Acceptance of Differences: Music Taste and Gender
Hi! You can call me Sunny (they/them), and I’m a lot of things. I’m a senior psychology major, a cat parent, Capricorn, baby gym rat, nonbinary, and a total music lover. My music taste is… pretty eclectic. Not to sound like a hipster, but it unironically gets a lot of flack and disdain from friends and people in general. Some of my favorite artists are Makari, Hands Like Houses, and Dwellings. I have an entire playlist dedicated to the music I feel comfortable playing at work,and several layers of intense consideration covering all of my song choices in public. I am even banned in certain friend circles from getting on aux.
This cautious treading is similar to the way I approach the lukewarm response my gender receives. In the same way I might subtly turn down my music when someone walks in, I turn down my out of place self-expression. I present as very feminine, and am percieved often as a cisgender gay man, which can often be uniquely uncomfortable. Being unapologetically different is something intensely uncomfortable for me, and I often find myself backing away from authenticity to avoid conflict or judgement. Even among friends or in more inclusive spaces, I often deal with misgendering by ignoring it or subtly angling my water bottle and its ‘They/Them’ stickers outward.
Subtlety in either issue does not concretely help me much. I still often feel that I stick out like a sore thumb; diving against the current of ‘normal’ people and ‘normal’ taste. The impact of this unpopularity is hidden, a discomfort and paranoia, drifting away from obvious or clear involvement in the most controversial parts of my gender expression, like dresses or skirts, and accepting disdain for my music taste in sad martyrdom or faux understanding.
However, it also has a few benefits. It can draw me closer to people, especially those who wholeheartedly embrace my differences on both sides, and those who can appreciate neither are easier to identify and avoid. It allows me the opportunity to find others that feel cast out or unpopular with either, or with any facet of identity. It brings me into internal conversations often about visibility and adaptation, openness and ridicule, and breaking norms.
The role that society has in shaping my behaviors and responses is complex and multifaceted. I have learned ways to blend in, grown into acceptable ways of expressing myself, and given up on the hypervisibility that differences create. I settle into typecasted expectations that are deemed acceptable enough: a flamboyant and effeminate gay man instead of a femme nonbinary person, and someone who ‘likes rock’ but never pushes to change pop or rap. In doing so, I lose connection with the truer pieces of myself at times. I become a subtler, more timid person. Alternately, I can appreciate those connections more often and more deeply with the most accepting friends and with myself. When I can be my whole, visible self, I shine much brighter and feel happier and more whole.
While some level of this social adaptation can be beneficial, it puts stringent ties on my behavior and personality. I am not supposed to be sporty or athletic, not allowed to play or enjoy music, assumed to only be interested in men, and am often at the receiving end of ‘screamo’ jokes. For the musical aspect, the response of the general public is common enough to become part of the culture. Concerts become places to meet others that don’t express the judgement experienced elsewhere. Similarly, other members of the LGBTQ+ community form safer spaces to express themselves, but these often counteract each other in unfortunate ways. In some LGBTQ+ spaces, some people are less understanding or supportive than others of trans* people, and others can fall into the same typecasting as some of my cishet friends. However in alternative music spaces, I am so different that that shared experience with ridicule doesn’t fully extend. They act as two drastically different circles, like a Venn diagram, with a very narrow middle connecting them.
Music is something often tied deeply to the self, and there are even certain artists and genres stereotyped towards LGBTQ+ folks. That said, my comparisons here are inherently unequal since I face no persecution or direct hatred for my music taste in the same way my gender can be treated. It is a less integral part of me, more subject to change, and easier to tamper down or selectively choose where and when to express it. The similarities I have noticed between both my music tastes and gender are more of a reflection of the ways differences are treated, and how hard acceptance can be. Both share a sense of disrespect, especially from those who lack understanding or empathy. What is normal and popular is what is considered good, and things outside of what is normal are scrutinized much more.
Overall, it’s not that I wish everyone had more similarities to me in either aspect. That would take away from the selective, special circles that emerge and the unintended benefits I have experienced. It would just be much easier if typecasting and discomfort were less universal or accepted. Being allowed to exist in both aspects, just as I am, would reflect a much more brilliant and radiant reality. As it is now, I am working towards a more unapologetic future where my differences can become my strengths as I fight for inclusivity and find acceptance.