In my apartment, I have a bunch of framed record albums of gender-variant music artists. They include: Boy George of Culture Club, David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Prince, David Bowie, Robert Smith of The Cure, Big Freedia, a photo of Whitney Houston in a suit and tie, Poison, Marilyn, The New York Dolls, Grace Jones, RuPaul, Divine, Sylvester k.d. lang, Michael Jackson, Annie Lennox from vintage Eurythmics, and Pete Burns from Dead or Alive. I call this my Androgyny Wall of Fame. The amount of androgyny in popular music is well-known and well documented. Growing up in the 80s, there was a tremendous amount of these artists and they each changed my life, Boy George chief among them.
In addition to the queerness that music has offered me, it has also offered me tremendous comfort. There have been so many times when music has saved me from suicide. I know this sounds hyperbolic, but it is genuinely true. I suspect it is true for more than a few others. What is the power of music to literally save lives?
I believe it is both emotional and physiologic. Unfortunately the side of my brain that deals with math and science is broken. So I can’t explain the physiologic effects with any level of sophistication. All I can say is that hearing is a powerful sense. Something about the mellifluous nature of music takes over our hearing sense and shakes us out of our melancholia. Then there is the emotional reaction to a particular song. There is a strong emotional connection based on nostalgia. At least for me, whenever I am severely depressed, I do not reach for new music but always for a blast from the past that is one of my favorite and most well-known songs and that I can preferably sing along to.
Can you imagine the world without music in it? I certainly cannot. I thank the Goddess for the existence of music and what it has provided for me in my life. I love pop music, dance music, new age music and new wave music among others. I am so proud to be a kid of the 80s and of the culture that was created during that intriguing decade. While we had a horrific leader at the helm politically, we had some amazing music being made, as well as TV, films and art. Sometimes I will put a song on with a driving dance beat and it has an electric pull that says: keep on fighting. I move my leg to the beat and become transfixed on the beat. It can take literally minutes to pull me out of the funk and get me to a new place: moving forward. Shoot, it can work even better than all the many anti-depressants I take. It is no wonder we see so many walking around with their headphones or earbuds in listening to music. It can be a way to literally drown out the negativity of the universe.
Music also has the ability to bring people together. It can transcend racial, ethnic, religious or national borders to unite diverse communities. Given how polarized our world is, there is not a lot of things that can do this. But music is one of them. From queer and androgynous artists to bringing people together to making people dance, music can do it all. But for me the most potent thing has been how often it has saved me from the brink of self-harm. I will be forever grateful for that and hope musical artists understand how transformative what they can create can be in people’s lives.