Lazy Girl's set was anything but. Macy Rodman moved across the stage of Brooklyn's Good Room with a mid-aughts party girl purpose, cutting through the Trix Yogurt haze of the gem-tone spotlights to claim every inch of the Greenpoint venue as her own.
Macy's no stranger to the politics of taking up space. Blissful ignorance of how one's body will be received in a given environment is a luxury not often afforded to trans people. The songs on her HELP EP—self-released on SoundCloud and Bandcamp back in February—reflect the experience of constantly having to assert her right to exist in a culture that would rather see her erased. But while the everyday transmisogyny that fuels everything from street harassment to the passage of transphobic "bathroom bills" might make Rodman "wanna lay down and die," to borrow a phrase from her underground breakout hit "Lazy Girl," there she was last Friday night: taking up space and annihilating the crowd with her presence.
Before she became the self-described "trans pop Courtney Love" we know and stan for, Macy was just a little seal girl living in the real world. Born and raised in Juneau, Alaska, she left the non-contiguous tundra of the 49th state at 18 to pursue her bachelor's degree at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. After dropping out in her sophomore year, she embedded herself deeper and deeper into Brooklyn's queer nightlife, and before long she was hosting and performing at events of her own.
For three years, Macy threw a party-slash-queer performance variety show called BATHSALTS at Williamsburg bar Don Pedro. It's been nearly a year since the last installment of her so-called "Drag Show For F&%$ups" took place, but Rodman, like J.Lo before her, knows where she came from. To honor her come-up on the JMZ, the 26-year-old included a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" as the closing track on her HELP EP—the same song she'd often sing to close BATHSALTS.
"It was just this ode to where I've been, where I'm going," she said of the decision when we spoke in March. "A really nice way to tie it all together."
Macy co-produced the HELP EP with New York DJ JX Cannon—with the exception of "Don't Break My Heart," which she produced entirely by herself, "from top to bottom." She told me that the writing and recording process took the pair the "better part of a year." She'd write lyrics and make beats on her own until the songs were about "half figured out," then she'd take the tracks to JX so they could "build up from there" using "pretty basic pop stuff" (drum machine, synths) and various music software applications (REAPER, Reason, GarageBand, Logic Pro).
Although it's only five songs long, HELP covers a lot of ground. Rodman stays high off the energy of a new crush even when she's coming down ("Drug Nights"). She contemplates vengeance against those who perpetrate anti-trans violence against her ("Violent Young Men," the forthcoming video for which was directed by Jake Dibeler of the band Bottoms). She details the psychological toll of existing while trans over a bratty-cute beat ("Lazy Girl"). She foresees the coming end of a relationship with Cassandra-like clarity ("Don't Break My Heart"). And finally, she gathers her missing pieces to begin anew ("Landslide"). The EP as a whole is framed within the upswing and subsequent downswing of a complete depressive cycle: the cautious optimism, the pent-up rage, the paralyzing ennui, the profound sense of powerlessness. It's all there within in the EP's 19-minute, 37-second runtime.
While she's far from the first musician to tackle depression in her work, Macy's exploration of that theme is unique—if not singular—for its portrayal of transmisognyny as a situational catalyst for depression.
"Aside from the, like, chemical depression, I think that a lot of the agoraphobia and fear of going outside—what I'm talking about in 'Lazy Girl'—is not wanting to have to deal," she told me. "Some of that is fear, and some of that is this, like, need to want to present in a certain way that takes a lot of effort. And oftentimes, that effort isn't even recognized. [It's a] combination of frustration, fear, hormones—it's a lot of factors."
"Violent Young Men" explores those factors most directly. The track—which Mask Magazine co-owner Isabelle Nastasia dubbed a "queer bash-back-esque anthem for the ages"—was inspired by Macy's firsthand experiences of being "roughed up on my way home for no other foreseeable reason than just presenting as female." Over a disorienting, death-spiral instrumental, Macy describes, in visceral detail, what these "violent young men"—and the culture that produced them—would do to her if they had the chance:
"They wanna rip out my eyes, they wanna tear off my skin
They wanna kiss me goodbye, they wanna let themselves in
They wanna rip out my eyes, they wanna tear off my skin
They wanna see my demise at the hands of violent young men"
But about halfway through, Rodman makes like Valerie Solanas and spits on their graves:
"I wanna rip out your eyes, I wanna tear off your skin
I wanna kiss you goodbye, I'll never let you back in
I wanna rip out your eyes, I wanna tear off your skin
I wanna see the demise of all these violent young men"
Study after study from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs finds that transgender women are disproportionately the victims of hate violence and intimate partner violence. Trans women of color are even more vulnerable, and, as the 19 months activist CeCe McDonald served in prison on first-degree manslaughter charges prove, even self-defense is fraught. Despite being a banner year for trans visibility thanks to Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, and the indie film Tangerine, 2015 also saw the number of murdered trans women nearly double over the previous year—and the majority of those killed were trans women of color. This is all to say that the threat of violence is very real for many trans women, even if the kind of retribution Rodman explores in "Violent Young Men" is not. But within the world of her creative work, Macy is able to take back control.
"I guess [the song is] a form of reclamation," she said. "I was just getting frustrated, like, what do I have to do just to walk in peace?"
Macy closed her Good Room set with a cover of Annie Lennox's too-beautiful-for-this-world 1992 track "Walking on Broken Glass." She sang:
"So, take me from the wreckage
Save me from the blast
Lift me up, and take me back
Don't let me keep on walking
I cant keep on walking on
Can't keep on walking on broken glass"
Within an hour, the night's headliner had taken the stage. Serving '60s glamour with a blonde beehive and bright pastel eyeshadow, Mykki Blanco performed new material alongside revamped classics like her summer 2012 banger "Wavvy." She even whipped out an a cappella rendition of the Jeremiah Meece-produced "Macy Rodman Flow," which samples Macy's "Lazy Girl."
Scattered throughout the thoroughly rapt audience, now at least four times larger and rolling its collective early twentysomething face off, small battles over space were playing out. A white guy to my left aggressively moshed up against a black woman in front of him, despite her repeated attempts to physically communicate that she wanted him to stop. A sloppy drunk straight couple, joined at the hip, refused to take no for an answer as they shoved their way to the front of the very queer crowd. A trio of gays in button-ups stepped in front of me about two songs before Blanco's set came to a close, blocking my view. "Sorry," the tallest of them giggled as he craned his neck back to meet my gaze. Too drained and disappointed to say anything in return, I found my coat and retreated to the back.
Bad at filling out bios seeks same.