Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Cher Strauberry and Twompsax on Validation and Trans Joy

Dear strawberry refuses be tired.

Strauberry says the same thing every night on stage: “We’re Twompsax from Oakland, California! You are valid and loved and you are not alone and we really care about you! Twompsax has almost no days off in their relentless touring schedule, playing gigs in punk houses, barns and halfpipes throughout the US since October.

“I’m not tired,” she says, recalling the powerful and tearful Memorial Day Trance event she witnessed last week in Asheville, North Carolina. “People who want us to die and do not protect us from basic human rights – these people are not tired. We are here in spite of all these fucking walls, and we will continue to do it here. “

Beyond the stage, Strauberry has become a respected force in the skateboarding world, known for its stylish wall jumping. Once a runaway teenager, she learned to ice skate while sanding a coffin in the parking lot of a Bay Area funeral home. At 28, she made a splash as one of the first transgender skateboarders to become professional skateboarders. One of her boards is even in the National Museum of American History. Most people think of Strauberry primarily as a skateboarder, and she’s incredible and iconic, but she’s so much more. She is a musician with a complete catalog of solo and group recordings, a sinster (a bound compilation to be released by Seth Bogart next year) and an advocate for the trans community.

While cisgender heterosexual transness narratives keep the ghost of death behind discussions of trans identity, Strawberry uses skateboarding and punk music to counter this narrative, insisting instead on trans joy, anger, opportunity, and life.

Twompsax is a team of friends from Oakland that have become bandmates. It was after the Limpwrist and Younger Lovers gig at 924 Gilman Street that Strauberry stopped being afraid to be herself. In real punk fashion, her bandmates are only called by their first names – Ian plays drums, Izzy. plays guitar, Tris plays bass, Strauberry sings, and throughout the tour Chris, also known as “The Skutch”, is their bodyguard, documentary filmmaker and driver.

Cher Strubery and Twompsax guitarist Izzy.

(Rob Koons)

While touring has a lot to love, it’s not all peaches and cream, says Strawberry, joking about the nicotine diet and coffee, cruising the Sea of ​​Anarchy, referencing Sherrill Crow songs. she and her bandmates Twompsax can’t get enough. She even had to fight a man on a stage in upstate New York after he refused to stop pushing girls into a hole after several warnings.

Music plays a central role, but the community is the driving force behind this tour. “I have never met so many children who … understood them more than I did when I was a teenager!” says Tris, laughing and commenting on the wonderful cycle of trans-validation between group and crowd every night.

After each performance, the group took hours of photographs with their fans and even received letters of gratitude and support. Strauberry brought 20 skateboards with them on the tour to distribute to children, hoping to inspire more trans skaters in small towns. The last skateboard she gave away was her own full deck to a 16-year-old trans girl from St. Louis whose mother brought her to the show. Many parents came with their trans children to see Twompsax, and Strauberry spent several nights crying with these parents and children with joy and hope.

In the spirit of bands like Blatz and Limpwrist, Twompsax sells aggressive, fast, short and catchy songs that make you want to dance and scream. Some songs directly address transgender issues, such as “Trap”, a fanatical punk anthem that turns transphobic and homophobic insults into something powerful. “Chelsea Hair” is a sweet and bouncy 30-second pop song that crosses the politics of punk hairstyles, feeling cute and experiencing a cisgender look in public. Twompsax’s latest cassette, “Disgusting Me Out”, was recorded by the band in a Texas bedroom, which turned into a studio.

The US punk rock van tour is exhausting. There are many legends and fetishizations of the “van” from the point of view of white men. Avid punk fans are familiar with the get-in-the-van-and-pass-one-travel-bag aesthetic, rocking and rolling across the plains with a borderline Protestant emphasis on work ethic, self-sacrifice, and self-sacrifice. brutality as an ironic cornerstone of punk.

“Touring with a trance and queer band is very different from touring with a bunch of stupid guys,” says Yang. “The tour is really stressful for a band like us, but we support each other.” Billboards, courtyard signs and public toilets on the road serve as a constant reminder of the dangers and potential harm to trans and queer people.

The gigs are safe, but in between, Strawberry notes that she feels like a “moving target.” It’s not just a sensation: 2021 will have the most anti-trans bills filed in the United States, and the most recorded murders of transgender people. Luckily, Ian and Chris take on the extra responsibility of checking gas station bathrooms to make sure they’re safe for Strauberry, Izzy, and Tris. use. And to settle the score, the group is marking trans symbols on highways and rest stops whenever possible.

The definition of punk is something that is constantly debated in a subculture that was both a refuge and a place of violence for queer and transgender people, as well as women and people of color. Twompsax is moving with something new in the classic spirit of confrontation and DIY that the genre was built on. If Black Flag is damage, then Twompsax is aggressive repair.

Straubery performs with Twompsax drummer Ian and bassist Tris.

Straubery performs with Twompsax drummer Ian and bassist Tris.

(Rob Koons)

For Cher, Twompsax is the only way to inspire trans kids to “be who the hell they want to be,” she says. Whether it’s “writing a book, going to college, [or] playing sports ”, punk is the only way she knows how to spread information.

“What we do is punk,” Strawberry says, laughing at how the word “poser” was thrown at queer people by men with the authority of punk. “We do it 10 times harder. I hate to prove myself and I have nothing to prove. But I’ll show these kids what they can do. And this is important to me. “

Twompsax is playing on December 4th in San Diego at the Fear of Noise Fest at the Queen Bee Cultural Arts Center and December 5th. at a secret show in Los Angeles – if you want to go, you have to ask the punk for the address.

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