Axis Evil featuring Napalm Fatale @ the Che Café – 24 January 2019

My performance with special guest Queen Mab playing the Kaossilator Pro. I’m using a seven-string guitar and trying new embellishments in the guitar parts, especially in the song “Voice in the Distance”:

lace punk, satin punk, petticoat punk, oh my!

This article was first published on the fashion blog Mad Hot and Artsy on 20 November 2018. Special thanks to them for featuring my content!

To satirize my proud (and adopted) feminine modality, I developed a personal clothing style I call “lace punk”, “satin punk”, and/or “petticoat punk”. It carries steampunk, burlesque, and pin-up influences; and emphasizes poise, class, and elegance. In other words, I give the appearance of “high class”. This combination kills when combined with sound posture and a confident stride—my satire has since evolved into a robust display of raw power.

Key elements involve millinery, corsetry, lace or satin gloves, heels, and frequent appearance in gowns.

The “punk” in all this is me: Accomplished hacker. Cyberpunk. Skilled guitar shredder. Free-thinking anarchist. These outfits tweak guys’ expectations when I talk engineering circles around them—“geek chic” never celebrated femininity quite like this.

I perform under the stage name “Napalm Fatale”. Have released two albums freely available at https://napalmfatale.bandcamp.com. Wrote an important article called “This is Transgender Music” describing this work and my musical goals.

I founded the company Whole-Systems Enterprises, Inc. to pay the bills. Am extremely interested in applying artificial intelligence to the fashion industry.

embracing burlesque (part 1)

I’m fascinated by burlesque, particularly because it welcomes women of all sizes and all biological sexes. (It of course welcomes men too!). I’ll discuss burlesque in more detail in forthcoming posts.

To start, I’ll mention that I plan to develop a burlesque show. Between now and that time, I’m working to inject burlesque ideas into my one-woman punk show. So I created the stage persona “Miss Napalm Fatale”, and then renamed “Axis Evil” to “Axis Evil featuring Napalm Fatale”.

Below are two visual concepts I’m playing with as I develop this altered ego. The first satirizes the fact that I have a penis (and the fact that I’m more than okay with it):

The second portrays my distress (literally) at the state of American government:

how to be a rock star

Lesson One

Stop caring about what other people think of you.

Lesson Two

While nervousness proves a real, honest challenge, never let it show!

Lesson Three

Make it look easy.

Lesson Four

Be prepared! Strings break, equipment fails, batteries die, and sound systems and room acoustics often suck. Be prepared!

Lesson Five

The show must go on!  No matter how depressed or anxious you are, perform your absolute best!

See Also

this is transgender music

axis evil

blockchain is punk

Wide distribution of power lies at the heart of anarchistic thinking. While “punk” and “anarchy” do not necessarily imply one another, they often overlap. Punks tend to balk at centralized authority, as do anarchists. A short leap of logic concludes that we therefore dislike centralized technology.

Concentration in technology long parallels concentration in political power. For example, our abandonment of hunting and gathering in favor of agriculture let to the formation of the state. The Industrial Revolution created modern class divisions. Algorithmic credit score models, opaque and controlled by few, moderate our economic options.

Early in my mechanical engineering career, I realized that if we as a society end material scarcity—through local, distributed control of capital—we will free the world from the chains of classism. Envisioned village- or homestead-sized power power stations, local production of hydrogen to power transportation, homestead-based food production (via hydroponics and synthetic biology), and local manufacture through technologies like 3D printing. And of course, I envisioned a fully distributed data infrastructure. A place for the state exists in this vision, for example they will pave roads, but the state would hold less power in my scenario than it does in the world today.

Large businesses would also lose centralized power, though they will continue to exist and thrive. We’ll need them to produce technology to drive the transition to a (liberated) post-scarcity society—manufacturing an iPhone for instance requires significant investment and raw material sourcing infrastructure. Therefore we’ll have to reward the these businesses appropriately. But we can pilot the business models of large enterprises toward wide distribution of stake, such that the line between producers and consumers blurs.

So far I’ve only briefly mentioned the subject of data centralization, as I felt it better to explain my overall ethic in terms of wider technical matters, in terms of anthropology. Now we zero in on computing, and data in particular:

In the 1990’s I labeled myself “cyberpunk”. Our epic heroes (e.g. Case in Neuromancer) broke information free from the highly centralized control, often distributing it to the people (a la Chevette Washington in Virtual Light). I practiced these values with urgency while resisting US West as a BBS sysop and through over a decade of Linux hacking (the time period in the early 2000’s when Microsoft fought tooth-and-nail to kill open-source software). I practiced these values when I data-mined Ventura County’s online tax delinquency records to find abandoned land to park my RV on.

