A new friend of ours from St. Clare Shores, Michigan, a woman in her sixties, came up to me after one of our shows on the brink of tears. “This is so meaningful and wonderful because we never get to talk about this stuff,” she said.
In our concert/conversations in peoples’ living rooms, we share nine songs that we’ve written from our personal experiences and perspectives on love, sex, marriage, babies, body image, gender roles and chosen family. We interweave conversation with the songs, asking anyone who feels comfortable to share about their experiences and perspectives. Thus far, people have been extraordinarily generous and open in ways that make me feel floored with gratitude.
At times, it is easy for me to fall into the trap of imagining we are doing the world a service by sharing our progressive values through our music. But I believe that that kind of proselytizing is rooted in the presumption that we hold power that in reality we do not have.
Another easy/unhelpful presumption comes into my brain when I assume that my song about loving/dating a transgendered person might be received with hostility in certain crowds. At that concert/conversation in St. Clare Shores, we really had no idea of the political orientation of the people in the room, and I initially felt wary of sharing that aforementioned song. But my wariness was completely unfounded in that context, and I am humbled to have realized that. I still don’t know the political orientation of the people in that room that night, but it doesn’t matter – we all heard each other on such a deep human level.
This work is the most meaningful when we can earnestly and whole-heartedly transcend those presumptions, in our own hearts and in the world at large!
Even if I do ultimately think it is an empirically good thing to have more pop songs in the world which are rooted in a queerer perspective than most other extant pop songs, I don’t believe that that is the most important thing about this tour. The exchanges that we are facilitating are ultimately not about us spreading a message of any kind, but are about holding open space in the world for open discussion and real listening. Open discussion about things that, as our new friend in St. Clare Shores put it: “we never get to talk about”. And the real listening that ends up flowing from that open discussion – the kind of listening that embodies the world that I would like to see; as in, when we really deeply hear and empathize with another human. That kind of listening is one of the only things that gives me any kind of graspable hope.