We love it at The Punk Lounge when artists get involved with supporting other artists. Our Be Free Be You campaign seeks to highlight the inequalities faced by women performers and the issues they have to deal with simply for choosing to look a certain way. Tommy Keeling of the band Minatore has lent his support to the campaign following on from our original feature. Being transgender puts Tommy in a unique position of having had experience of performing both before and after transition. He was very happy to talk about freedom of expression as well as pose for some shots in support of Be Free be You
Be free be you’s main aim is to support artists, mainly but not exclusively women to be able to have freedom of expression on stage without people having a go at them for how they choose to look. What’s your view of what’s been going on with bands like The Soap Girls and others?
“I think the problem is that men can get away with doing pretty much anything they want on stage. You’ve got bands like The Dwarves who got banned for having naked women on stage with them but they didn’t get banned because their bassist doesn’t wear anything. He has his dick out. It’s a double standard. I think anybody on stage should be able to do, wear or express themselves as they want and if you don’t like it you don’t have to stand there and watch it. It’s easy.”
From your own point of view as someone who is transgender have you had comments or stuff happen to you while on stage or at a gig where you’ve played, either before or after your transition?
“Since I have transitioned I have had absolutely no issues whatsoever both on stage or off it. However ten years ago when I was in an all female band it was constant harassment. Dealing with men thinking they could act however they wanted, being really disrespectful. Saying you’re a great band for girls when we’d just destroyed everybody we’d played with. The difference is massive. I’d like to point out that having to experience the before and having to deal with that which I do not have to deal with any more. If anything can show you the difference then it’s that.”
So being trans you’re actually in a unique position to know what it’s like from both sides and to be able to speak about it?
“Yeah I do. There’s plenty of trans women, there’s Laura Jane Grace and Aeris from Chambers and Dani from Diablofurs. There’s plenty of transgender women out there but their experience is slightly different because they’ve probably been victims of toxic masculinity before they transitioned. They’ve experienced a lot of the things women experience, any effeminate man or gay guys experience similar abuse that women get. They’re degraded because of anything that is remotely seen as feminine. Whereas if you’ve got a group of women say like L7 it’s easier for men to say they’re great for women because they play in a masculine style which is something that men can absorb. Anything that’s seen as remotely effeminate is seen as weak.”
It’s a shame, from what you’ve said being feminine on stage is seen as a sign of weakness and people pick on it. Do you think there’s an element of jealousy from other women as well?
“Every person is an individual person in what they find offensive, what they feel is pushing things forward and what is dragging things back. It’s all perspective. If we all listened to each other, especially women, and men need to listen to women, we need to have discussions. We need to have really deep discussions with each other. We need to understand we’re all trying to do the same thing. Unless we stop criticising each other for freedom of expression then we’re holding each other back. The male bands are not having any of these problems. Perhaps they’re more secure about themselves. In the music industry men can follow the paths of other bands that are male and they know what they’re expected to do. Perhaps there are not enough female bands yet that have made that happen. It’s about time they all started helping each other and working together. It has started. It’s positive but they need to start that discussion. And listen.”
Let’s move on to social media. Someone complained about a photograph on Facebook because you were topless in it. Something that people ought to maybe discuss particularly with social media and its rules are transgender people. You transitioned from female to male and identify as male but social media doesn’t have a problem so it seems with the male body and specifically male nipples. Is this a shame, insulting to people who are trans and what about male to female transgender people, would they then allow a female transgender person to be topless because they were born male?
“Anything that is remotely sexualised we’ve gone back to this Victorian mentality where everybody is supposed to cover up. I don’t understand it. Things like Facebook have certain rules of what you can do and it is complicated. If I post a picture of myself with no shirt it will get taken down and reported. If my friend Louise who is transgender wasn’t wearing a top it would also be taken down. It’s just boobs, boobs are offensive. It leads in to so many debates. Women can’t even breast feed their children which is the purpose of boobs, in public, without somebody getting offended. It’s not just on stage or artistically. The thing is if you actually look back at Victorian times a lot of the pictures and early photography, it was all nudes. People need to just learn a bit more and stop caring so much about what other people are doing. Think about how you can make things better yourself.”
Chats and snaps: Gary Trueman