Perpetual Change — Good Bye . . . and Thank You!

| Jan 16, 2017

This is going to be my last column for I’ve been a contributor here for 18 years now, with my first column appearing in January of 1999. Due to several things, I’ve come to realize that it’s just time for me to move on. I’ll get to a couple of those reasons, but I want to give a brief overview of my tenure here if you don’t mind.

Illustration from The Pamela Principle.

I started with writing a humor column called The Pamela Principle. At least, it was my attempt at trying to be funny. I admit that my skewed sense of humor sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t, but it was a fun column to write. The last Pamela Principle was posted in July of 2007.

The Perpetual Change music column actually started in April of 1999. The name comes from an incredible piece of music by my favorite band, YES. I took it to mean that music, and creativity as a concept, is always perpetually changing. The column pretty much ran continually, but did have a few months here and there when nothing was posted. A good example of that was in 2003. My father passed away that year and I inherited a house and other property back in my hometown in Ohio. I don’t have siblings, so there was no one else to deal with the estate issues. I decided it was an opportunity to start over and moved back. It took me several months to get things squared away and get back into the proper mindset for writing. So there is a big gap in Perpetual Change columns that year, as well as a few other minor gaps here there.

In June of 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea of doing a separate music column featuring drag queens who actually sing in their own voice instead of lip-synch. It was her idea to call it Transvocalizers. In all honestly, and because this is my last column, I have to say I never liked that title. I wanted to call it Killer Queens, but Angela got her way. I mean, after all she’s the boss lady. She makes the big bucks, has the corner office at TGF Towers, the cute secretary and the best parking spot, so who am I to argue? That column ran until September 2014. It ended because apparently very few people care about drag queens who actually sing.

I also posted several “hard news” and “human interest” type articles over the years. In truth, I really don’t know how many columns I’ve written for TGForum. At one time I actually had a complete list on my computer, but lost it during a virus/crash moment, so I have no idea how many columns/articles I’ve unleashed to an unsuspecting world.

When I was trying to figure out what to say in this last column, I naturally had to ask, have I (and TGForum in general) made a difference from when I started? After looking at all the musicians, singers, bands, rappers, etc., that I’ve interviewed and music that I’ve reviewed over 18 years, I really believe we’ve had a small part in making trans musicians more visible and accepted than when we started in 1999.

To give just a few examples: musicians such as Namoli Brennet, Georgie Jessup, Jennifer Leitham, Jodi Jolt and The Volt, Baby Dee, and Michelle Rocking Horse Garcia perform mostly for straight, non-LGBT audiences in mainstream venues. Rapper/hip-hop artist Foxxjazell does as well, but in a very different context given the nature of that genre. Trans themed musicals such as the revival of Hedwig And The Angry Inch with Neil Patrick Harris and Kinky Boots have met with great success, regardless of any anti-LGBT criticism.

Shawna Virago

Other artists such as West Coast well knowns Shawna Virago and Storm Miguel Florez have mixed audiences, but live in a LGBT friendly environment. The same is true in the east for NYC’s Rev. Yolanda.

I know I could probably find more good examples, but I’d have to review 18 years worth of work and it would make this last column unbearably long. I think you get my idea.

My point though, is that quality work, regardless of genre, will always have an audience. The fact that a given musician/singer/rapper happens to be trans is no longer an issue unless that entertainer makes it so. And if I were to give any advice to younger trans artists just starting out, it would be to let your music be the selling point. Making an issue about being trans no longer has the impact it once did. That’s a good thing. Not everyone will accept you, but that’s true in any endeavor. Through the work of others who came before you, you now have an audience larger than ever before. Let your talent be the issue.

I want to go out on the proverbial limb here and make mention of five individual musicians I have come to admire greatly over the years. I was first impressed by their craftsmanship as musicians, but have come to respect them even more as people as I’ve interviewed them and listened to their work.

Georgie Jessup’s last release was entitled Philosopher Dogs. It’s her best work since her 1994 project American Holocaust. She is an incredible song writer as well as an activist for Native American causes. We’ve tried to talk politics, but decided we’d better not. With that, I even respect her more.

Michelle Rocking Horse Garcia

Michelle Rocking Horse Garcia is not only a singer/songwriter, but also a multi-instrumentalist and culinary whizz. Her last project was Take The Day Off which is her best to date. I’m also a big fan of her all instrumental Spanish Traveler project.

Jennifer Leitham’s name always comes up when I’m talking about great instrumental music. Not only is she a prominent jazz musician, but is also a music instructor and clinician. And she has one of the most prestigious resume’s that includes a stint with Mel Torme’s orchestra.

Baby Dee started out in Ohio but now lives in Holland. A good portion of her music is instrumental, and she even plays harp, which is impressive given the fact it’s such an awkward instrument. He vocals are somewhat similar to a cabaret style. Her musicianship is superb and she functions — no, masters — more than one genre within any given project she releases.

Rev. Yolanda. Wow is about all I can say. Some people might think I’ve turned into her personal press secretary given all the times she’s been featured here. In just the last couple of years, she’s had a movie about her, she’s won MAC Awards, has had a book published about her, has just released her newest CD Rev. Yolanda’s Country Kirtan Vol.2 Step Back, and has started another career as an actor. All of this at the tender age of 60. But to me, she’ll always be one of the voices on the hard-to-find CD Abbalicious.

All of these people are true artists and I count them as friends, although I’ve never actually met any of them. I’d give anything to be able to play music with any of them. it would be an honor.
As I said at the beginning, there are a few reasons why I’ve decided to stop writing for TGForum. Just to keep it simple, here are a few. I’m now 63 and have had some health issues over the last couple of years. Nothing too serious, but I need to start cutting back on some things. Plus, I do have some medical bills to deal with and I must concentrate on making some money. Next, I have at least two recording projects of my own this year. That’s time consuming, stressful, and expensive and I need to devote my efforts in that direction as well. I have some opportunities coming my way that won’t ever come again at my age. Plus, it’s just time to let someone else have a go promoting music through TGForum.

Thank you to all the faithful TGForum readers. Thank you Angela for putting up with me for all these years. Thank you to all the musicians, singers, bands, rappers, managers, agents, etc., whose work helped make this column. And thank you to the wider Transgender community everywhere. No matter how the political winds blow, you will always have the power to survive, and even change, when you work together.


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Category: History, Music

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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