The Globe and Mail: How T. Thomason is claiming a stake in the music world – and helping other transgender artists do the same
Well, this time last week I was getting ready to head home from the ONE Film Festival in Ottawa after it’s inaugural year and the world premiere of the short film DAWG, which I was super fortunate to work on with my mom, Shelley Thompson, last winter. Apart from a pipe bursting in our hotel and dripping on my phone all night (lol what are the chances), last weekend was a lot of fun and great opportunity for the movie. One of the highlights was the screening of “How to Change the World”, a documentary by Jerry Rothwell about the origins of Greenpeace and all the wild things they got up to. Wow. Talk about inspiring. I highly recommend it if you ever get a chance to catch this flick.
Mom and I did a couple lovely Ottawa touristy things as she hadn’t spent a lot of time in the city before. We drove Sussex Drive, looked out over the canal, wandered around the Byward Market (and ate the best burritos ever!) I had an interesting experience in a barber shop in the market that I’ve been thinking about a lot since and figured the best way to process it was to write some stuff down.
I’d been desperate for a haircut for the past couple weeks and especially as we were going to the film festival, I wanted to look sharp. I’ve really been digging going into barber shops now that I have my short hair, but I usually call ahead to make sure they’re queer/trans friendly, as I’ve heard some horror stories about friends being refused service, though I like to think those incidents are occurring less and less these days. Anyway, my friend recommended a place, so mom and I made our way over on a whim.
The guy at the counter was super nice to me and booked me in right then and there. We started chatting a little and he called me “man”. That’s when I realized, I was passing.
“Passing” in the trans community usually means being perceived as your “preferred gender”. For me, passing means being taken as a guy.
Even before I came out as trans/cut my hair/started binding, I was “sir”-ed fairly regularly. I’ve witnessed first hand how people treat you when they perceive you as male, and I think it goes without saying (as surprising as it may be to some) that you are generally treated with more respect, listened to more attentively, questioned less. Thats a result of living in our patriarchal society where male privilege sadly runs rampant. I’ve also witnessed how uncomfortable people get when they can’t “figure out” your gender, what language to use for you, etc., or they feel like they’ve been “tricked” into thinking you’re something you’re “not”.
For me, just on the inside, in the place where I am getting to know myself and be okay with whatever I may find, passing is exciting. It is comfortable. It is what I’m going for. But with it comes male privilege, which is difficult to navigate when you’ve grown up and been socialized as female.
It is a really hard thing to wrap your head around that suddenly your competency, your intelligence – your general ability as a human – supposedly changes, entirely based on some people’s perception of your gender.
It’s something I think about a lot as I wrestle with the notion of going on testosterone (which would eventually mean passing the majority of the time). But more on that later, back to the barber shop.
So, I am enjoying the fact that I’m passing and I’m trying not to be hyper aware of all the things that could “give me away”. Am I sitting with my legs open wide enough? Is my voice too high? Are my hand movements “too feminine” (whatever that means)?
I know better than this, I’ve had a lot of conversations with other trans masculine friends about “passing” and how damaging it is to try and mute your personality/mannerisms to fit into a stereotype. Ultimately, transition is about becoming more yourself, not about squishing yourself into yet another box. So if you’re a guy who sits with crossed legs – fuck yeah! If you’re a guy who has more estrogen than testosterone in your system – fuck yeah! If you’re a guy with a chest or who wears nail polish or who sits to pee – hell fucking yeah!!
I know all this, I believe all this, and yet, I am still hyper-aware because I can’t help it. Passing is my happy place, my comfort zone, it’s when I feel seen and validated. Where I get a glimpse of what might be.
There are no other customers in the shop, the rest of the barbers are sitting in the chairs and we’re all chatting as I get my hair cut. I’m struck by how friendly they are, how engaged and how they’re really listening and responding to what I say. I can’t tell if they’re just very nice guys or if this is how men treat other men.
We’re talking about where I get my hair cut in Toronto and I’m excited to learn they’re opening a shop near my house. I tell them I’m in the market for a new barber these days as mine hasn’t been doing it for me. They assume my barber is male, I refer to her as “she” and the next question is “Oh well, is she hot?”
It is said so casually, not even with some sneaky, dirty tone behind it the way teenagers would ask the same question. It is asked almost without thinking, without any true interest, a knee-jerk reaction to a woman becoming the topic of our conversation.
I freeze up for a second because I’m caught off guard by it, (they were such “nice guys”!) and I’m suddenly aware of my own safety and what could happen if they “found out”, if they felt like I had “tricked” my way into their male space.
I say “Uh, um, yeah” and change the subject.
After I leave the barber shop, I tell my mom about what happened and my frustration that I hadn’t been able to come up with something witty, I was too surprised and kind of scared. We brainstorm responses for these situations in the future. Responses that are not lectures or anything, but something like “She’s really nice, we have great talks” or (if I hadn’t already said I wasn’t happy with the haircuts) “I go for the haircuts” or (if I wanted to have a little fun with them) “Not as hot as the guy who runs the place”.
That’s all fine and good, to learn from experience and prepare for next time, but it’s stuck with me since. The nonchalance of his tone, the normalcy of it.
Essentially, in that moment, my barber was stripped of her years of experience, her knowledge, the knowledge she has yet to acquire, her potential for growth as a professional in an industry, the time it took for her to get to where she is in that industry, and judged based on a man’s opinion of her body.
