It was dusk on a winter day when I thought of the best band name. I had no band to speak of, but the way the name came to me during a Maine sunset in a peyote-like vision of sequins, fringe, and wigs told me it wouldn’t be long before I did.
The best band name. I’ve been defending that statement for years, ever since the Fagettes coalesced from a boozy pipe dream into an actual music-making operation. But when the subject of a name change came up recently, my traditional defenses didn’t fire as readily. What changed?
My music and my politics have always been intertwined, and they probably always will be. It started as it does for many kids. You’re brought up in a suburb, in a religious house with unhappy parents, and you get into the light stuff: Motown, the Stones. Then you catch a glimpse of your brother’s Dookie cassette, mosh to “When I Come Around” with an older boy, and next thing you know you’re a 13-year-old feminist who’s refusing Catholic confirmation because you will under no circumstances subscribe to a religion that denies the sexuality and complexity of women, especially since “Mom had nine kids with you, Dad.” You’re hitching rides with your brother’s friend to see live music an hour away. But these aren’t Green Day concerts—you’re a child and you don’t earn an income. These are shows—more precisely, $2 hardcore shows at a townie bar where screamo bands play alongside a traveling puppet show created by a decentralized anarchist collective. Even though you could totally score hooch from the sound guy, a former Hell’s Angel with a skullet, the kids here don’t drink because it’s cooler that way. Then you move to Boston because the drummer of your favorite band tells you to do it in a dream. It’s a tale as old as time, man.
Five years later, I was a 23-year-old bisexual LGBTQ-ABC-123 ally. And I wanted to get weird. I’d just graduated from art school, quit a job teaching swim lessons in Chinatown, and been hired at an office that tolerated my hand-stitched clothes and BO musk. Administrative work paid well, but I felt neutered. Traveling from a corporate office with a cooler of free soda to my Allston home, where one roommate habitually wore a cocktail dress to water his gemstones, was a bit of a disconnect. In my room, I dreamed of creating the most glamorous band ever to play the basements of Allston. We’d be like the Cockettes of 1970s San Francisco, only sloppier. We’d be like Divine, but with more guitars. We’d forever disrupt the machismo of a dude-heavy scene.
I’d wanted to start a band since the ‘90s (the ‘90s!) but hadn’t really gotten around to it. So when Ryan Major asked me to accompany him for a three-song set on Rugg Road, I said, “Sure. Dude, I have the best band name.”
Origin of Fagettes
Faggot (noun): a male homosexual (derogatory)
-ette (suffix): used in a variety of diminutive and hypocoristic formations, distinctly feminine nouns, and imitation products.
Hypocoristic (adj): endearing, as a pet name, diminutive, or euphemism.
The Fagettes (noun): product of a giant, young, recalcitrant, opinionated, occasionally nihilistic, naïve, party-hard heart.
We expected the name to stir things up some, but not with the people it did. I’ve argued over the name with family members, as would-be listeners have argued over it with fans. Every couple months we got told to go screw: “Sorry, the name won’t fly at our venue,” or “I saw kids tearing down flyers,” or “The touring band freaked out when they saw the lineup.” A siren would go off and the band would reconvene at Fagette World Headquarters to re-evaluate what the hell we were doing. What we were trying to do is not hard for me to recall.
I first got involved working for marriage equality in 2006, when I joined some of my smartest, hardest-partying friends at an organization called MassEquality. I went door-to-door collecting signatures on postcards, which would be mailed off to flood the inboxes of state legislators. These postcards carried a powerful message: I’m your constituent, and I’m for marriage equality. If you aren’t, you don’t get my vote.
The job had its ugly moments. Seeing bigots act bigot-y while I trespassed on their property honed a talent for quietly, calmly backing the fuck away. I have fond memories of one guy, a regular fixture outside the State House during rallies. This man had a book and he couldn’t stop waving it in my face. “It’s been scientifically proven that lesbians get breast and cervical cancer!” he’d scream. “And I wrote this book about it.” Children held “GAYS GO TO HELL” signs in one hand while clutching the hand of a parent in the other.
Despite some truly horrifying displays, there remained intense beauty. Being in the State House on June 14, 2007, at the very moment marriage equality became law in Massachusetts, was profoundly affecting. The video still chokes me up. Recorded on a flip phone, it’s a plain reminder of how the past few years have trickled by.
Many things have changed for the LGBTQ community since 2007, and many things have changed for this band since we formed. Our first bassist, a self-described Gold Star lesbian, quit us in Tennessee. Wherever she is now, I doubt she still wears a wig that makes her head look like a brunette pineapple. My own performance dress code has relaxed quite a bit. We’ve grown to include two new members, and we’re better at our instruments. We’re tired of having a band name that comes with a thesis statement. We’re tired of wondering if we should be sorry. We’re especially through with being misunderstood.
The feeling I got in the State House back in 2007 is the same feeling I get from playing rock ‘n’ roll. It’s humbling and it’s potent to exist within something as part of a whole, and that power can’t come from a name. “Fagettes” started as a concept of freedom. The more it limits us, the more it shrivels into a lump of youthful indignation to carry in my back pocket. Just last week, it unceremoniously got lost in the wash. It trickled its way back to a fountain of youth I no longer drink from.
What was shed will be missed: cassettes made by hand; fastening down wigs before each set; owning more costume clothes than not. What remains is essential. So we convene yet again at Fagette World Headquarters to discuss a new name, one to fit the time we’re in.
Origin of Barbazons
Barbarian (noun): (in ancient times) a member of a community or tribe not belonging to one of the great civilizations.
Amazon (noun): a member of a legendary race of female warriors believed by the ancient Greeks to exist on the edge of the known world.
Surname for descendants of barbarians and amazons: