Danielle Reay has to be one of the most memorable bass players out there at the moment. Her stage presence and movement when hitting the rhythms for Diablofurs is something wonderful to behold. Dani talked to The Punk Lounge about transitioning and the friendship of her bandmates, the pros and cons of social media and the frightening erosion of basic rights.
You play bass for Diablofurs. You also happen to be transgender. Were you playing bass before you transitioned?
“Yes. A long time before I transitioned. But then there’s transitioning and living in a different gender role as well. I started to play bass before I’d even come out or outwardly experiment with anything like that. I was just about to hit 14 then. I started to experiment with gender roles when I was about 18.”
Have you noticed that since you’ve transitioned people’s attitudes to you on stage have changed?
“Not so much on stage. I do feel fortunate that a lot of the time I do get judged on how I perform and how I play bass. I was worried that I would be judged a lot more on how I look. I tend to find it’s more day to day and especially before I transitioned that people judged me quite heavily in the street, on quite a terrifying level actually. It’s only recently that I feel that I’ve attained anything close to a passing privilege. While I think it’s not something particularly healthy to chase I feel grateful that I’ve got to some place where I can walk from one end of a town to another without being yelled at, threatened, followed, chased, or anything like that.”
So you feel more comfortable now than you did a short while ago?
“Yes. I was a lot more noticeable two or three years ago.”
So the band and fans have not been just accepting they’ve also been a support network?
“When I joined this band I was about three months in to transitioning medically so they’ve be privy to my whole physical transition. I’m very lucky to have some of the friends I do have and with the band it’s not an issue. It’s not really discussed as a separate item, there’s no judgement and I’m there to do what I do. I’m a bass player and I’m their friend. There’s no, this is the trans person in the band, this is my trans friend or anything like that. It’s not an issue at all which is the first time I’ve experienced that and that is amazing on their part. Before now I have been introduced as this is my trans friend and It’s really weird and really awkward.”
What about your family, are they supportive?
“Generally yes. I’m not that close with all of my family, but most of the family I’ve always been close to it’s been acceptance from them. It’s just things like learning pronouns and getting used to the whole thing. With my parents it’s more a worry that I’m going to be safe and a worry that I’m not going to regret anything I’ve done which I know I’m not. There’s no way you can tell anyone exactly how it is that you feel. In a way they’ve just got to trust me. The main thing though is that I’m safe.”
Which is as it should be.
We’d like to touch on the role of social media and whether or not you’ve had issues with trolling or issues with people who have been friends on say Facebook and then decided they’re not going to be and then you’ve had issues. Or have you had support from random people?
“I’ve had support from people and that’s great. I’ve had some people disappear. I haven’t had anyone go out of their way to troll me which is good. I think I’ve been pretty lucky because I know quite a lot of people who have had some real problems. Although I do try to be politically aware I do tend to avoid a lot of the news. That can be quite terrifying and depressing. Just normal things like avoiding the comments sections on absolutely anything to do with trans. The thing I find more frightening is how those arguments are used even in parliament concerning our basic rights. People actually quitting their political party in disgust over the fact that some people think we should have some rights. Those are the things that affect me more.”
You should have the same rights as everybody else surely?
“In theory yes. I tend to find it’s a lot more people who are left leaning too do tend to have these views. It seems to be a hangover from second wave feminism. I’m not anti feminist, I identify as feminist. There does seem to be a lot of people who think that we as trans women in particular are a major threat to CIS gender women. I don’t see it and I think some of the arguments are quite bizarre. There’s a book by Janice Raymond called The Transsexual Empire and a lot of people seem to use a lot of the arguments in that book against us. The basic premise is that not only are transgender women not women but that we are , and this is really bizarre, created as a means of replacing women. Which is mad. There are also people who have theories on what is known as Autogyneplilia which I’m still not entirely sure really exists. This is where men transition and want a vagina as a means as a means of fulfilling a sexual fetish.”
Do you think that people who are not transgender will often think that all transgender people both male and female are all in one big happy camp whereas in fact you are actually people with the normal range of diversity as any other group of people?
“That’s interesting because I think out of everybody I know who is trans I think the only thing they have in common is that they are trans. Online I’m in quite a few trans support groups and off line I know quite a few trans people and they’re all completely different. It’s quite common especially on line for there to be quite a lot of flame warring because in my opinion there is no roadmap. There is maybe a bit more now but when I first started thinking about these things pre-internet and I was living in the middle of nowhere, there was nothing. You just think you’re going crazy. You just had to come to terms with it yourself and how you relate to this without any real help. Even today although there are a lot of online resources a lot of people still seem to come at this from a very different angle because you just have to try to relate and get on with your life. The only people who are really there to support are other trans people who have had to do the same thing. With a lot of minorities there is a definite culture but I don’t think that exists with trans people because I don’t think a lot of trans people have enough in common to have that. I do tend to find when I talk with other trans people there are certain things I can talk about without having to explain. But I don’t think there is a trans culture or trans lobby, I think that’s a bit of a fallacy. Some of us just shout very loud because it’s easy to see a lot of your rights being taken away. It’s a difficult argument to have when you’re living it and other people have spent years theorising about you without actually knowing any trans people or knowing what it’s like. It’s an impossible thing to explain. I saw online a comment that puts it perfectly, it’s like trying to explain the colour blue to a blind person.”
There are people out there who are young and are feeling the same way you did. Is there any advice you would give to someone who is feeling and going through the feeling that you went through earlier in your life?
“Number one, stay alive because no matter how hard things are and how you are feeling right now it can get better from here. Number two, get to the support networks. Try to find people who even if they can’t relate to what you are going through are at least supportive. Find many people who are understanding. And thirdly as tempting as it is try not to blame CIS people for absolutely everything. You can’t blame that very large amount of people for everything even though a very large amount of those people will just not get you and think you’re an alien to them. Just try to get on with things, which sounds harsh but there are a lot of CIS people out there and you need to get on with them.”
Interview and all images by Gary Trueman