Emily Williams of Axis Evil and Genderpunk.net on her trans experience and cultural appropriation (GRRL031)

Grrl on Grrl is back again with episode 31 featuring Emily Williams.

We talk about her music project Axis Evil–some weird time signature drum stuff, some weird guitar stuff,  a sitar she bought in India, along with some very, very personal lyrics; navigating her trans-ness and her woman-ness thru the lenses of her science and engineering background at her blog Genderpunk.net; and being a token minority.

The interview was recorded early 2017, when she had just recently released her album City of God. Since then, she’s released a second album Light Me Up and Love the Bomb in September of 2017, and she continues to release new material.

Thank you to Emily Williams for taking the time to sit with me and for sharing her thoughts and music.

Thanks to The Fresh Brunettes for providing their song “Best of the Worst” as the new Grrl on Grrl theme song! You can find their album Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition on CDBaby.


Download GRRL031 at Libsyn [35 minutes; 34MB] or stream from these websites [iTunes | Stitcher | TuneIn | Google Play]

Show Notes

  • Her music project, Axis Evil – “sophisticated punk rock that borders metal”
    • Getting her heart broken over two Valentine’s Days: “I was really pissed that I didn’t have a date… so I wrote a song.”
    • Playing around with algorithms with multiple types of drummers (sounds like GarageBand)
    • Multiple layers
  • Learning and playing the sitar / cultural appropriation
    • A tangent into June wanting to learn the shamisen; fears of it and other “exotic” instruments being used just for musical flavor
    • Cultural appropriation – how does Emily, a non-Indian white woman, justify learning the sitar and using it in her music – “paying her dues”
      • A set piece vs. an entire culture/history
  • “Prim and proper lady-like behavior” – Wrestling with the concept of “being a woman” and further “being a lady”
    • Being forced into the lady-like behavior vs. choosing it as an exploration of gender
    • Head over to bonus episode GRRL031B to hear more about her exploration of her psychosexuality
  • The marginalized being put in a box by the unmarginalized
  • More information on the model minority myth
    • Model minority myth goes hand-in-hand with white supremacy
    • The Model Minority is Not a Myth: It’s Ajit Pai” by Aditi Natasha Kini (published at The Root)
    • Placing Asians and Asian Americans in this “model minority” status has been historically used to pit us against other racial minorities – “Why can’t you work hard like the Asians?”
    • It puts Asian Americans in a monolithic group, which can be dangerous to those who don’t fit the “mold” or don’t come from the right countries
  • [12:10] Axis Evil – Redshift
  • Being a woman in science and engineering
    • Her job and people at work were supportive, but hostile while a student (and pre-transition)
    • Being transgender as a bribery and blackmail risk; can’t work with the military / get a security clearance
  •  Feeling safe while on the military base vs. out in the city in the Deep South
    • “Bathroom bill” – attempts to legislate who can and cannot use their bathroom based on their gender and sex
    • Class & education being more tolerant? Eeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
    • “You have to understand… I had to rationalize this to walk out the door.”
  • [21:10] Axis Evil – You Can Drive the World
  • Telling the woman she loved that she loved her
    • “Talk”, “Waste”, “Prayer” on City of God were about her
  • How has transitioning affected Emily’s music
    • Changing audiences and marketability
    • City of God as part of a trans narrative
  • Facebook marketing in India
    • Branding as being “selectively famous”
  • What’s the difference Emily wants to make with her music?
    • Suicide rate in the trans community
    • Being an additional voice not just for herself but for future voices
    • Her voice being one type of voice, but we need different types of voices
  • [32:15] Axis Evil – Stand


2 thoughts on “Emily Williams of Axis Evil and Genderpunk.net on her trans experience and cultural appropriation (GRRL031)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.