Most data today resides under centralized control. My bank likely runs a single database to store my account information (we are ignoring practical matters such dev/test servers and sharding). The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) likely stores my truck’s title information in a single location. The United States Treasury controls the American money supply (financial transactions may be thought of as information flow—an abstraction—a numerical measurement of value—i.e., “data”).

If I sell my truck, I have to tell the DMV so they can update their records. I’d rather register the transaction on the decentralized Ethereum blockchain. And if money is data, let’s manage it as decentralized currency!

Blockchain technology dilutes concentrated power. Distributes data (and therefore power) more evenly amongst stakeholders.

This punk, this anarchist, never grew up. She simply grew practical in the short term without losing her long-term concept for the world. She regards blockchain as a bridge between this short-term practicality and the long term vision.

See also:

why we still need cyberpunk

Grrl on Grrl Podcast interviewed me!

Today my interview with Grrl on Grrl Podcast came out!  We discuss, among other things,

  • The science of gender identity
  • The music of Axis Evil
  • “Ladylike” behavior as a source of personal empowerment
  • Cultural appropriation
  • Psychosexuality
  • Model minorities

Big thanks to June Owatari of Grrl on Grrl Podcast for working so hard to put this together! The music presented during the interviews may be downloaded here.

 

on this blog’s new name: “gender punk 360”

I recently changed this blog’s name from “gender punk” to “gender punk 360”. Why? For ethical and branding reasons:

Primarily, I owned “genderpunk.net” but not “genderpunk.com”. However, I do own “genderpunk360.com” and think a “.com” makes a better impression on potential readers.

More abstractly, “gender punk” is a general term used widely in our community [1], which I felt I had no right to co-opt directly. While I’m casting a wide net in describing my experiences with gender, the problem lies in the word “my”.

But “gender punk 360” sounds like a magazine title or website, i.e., a brand. In this way I feel I can “own” it.

I take inspiration from George Orwell’s description of the difference between the words “Communist International” and “Comintern”:

Communist International, for instance, call up a composite picture of universal human brotherhood, red flags, barricades, Karl Marx, and the Paris Commune. The word Comintern, on the other hand, suggests merely a tightly knit organization and a well-defined body of doctrine. It refers to something almost as easily recognized, and as limited in purpose, as a chair or table. Comintern is a word that can be uttered almost without taking thought, whereas Communist International is a phrase over which one is obliged to linger at least momentarily.

Here, like “gender punk”, the community owns “Communist International”. However, Lenin and his comrades owned “Comintern”. It served as a Soviet brand. Likewise, my brand is now “gender punk 360”, referring to something “easily recognized and limited in purpose” as per the Orwell quote. “Gender punk” is an abstract, ill-defined concept. “Gender punk 360” is a specific realization of my experiences.

I don’t even identify as “gender punk”. I’m simply a punk who lives transgender. These two identities, “punk” and “transgender”, inform every facet of my life.

The number “360”, as in 360 degrees, implies a holistic, circular, and comprehensive view. I’ve always been a systems-thinker and this writing proceeds accordingly.

References

  1. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=genderpunk
  2. George Orwell. The Orwell Reader: Fiction, Essays, and Reportage. 1945.

two years and seven love songs (with lyrics)

Axis Evil, the musical arm of this outreach effort, turns two years old this Valentine’s Day. As the project music started out of romantic frustration (with the song “Talk”), I thought I’d post the seven love songs I have written in the last two years. Also, I intend to reference these as a group in later posts.

Recordings

Lyrics

Stunt Double (You Will Always Be My Friend)

A stunt-double in your epic tragedy
Driven by this deep, vacant irony
Walking that thin line
Between faith and absurdity
Between a vision and a thousand exits
But I’ll keep running alongside you
I’ll keep running alongside you
And you will always be my friend

Please read my letters
Please understand

You can drive from your fortress
You can drive from your distance
but just drive
please just drive
because you already drive my heart
and I’ll keep up alongside you
I’ll keep running alongside you
And you will always be my friend

Please read my letters
Please understand
Hold me accountable
Maybe even hold my hand

Please hold me accountable
and maybe even hold my hand

Nice Girl

I’m not in love, but I like the idea
Not infatuated, but I’ve got that feeling
Just enough to keep me in pursuit
Just enough to keep me in pursuit

I’m not in love, but I like the idea
It’s a relief, and a new anxiety
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is

