Last week's Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage was a historic moment for the United States. It was a watershed decision that generations of people fought hard to achieve, meaning society is just a little bit closer to equality. But here in Texas, where politicians are still trying to find loopholes to prevent any marriages from happening, the ruling is more a cause for cautious optimism. For LGBTQ musicians in particular, it's a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
Bukkake Moms are just one group that represent local music created by queer artists. Based out of Denton, they're known for their harsh dissonant guitars and pervasive lyrical content. In the past, the band came out with recording titles like Not Your Boner Bro and the Gay Caves EP and wrote songs like “The Dildo Myths,” “Into Bears” and “Eat, Pray and Love the Gay Away”.
For vocalist Reece McLean, who's now 24, growing up in the small town of Princeton (near McKinney), gay marriage was just something that he thought was right. He says that living queer in a place like that, he saw that most people were closed minded.
“People were just like 'Oh, they want to get married,' and I was like, 'Yeah ... that should be happening,'” he says.
McLean had been involved with activism at UNT in the past, although nowadays he feels that creating and performing his music is a form activism. To him, the ruling is important, although there he sees more pressing issues taking place.
“I don't think I'll ever get married. I don't think it's something that I'll participate in. I am glad that it finally happened. It's cool,” he says. “It doesn't seem to be a very important issue in comparison to queer and trans homelessness, trans women of color being killed so often. To me it just doesn't seem like a priority except for people that want to get married.”
Julie McKendrick, another Denton musician, has played in several bands over the years including Christian Teenage Runaway, Rival Gang and Vulgar Fashion. She was raised in a military Mormon family, which had a huge impact on her music. Growing up, she knew early on in her life that she wasn't a “normal' girl. When she was young, she was diagnosed with gender identity disorder and didn't know anyone that she could relate to about being gay until she was in her late teens.
To her, while the Internet generation makes being queer something that can be more out in the open today, she grew up with only television at a time when gay or lesbian relationships were not even mentioned in public conversation.
“Part of the reason I moved to Denton was because I did notice some kind of a little queer music community. It was not in any way as it is now but I was able to connect to some other queer women,” she says.
The supreme court ruling represents a slight relief for McKendrick, although she wishes that it could've happened sooner.
“For me personally, it would've been great if I was younger when this happened but I'm real excited about it,” she says. “It's like a symbol of being accepted and being more integrated into society. Or welcomed, or just being treated as a person.”
Dezman Lehman is known for his infectious dance pop tunes that he performs solo as Dezi 5. He grew up around the Deep Ellum music scene, playing clubs in rock and R&B groups and eventually finding his place in the industry.
To him, he doesn't care to be known for being gay; his life, first and formest, is about performing and his music. As a performer, Lehman is heavily influenced by glam rock. “Those songs that let me escape from the harsh realities of people being mean to me as a kid and being mean to me as a younger adult in college,” he explains. “I wasn't like them so I had to escape and listen to Freddie Mercury, George Michael, Grace Jones and Elton John and this music really helped me escape to a place where nobody else could take me.”
He also thinks that the same sex marriage ruling is nice, but as a single gay performer who's just trying to make music it's not something that affects him significantly, except that he'll probably be playing more weddings, since he is a wedding singer after all.
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“I'm glad that people have the choice to do it if they want to but I'm like, 'Okay, on to the next issue',” says Lehman. “I feel like we're all focused on the gays and the straights and the whites and the blacks and everything, but we have a planet that we live on and we need to take care of the reproduction and the soil and just take care of Mother Earth, you know.”
As for the cultural environment, Lehman doesn't think a lot of things are going to change. Just like there's still racism, there's also still sexism in the country, he says.
“People are always going to look at us as a joke. We're always just about sex, that's all they think about us. When really we're just trying to have lives, just trying to do things just like everybody else,” he says. “It shouldn't even have a label. I'm at this point now where I'm so sick of seeing the letters 'LGBT' when we're all human, it's a human experience. All humans fall in love, all humans have sex, make art and go to work, so stop separating all of it.”