It’s crucial for queer and trans people to have the freedom and access to share their narratives because no straight person can do that in the same respectful way. Unless you’re living the experience then you can never understand it, no matter how close to the glass the Straights™ like to press against it. “My Name (Is Joanna)”by Flight or Visibility is a testament to a certain queer/trans experience that also translates that experience to the outside world.
“My Name (Is Joanna)” opens with a spoken word piece that transitions into a warm & almost drunken-like musical embrace. Their choice of baroque instruments and their use of chaos sprinkled throughout the song is comforting and jovial, reminiscent of a crowded tavern where the local bard shares their plights as a queer person. I found my head bobbing along, not only to the jaunty beat, but also in understanding. As a Non-Binary person, the message this song communicates is one in which I recognize; my own gender identity would not be perceivable through the way I present. Flight or Visibility harps on this theme by singing the lyrics “You have no idea who I really am” and “my name is Joanna,” culminating at a point in the song where they sing: “…and my name is still Joanna if I sing it like this,” in a deeper, more “masculine” pitch. They remind us and the person they’re singing “to” that how one presents, behaves, or even sounds, carries no detriment toward one’s gender identity.
I find this song to be very reminiscent of that of a musical number that grounds itself within the physical world, as if I was in the tavern room while they sing. I’m personally unaware if this song harkens back to a moment that Flight or Visibility themselves had as an artist, or if it is more of a shared queer experience they are narrating through a campy example. Either way, it works well in making it understood as a narrative to the audience. In my Non-binary identity, I know that I can be misgendered through my masculine presentation; however, this song reminds me that no one can invalidate my experience no matter how I look or how many times I am misgendered.
When artists like Flight or Visibility create music like this, for queer people by queer people, it helps add to the community and make it easier for people to be comfortable in their own skin. I hope that other trans and gender queer people who listen to this song find comfort in knowing they are not alone with the struggle of maneuvering through society that was designed against them. I also hope that the listeners who are cis, straight or otherwise, gain a better understanding of those experiences they will never have, and help give those marginalized voices the space that they deserve.
Basker Boyer is a non-binary writer and experimental artist based in Maine.