s deeper than that. Trans Day of Remembrance is part of Trans Awareness Week and the way being trans initiates hate crimes, poor mental health, severe discrimination and being outcasted. It’s devastating and the percentage of people who have lost their lives to hate crimes is so much higher for trans women of colour than to white trans women and men. We’re remembering those people and how much work needs to be done in society as a whole, as well as our communities. We can acknowledge they have been taken from us, but also, what we can do to stop losing our loved ones to hate. Trans Day of Remembrance is about reflection, and thinking about what we can actually do to change the numbers we keep seeing. We’re also remembering the people that came before us, and what they fought for that enables us to exist today.
It’s one of the most significant times of the year for the trans community to come together. Like, whilst we have trans pride, I believe that happens to only be in Brighton and London in the UK at the moment. So, Trans Day of Remembrance happens all across the UK, with vigils being held for trans people to really come together.
The importance of having trans day of remembrance also helps recognise cis privelege. It’s not just for trans people, it’s for cis people to understand and recognise their own privilege. Like for example, in order to have my gender officially changed, I have to pay £140 to be recognised on all documentation. Do cis people have to pay for this? No, they don’t. It’s important to have cis friends and allies reflect on their privelege and understand their positions.
You can find Elliot on any of his platforms linked below: