I don’t want this site to be solely about being transgender. From my experiences so far, it’s not even something I could write about every week – being in the closet is far more intense and frustrating and writeable. However, there are moments when things happen, unique to trans people. I’d like to share those moments with you, and let you into the mystery.
Gina's Trans Diary, 22.10.16: entry 10 On Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga's new album, Joanne, was released yesterday. It's not the album I needed it to be. Admittedly I've been listening to it without headphones on a tinny computer, but I can tell it's not the sumptuous, lush, melodic orgasm I needed. It sounds raw. Gaga doing her own thing, not giving a fuck. I get that. After the technicolour wonders of her last album Artpop – an album much maligned, but which I really liked – I guess she decided to go with 'raw.' Perhaps the critics got her down? Did she stop caring about the effect of her work quite so much?
How desperate was I for something melodic and moving? After a second time listening to the album, I Youtubed 'Classical Gas' by Mason Williams. I needed something after the disappointment of hearing Gaga's vocals, cold as sharp metal. I wanted colour and softness and tunes that wrapped themselves around me.
Readers will be reading this entry, thinking: this is not about being transgender; this is just a music review. No, not really. I'm not going to write about the album's different songs, or the lyrics (I think most music reviewers go in too deep with the lyrics; trying to interpret pop lyrics misses the joy of pop music and its suggestability). I am going to use this entry to write about Lady Gaga and what her music means to me. Or can mean to me.
The moments when I often got most upset about being in the closet happened when I was exposed to certain art. Strange, moving, life-affirming indie films like Jim Jarmusch's The Limits of Control. Brit Marling's movie Another Earth, with the possibility of another reality where we are what we could be, the us we dreamed of being. Or the music of Lady Gaga. Don't ask me why. Gaga's music – and overall identity – has a grotesqueness about it, simultaneously sexy and fucked up. There's a glamour and ambition emanating from it, like the shine that emerges from a treasure chest opened. And behind the glossiness of Gaga is the impression that she's really trying hard, with every single song. An artist who cares about the details, even in a world of surfaces like pop music. And, it follows, who cares about the listener.
Step back: I didn't think much of her first album. I liked the singles, Telephone and of course, Bad Romance – which remains her defining musical and artistic statement. It seemed Gaga needed music videos to truly come alive artistically. Then she released her second album with that horrific cover, Born This Way. I didn't care for it either, to begin with, until I listened to it while driving in Saudi Arabia. Sometimes albums come alive after many listens, and during their second half, and you realise with Gaga that she's put a lot of thought into this. Songs you don't hear much on the radio (at least, not on the radio in Saudi Arabia), like Bloody Mary. Have you ever listened to a song and could barely discern the lyrics, and what you thought you heard sounded delightful and to connect with you so wonderfully? And then you read the lyrics and they're not what you thought they were? Bloody Mary has those kind of lyrics. Something about a king on the hill, and Gaga being ready for their stones. A vague, tantalising, whimsical image of fairy tale worlds with a sexy, gentle, 1970s soft disco rhythm and soft, undulating chorus. For what it means to me personally, this is my favourite Gaga song. No one else is allowed to like it as their favourite song. It's my own 'secret garden,' where I and I alone go and drift away.I needed something to help me drift away. I turn to the things I thought could help me and they can't. Not this time.