She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I wonder what secrets she keeps
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out what’s in it for me

You Can Drive the World

I’m a gentle discontent
Ready for poise
Ready to please
Ready to gain advantage

I’m bold discontentment
Ready to light something big
And this world is not enough
So let’s make a new one

My agenda is to fuck you
My agenda is to drive you
Decent and kind
Loving and responsible
And you can drive the world

I’m gentle release
Disguised as pressure
Disguised as peace
Ready to gain advantage

I’m bold release
With no loss of composure
No loss of grace
And this world is not enough
So let’s make a new one

My agenda is to fuck you
My agenda is to drive you
Decent and kind
Loving and responsible
And you can drive the world

With no loss of grace
No loss of composure
You can drive the world

Talk

If I’m loving and kind, then why am I so pissed?
Acceptance would be much more noble
Moving on so much more mature
But instead I’m gonna throw… throw a lyrical fit:

You say I’m brave and nice
Why won’t you talk with me?
You say I’m honest
So why won’t you talk with me?

If I’m loving and kind, then why not make amends?
I tried to reconnect
Tried to reach your point of view
But now I just don’t get it
Now I just don’t get it

You say I’m brave and nice
Why won’t you talk with me?
You say I’m honest
So why won’t you talk with me?

What is the point of love that goes nowhere?
What is the point of love that goes nowhere?

I just want to talk with you…
I just want to talk with you…
I just want to talk with you…
I just want to talk with you…

Waste

I’ve had better days
This one went completely apeshit
In shock about how much was wasted
In shock about how much was lost
I’ve had better days

Trying to turn the page
Turn the mind
Turn my imagination
Trying to turn the page and walk on by
But I can’t turn my heart

This hope seeks recognition
Connection, resolution
And it’s more about the love I want to give
Than that I want to receive

I’ve had better days

It’s when you pray for a better resolution
But don’t care what it is
And you’re appalled at how much was wasted
And desperate for what was lost
I’ve had better days

Trying to turn the tide
Turn the mind
Turn the outcome
Trying to turn this thing around
But I can’t turn my heart

This hope seeks recognition
Connection, resolution
And it’s more about the love I want to give
Than that I want to receive

Unrequited love is such a waste
Unrequited love is such a waste

I’ve had better days

Prayer (Say Nothing Again)

I just want to say nothing again
I just want to say everything again
But you won’t listen anyway
But you won’t get it anyway
So I’ll just say nothing again

I can’t let her go right now
So what the fuck do I do?
Trying to find a way to leave the situation
Trying to think of every way to get her attention

‘Cause I just want her to stop ignoring me
And if she’s not going to talk with me
I need you to explain what’s up
I need you to explain what’s up

I just want to say nothing again
I just want to say everything again
But you won’t listen anyway
But you won’t get it anyway
So I’ll just say nothing again

Maybe it’s slightly obsessive
But its probably real love
And I just want to share it with her
And I just want to spend time with her

So I’ll just give you the finger
And say nothing again
But I really want something new to happen
Really want you to explain it to me
Really want you to explain it to me

I just want to say everything again
I just want to say everything again
But will you listen? I know you get it
But will you listen? I know you get it

So I’ll just give you the finger
And say nothing again

Pearls To Swine

I gave you kindness and respect
You threw it back in my face
I cast you my pearls
You ground them into the floor
Now I just want to stop wasting time on you
Now I just want to stop loving you

But how can I walk away from how I feel?
How can I choose not to care?
How can love go so badly?
How can love go so badly?

This is not who I want to be
Stuck with feelings that go nowhere
Stuck in a tired pattern
Casting my pearls to swine
Now I just want to stop wasting time on you
Now I just want to stop loving you

But how can I walk away from how I feel?
How can I choose not to care?
How can love go so badly?
How can love go so badly?

This is not who I want to be
This is not who I want to be

taking abuse for not being “ladylike” enough

I expect that many women receive abuse from their loved ones for not being “feminine” enough, by which these loved ones mean not being “ladylike” enough.

I received such abuse for the first time in my life last night, from a mentor and dear friend. He is a keen observer of woman and generally a wise man, so I rely on him for advice about my presentation. He also loves me greatly.

Something masculine in my behavior really lit a fuse with him yesterday though, and he sent an extremely abusive e-mail detailing his dissatisfaction. I won’t post it here. He obviously holds some deep insecurity that came out in that moment.

But I will post my response; it demonstrates how I’ve learned not to accept abuse but still can reach out with complete love, forgiveness, and compassion. I’m setting an example for others.

