Retro Rerun: DJ 1.8.7 Comes Out as Trans

| Mar 25, 2019
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We dip back into the archives for this story which ran on TGForum in 1998. It’s about a drum’n’bass DJ who came out as a trans woman that year. Her name is Jordana LeSesne. Read the original post reprinted from SPIN magazine and then scroll down for an update on what Jordana is up to today.

Jungle DJ 1.8.7 morphs from Joe to Jordana

By GREG MILNER for SPIN Magazine
Contributed by Elizabeth Parker

New York
November 11, 1998

Going through personal changes between records is customary for musicians, but drum’n’bass DJ 1.8.7 really put on a new face. In August, the formerly dreadlocked and baggypantsed Joe LeSesne showed up at the New York offices of the Liquid Sky label walking, talking, and looking like a woman. In the transgendered musical tradition of punk-racker Wayne/Jayne County, synth player Wendy Carlos, and Israeli diva Dana International, LeSesne had switched sexes. But for all LeSesne’s apprehensions, her Joe-to-Jordana transformation was met with only the mildest surprise. “Liquid Sky is all freaks,” quips label manager Eric Holt.

LeSesne says that after 26 years of severe depression and confusion, she finally decided to start “gender transitioning,” which involves hormone therapy and living as a woman for at least a year before legally applying for full sex-reassignment surgery. “For many years, I was just immersing myself in the music and the scene as a means of escape,” LeSesne says. In the process, LeSesne became one of the few internationally respected American jungle DJ/producers, known for the dark, pummeling assaults of such solo records as 1997’s When Worlds Collide. “The distorted drums, the aggression,” she says, “it was like a microscope into my state of mind at the time.” Her impressive new album, QualityRolls, is far less dissonant, slapping fusion bass lines and hip-hop party-rocking together in a smoothly ethereal mix.

After a few dance fans sniped that LeSesne’s gender flip smelled like a bid for attention, dance bible Mixmag hit back with a sympathetic cover story titled, “This Is Not a Publicity Stunt.” But LeSesne’s main battle, she says, has been re-adapting to the drum’n’bass boys’ club. After headlining raves for years, LeSesne suddenly found herself scheduled, like even the most well-known lady DJs, in the early-evening ghetto. “Many guys have said that some female DJs get more attention because they’re women,” she says. “I’d counter that many are also discounted because they aren’t the right kind of women.” Recently, as a goodwill gesture, LeSesne made her extensive archive of breakbeats available free via her Web site (www.187.nu). Electronic music —like gender — is always up for a remix.

Present Day

Jordana today.

What has Jordana LeSesne been up to in the 21st century? What has happened to the music genre drum’n’bass? Is being a DJ still hip? To answer the first question we did what any  good 21st century journalists do. We Googled DJ 1.8.7. We found that Jordana is still active in the scene and her musical genre is still making people dance. She made Out Magazine‘s OUT100 for the year 2000. In 2015 Jordana was named as one of “20 Women Who Shaped the History of Dance Music” by the authoritative dance music magazine Mixmag.

Things were not always positive, however. On the night of February 22, 2000 in Kent, Ohio Jordana was attacked and brutally beaten in a transphobic hate crime by a group of men who jumped her in the parking lot outside of The Robin Hood nightclub where she had just performed. The attack took place while she was escorted from the event with the event promoter to the promoters car. The attack left her with nerve damage in the lower part of her face. Her attackers never faced justice for their hate crime.

In other activities so far this century Jordana returned to her rock roots and fronted a melodic goth metal band in Seattle. She produced other artists in different genres and provided the musical soundtrack for the Laverne Cox produced documentary Free CeCe.

Jordana resides in Seattle and you can learn more about her from an interview in The New Transsexuals a book by rock journalist and illustrator George Petros which was published in 2012.

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