What the hell?
A few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been aware of any of this. I’ve definitely been that guy who is a bit of a douchebag, slightly sexist, maybe even misogynistic. The stereotypical teenage boy, at times.
I’m sure most young masculine people go through a phase like this as we digest all the shit we’re shovelled about how masculinity and femininity supposedly interact. Where masculinity equals dominance and femininity equals submissive. Fuck that.
My mother, my manager, my mentors, my best friend, my favourite rockstar, my first love – all women. I dare you to try to mess with any of them, I wish you luck and protective armour, you will need it.
As I’ve come to understand my masculine identity, be honest about it, live in it, I’ve become more of a feminist than I ever was. On top of being lucky enough to know and learn from so many strong feminist women/feminine people, I am super lucky to know a lot of proud feminists who are masculine or male identified. It has been crucial to my self-discovery to surround myself with men/masculine people who are willing to talk about recognizing and navigating their own male privilege and resisting the mainstream idea of “a man” (hi dad!)
Separating misogyny and masculinity is important and has helped me feel way more comfortable as I develop my masculine identity. I’m so grateful to everyone who has spent the time chatting with me over terrible coffee or cheap beer in the past year.
I don’t quite know how to wrap this up, apart from saying thank you for reading and allowing me the space to share my thoughts about this. It’s a lot to think about and figure out, but it’s really important, I think.
I don’t want to become “that kind of guy”, I just want to be “my kind of guy”.
NOW, this guy has a little something something of a demo to leave you with, if you’re interested in the musical self-discovery that’s been going on lately Enjoy.
The last couple weeks have been wild and it’s been a while since I’ve posted on here!
CMW happened and I was stoked to catch up with some amazing friends from back home.
I don’t know what I expected from the music community in Nova Scotia, I hadn’t really realized it was something that worried me at all, but it was the best feeling ever to see so many old friends and hear them use my name and pronouns as if it had always been that way.
For example, the second Carleton Stone saw me, he was giving me that same lovely Carleton smile we’re all obsessed with, telling me he was proud of me, and calling me T. I’m getting a little emotional just thinking back on it. That’s some unconditional bromance shit right there.
If you haven’t already, make sure you check out Carleton’s new band with Breagh Mackinnon and Dylan Guthro, Port Cities, as well as my friends Nicole Ariana and Laura Roy. That’s just a taste of the talent out of Nova Scotia these days – prepare to have your minds blown.
I started compiling songs that have really hit with me over this last chunk of time, and I want to share one with you now. It’s Saturday, it’s a long weekend and it’s finally summer (sort of…)
Here’s the song I danced around my living room to after coming out to my close friends in the winter.
Kanye will always have a special place in my heart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6I-d0LJ6ojg
Thank you everyone who took the time to read my last post and for the amazingly supportive responses I’ve received. It means more than you can imagine.
I’ve switched over my Twitter and Instagram account names, so if you’re interested in following me, check out @swtbbt. I’m in England at the moment so you’ll see a whole lot of family pics and old buildings…
Anyway, this is just a very quick note mostly to say thanks so much for everything since my “coming out”, and to let you know that I’ll be posting here every week.
The main topics that’ll likely pop up are; my transition (the story up to now, feelings, fears, questions, resources), and my music (new project, maybe a sneak peek at a demo, what I’m listening to/drawing inspiration from).
The idea behind the blog is to allow myself an outlet during this time of change and to create a space that is transparent and honest, and to hopefully act as a resource for anyone who needs it. In my mind, the more voices breaking the silence that seems to be all too familiar to people of the LGBTQ+ community, the better.
Thanks for reading.
I’ll be forever grateful to the person who showed me this video: youtube.com/watch?v=-n08vFSKIts
“Woman” is a word I’ve always struggled with in relation to myself, but I was lucky and grew up with parents who didn’t pressure me to conform with the mainstream idea of femininity – for as long as I can remember, I was a tomboy.
Except for the year I was a boy – Matthew, age five.
For the past ten months I have been thinking pretty solidly about my gender.
For the past six months I have been leading what feels like a double life.
In my personal life, the majority of my friends have switched to calling me “T” and using gender neutral (they/them/theirs) pronouns. I have a LGBTQ2S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer/questioning, two-spirit) friendly day-job where this is respected, allowing me to feel comfortable and happy in my skin.
Online and in my music life, however, it has been a different story.
I didn’t know how to tell everyone who has supported Molly Thomason and enjoyed her music for the past 6 years that she wouldn’t be around any more. Trust me, I played with all kinds of ideas; faking my own death, moving across the world, etc. Only the most dramatic options of course (sue me, it runs in the family)
In the end, with the support of my family, my amazing manager, Sheri Jones, and Sheri’s team, I’ve decided that the best thing is to bring everyone and anyone who wants to come on this adventure along for the ride.
For my own sake – I need to live honestly.
For anyone reading this – you have most likely come to a show, bought a CD, told a friend about my music. I am forever grateful and you deserve to be met with honesty.
I am a non-binary trans-masculine person and proud of it.
“What does that even mean??” You ask. Well, I’m looking forward to posting more as things unfold and keeping anyone who is interested, in the loop.
Check back here for new blog updates in the next few days. We will be switching over the Molly Thomason Facebook page and Twitter account to reflect this change.
Love and thanks,