The lesson in this for me is that I need to refrain from oppressing myself. I place a lot of pressure on myself to become the “perfect lady”, but to me this is fun. As long as I maintain that perspective, and keep things real, things are alright. In my response (below), I observe how it is far more important for me to exhibit stereotypically feminine characteristics of empathy and kindness than, for example, manage how I walk or gesture.

And why do I consider the pressure I place on myself to become the “perfect lady” fun?  Because I am claiming the oppression and re-spinning it for my own ends. I accepted this oppression upon becoming a woman and decided to make a game out of it. This is punk.

And the fact that I’m now receiving the oppression from someone else shows how successful at feminine assimilation I’ve become.

Two days ago at a restaurant I observed a woman with the perfect presentation: Elegant gestures, graceful stance, etc. Then she slapped her kid. Disgusting. Poise without compassion is meaningless.

Anyway, here is my reply to my mentor:

——,

I am a lady, and therefore expect better treatment than you presented in your last e-mail to me. I expect an apology. I forgive you whether or not you give that apology.

I also know you wrote this out of both love and frustration. I am empathic to that. But ask yourself: Why the insecurity?

In my recent feminization work, I’ve pursued becoming a great “woman” over becoming the perfect “lady” (for now). So I’ve been maximizing my empathy and kindness.

I’ve also asked you before never to bring up my weight. Never do that again!

While I’m not perfect, please remember how far I’ve come! When one is acculturated as a man (think guzzling beer for instance), one cannot expect to change habits overnight.

Again, I’m focusing on the “woman” side of the coin right now, versus the “lady” side. So I’m studying fundamental examples of Christian women. Perhaps you noticed that the last time you were angry around me (about the PBS series on Viet Nam), I gently comforted you. That is the femininity I am concentrating on building right now.

I value your coaching tremendously, and appreciate stern correction. But your last e-mail was abusive. You are better than that.

With absolute love and complete forgiveness,

Emily

Update One Minute After Publishing This

About 1.5 years after my public transition, an emerging transwoman leaned on me for support. We had coffee together.

She is extremely tall, and carried a purse not much larger than her hand. I advised her that having a large purse would prove more appropriate to her body frame. Really stressed this when she resisted. (She likely resisted due to anxiety about having to spend money or anxiety about shopping as a woman).

I told her it would make a difference in how well she passed.

The thing is:  Saying it once was fine. But the fact that I persisted reveals some anxiety I was carrying at the moment. I fake nobility and rationalize that I was concerned for her safety, but I was actually really anxious because her look was incongruent. As if it reflected on me. As if it “outed” me.

I’m sure my mentor feels the same way, that my incongruencies reflect badly on him. As if it “outs” him as trans-friendly.

 

the one song I kept (artistic synthesis)

I’ve released two rock albums since transitioning. Moreover, these are the only albums I’ve ever released. I wrote all the songs for these albums post-transition… except one. Here I talk about that one and why I kept it.

The song is called “Voice in the Distance” and it appears on my debut album “City of God”.

First, it makes more sense to look at the songs I left behind, rather than the one I kept. I wanted a musical reset since the emotional upheaval that accompanied my transition drove the construction of “City of God”. I developed a new sound at that time and wanted to leave my old sound behind, just like I was developing a new (public) identity and leaving my old one behind.

ASIDE: The intersection of my transgender experience and several songs on both my albums “City of God” and “Light Me Up and Love the Bomb” is explored in the post “this is transgender music” if you are interested.

So that explains why I did not keep most of my old songs. But what about “Voice in the Distance”? Why did I retain and promote it?

First and foremost, I thought it was the best song I had written pre-transition and worth preserving in an artistic sense. Moreover, it anticipated the sound I was to develop post-transition. So musically it belonged with my newer material.

Second, I did not have any subconscious association between that song and masculinity. My other pre-transition songs were written for all guy bands.

Finally, “Voice in the Distance” is a spiritual song—but not “in your face” about it—that really transcends gender. I relied on every ounce of spirituality I held to survive my transition, and so spirituality belonged on the debut album. Even the debut album’s name “City of God” is spiritual. So in that way “Voice in the Distance” looked forward in time, even though I wrote it about nine years prior to writing “Talk”, my first post-transition song.

Transition requires a life trajectory of constant evolution. This provides a wellspring of artistic material and artistic synthesis.

BTW: “Voice in the Distance” is one of my favorite pieces to perform live. First and foremost, I’m good at performing it, as I’ve played it often and had it for so many years. Also, people like it! More importantly, I enjoy playing it. The tune is complicated enough to satisfy my intellect and simple enough (for my guitar/voice skill) to perform effortlessly.

new album!

