BY Alexander Cho
April 11 2008 12:00 AM ET
Some of this community’s recent visibility can be traced to the emergence of a few high-profile, ambiguously gendered, female-bodied celebrities in the last several years, including The L Word’s Daniela Sea and indie-rock group Le Tigre’s lesbian-identified but ambiguously male J.D. Samson. In fact, Samson is here, sharing a lawn blanket and a box of strawberries with New York-based performance artist Dynasty Handbag. Samson’s side project, a DJ duo aptly titled “MEN,” is one of the festival’s headliners.
“There’s definitely a trans revolution happening right now,” says Samson. “And [it] has been happening for the last decade, I would say, in growing numbers. People have been letting themselves be themselves, doing their gender as a nonbinary situation.”
Gender-bending and rock music have gone hand in hand for a long time, but not usually in the female-to-male direction, nor embraced by such a relatively young, visible crowd in the middle of a blatantly red state.
Kristen Schilt, a professor of sociology at Rice University in Houston, dressed in black and white petticoats and with shocking white hair, is in the crowd with her partner, Stacey. “I think, particularly among young, female-bodied people, we’re starting to see more of a change than among male-bodied people,” she says. “There are still tighter strictures on what you can do if you're male-bodied.”
Her sister-in-law, trans-male-identified Katy Koonce, whose eponymous band is a crowd favorite, adds, regarding Austin’s uniquely liberal Texan environment: “If you look at this whole ‘Keep Austin Weird’ thing -- it’s like, ‘We can own this and make it part of our town instead of being ashamed about it.’ Because we’re rock 'n' roll, and we’re educated, and we’re political. We’re this blue heart in the middle of a red state, and I think people start to take pride in that.”