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Rocking the transition

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Transista Groove is a three piece local Canberra band, featuring Glenda Harvey on guitar and lead vocals, Szusza Ihasz on bass and David Twynam on drums. They play an eclectic style of music fusing elements of rock, prog, jazz, blues, grunge and funk. There are two trans woman as members, writes Jenni Elomaa.

It would be difficult to find many people who don’t like music. It is a universal communication tool which allows us to express what it is to be human and to convey shared feelings and emotions. It inspires us. While we all enjoy listening to it, not all of us can play it to a professional level. That sometimes daunting responsibility is in the hands of that strange and wonderful breed of person, the professional musician. Much like a warrior, they face an audience armed with their instrument, ready to face the discerning ears, eyes and hearts of a crowd hoping to get entertainment and meaning out of their music. Expressing their own insecurities and life experiences with sometimes complete strangers. It’s quite a responsibilty and courageous. What then are we to make of transgendered musicians, already marginalised and facing discerning eyes just for being?

“Szusza and I met via a mutual friend. I had heard she could play and she had heard I could play and sing. We got on well from the start with a shared interest in music and commonality of our trans journeys” says Glenda. “Szusza had transitioned over a decade before I had when I met her and already had broken down barriers by being one of the first openly trans women in the public service. She had a idea of getting an all trans band together. We came up short finding a trans drummer, but we found David, a very experienced drummer, at a blues jam at the Canberra Harmonie German club and thus the band was founded,” she adds.

Both Szusza and Glenda were playing professionally in working bands before their transition. Did transitioning change the dynamics of being a musician? “Being a musician is not always full of pots of gold no matter who you are,” says Glenda.”There’s all the rehearsals, lugging equipment, driving to gigs. It takes effort and time and there’s no guarantee of work after all that. You have to be able to liason with venues and promote yourself which sometimes is the hardest thing to do. I don’t feel being trans made that any harder from a personal point of view. I still think it takes courage to get on stage and perform and I suppose being trans could add some apprehension. It’s rewarding though and a passion, so no hurdle is too high. We have two members that are trans and we write about our trans journeys; but we are a band of over one hundred years of professional experience and like to have our music as what we are about.” 

She adds, “However, we are both very supportive of our trans sisters and brothers and all in between. If our music and stage precence can help inspire not just other trans musicians to feel that they too can express themselves publically, but anyone not feeling they can be themselves. It is a sad thing that some trans persons are not encouraged to do so.”  

This leads to the question of whether or not there exists discrimination against trans musicians. “I know Szusza feels that she was ostracised somewhat in the music scene in Canberra when she first came out twenty years ago. We suspect that there has been some reluctance to hire us in some venues around the region simply because there are two trans persons in the band. We are an experienced band and it’s sad to think that that still exists in today’s world. We have also been supported openly by some venues, which is lovely.”

Transista Groove has just finished recording their second album, Transmission Transition, due for release in the first quarter of this year. Their first album, Fantasy to Reality can be obtained at gigs. “We are hopeful of playing at the Pride-themed night as part of this years Enlighten Festival here in Canberra” says Glenda. “Breaking down the walls of ignorance and discrimination is important and we are happy to support the cause as two proud trans persons.” 

Watch out for them at a venue in the region soon and support diversity and local music.