Just released a new album today:

The cover photo was taken of graffiti in Kashmir. Three of the songs explore my evolving feminine sexuality. The other two are sitar instrumentals.

Three of the songs on this album are described in my post “this is transgender music” if you are interested.

 

poise, leadership, and mindfulness

I think a lot about poise: How to cultivate it, how to maintain it, what it means. I also think (and write) much about leadership. Concluded that the two overlap substantially. Further concluded that mindfulness forms the glue that holds them together.

Please permit me to elaborate:

Recently I developed my own description of poise for a witty Twitter and Facebook posting. Here is what I came up with:

Poise is an interesting mix of following tradition and inventing novelty. An interesting mix of following and breaking society’s rules.

This does not define poise, but it illuminates my vision of its practice. We follow tradition with etiquette designed to lubricate social interactions, but invent new ways of accomplishing (presumably noble) goals together as needed. We follow society’s “Golden Rule” but work to transcend society’s moral lassitude.

Realized that this describes a good leader.

Realized that this also describes the woman I want to become.

I have always been a natural leader. Not a natural executive or manager, just charismatic. Cut my teeth in leadership development as teenager organizing rock bands, an environment rich in people-skill development opportunities because you have to deal with creative conflict, egos, and drug addictions. (Compare to performing in a youth orchestra, where adults tell you what to play and how to play it, and the biggest conflicts are resolved by the same adults).

When your bassist is high and your guitarist demands the spotlight, you quickly learn to remain poise lest the whole endeavor falls apart.

But other than that I’ve never thought much about poise (until recently). I wore t-shirts and jeans exclusively, cursed like a punk rocker, and didn’t give a damn about etiquette. My best redeeming features were deep kindness and compassion. For better and worse, I moved forward in life by fully leveraging the “sexy rebel straight guy” ethos.

Likewise, I never thought much of cultivating leadership skills until recently. I just “winged it” when I needed to lead something. Also led culturally by inventing and promoting intellectual output, whether new music compositions or new ways of designing nucleotide sequences.

What changed? I decided to become a “lady”. (Please note that I used the word “lady” instead of “woman” here—they form very different concepts). This led to my search for feminine poise. This also led to a complete reevaluation of my workplace skills: I realized that my talent lies with people and technology, not just technology. Many a transgender woman reports this shift—I think the reason emerges from a combination of cultural expectation and consuming large doses of estrogen. Whatever the cause, I emerged ready to lead and/or facilitate in a formal manner.

But that’s my story. Lets get back to the intersection of poise and leadership, and throw in a discussion of mindfulness, because that might prove more useful to the world than my navel-gazing:

Leaders gain the confidence of their followers through poise. During the last presidential debates, Hillary Clinton made a conscious choice to maintain her presence and delivery rather than stop to confront Donald Trump for hovering in her space. While either decision would have been appropriate, she believed the best way to win voter confidence was through the action she felt showed the most self-control, the most poise.

Any loss of poise, though really often just a result of human frailty, knocks down a leader. Consider Donald Trump’s approval rating at this moment. The man can’t sustain a solid presence and has reaped the fruits of it.

Compare to Jesus, whom the Pharisees always tried to trap in some legal black hole. He (reportedly) always held it together with them, delivering nothing less than wit and wisdom. Jesus also provides a model of when it is appropriate for a leader to lose their cool: We consider his anger at the money-changers in the temple justified.

And here is the first place mindfulness comes in. I bet Jesus held complete in-the-now presence of mind while overturning those tables.

Poise requires mindfulness to execute, and leadership requires poise as I’ve demonstrated above, so the three concepts interact. In my example of Hillary Clinton’s debate decision above, she mindfully delivered the content while evaluating the circumstance. To manage this her mind could be nowhere else.

Similarly, in my work toward developing stereotypical feminine poise, my mindfulness skill strengthened as I learned to live my regular life while monitoring how I walk, sit, stand, talk, etc.

So my formula for leadership development from here on out involves mindfulness practice.

nice girl

A friendly punk song about a woman whom I think is fabulous. She knows who she is!

Recording

Lyrics

I’m not in love, but I like the idea
Not infatuated, but I’ve got that feeling
Just enough to keep me in pursuit
Just enough to keep me in pursuit

I’m not in love, but I like the idea
It’s a relief, and a new anxiety
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is

She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I wonder what secrets she keeps
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out what’s in it for me