Dear Strauberry and Twompsax on Validation and Trans Joy
Strawberry from the Cher refuse to be tired.
Every night Strauberry says the exact same thing as she takes the stage: “We’re Twompsax from Oakland, California!” You are valid and loved and not alone and we really care about you! Twompsax has barely had an evening off their relentless touring schedule, performing back-to-back shows at punk houses, barns and halfpipes across the United States since October.
“I’m not tired,” she says, recalling a powerful and tearful Trans Remembrance Day vigil she attended in Asheville, NC last week. “The people who want us dead and don’t want to grant us basic human rights – these people are not tired. We are here, regardless of any walls, and we will continue to be there to do so.
Beyond the stage, Strauberry has grown into a respected force in the skateboarding world, known for jumping over walls in style. As a runaway teenager, she learned to skate by crushing coffins in the parking lot of a Bay Area funeral home. At 28, she made waves as one of the first transgender skateboarders to go pro. One of his plates is even in the National Museum of American History. Most people think Strauberry is primarily a skater and she’s amazing and iconic, but she’s much more than that. She is a musician with a full catalog of solo and group records under her belt, a zinester (with a hardcover collection released by Seth Bogart next year) and an advocate for the trans community.
While cisgender heterosexual tales of transited keep the specter of death behind discussions of trans identity, Strauberry uses his skateboard and punk music to resist this tale, instead emphasizing joy, rage, possibility and trans life.
Twompsax is a team of friends based in Oakland who have turned into teammates. It was after a Limpwrist and Younger Lovers concert at 924 Gilman Street that Strauberry was no longer afraid to be herself. In real punk fashion, his bandmates wear only their first names – Ian plays the drums, Izzy play guitar, Tris plays bass, Strauberry sings, and for the duration of this tour, Chris aka “Scootch” is their bodyguard, librarian and driver.
While there was a lot to love about touring, it wasn’t all “peach and cream,” Strauberry says, joking about living on a diet of nicotine and coffee while cruising through. a “sea of anarchy”, referring to the songs of Sheryl Crow. she and her fellow Twompsax group can’t get enough. She even had to fight a man on stage in upstate New York after refusing to stop pushing the girls into the pit after multiple warnings.
Music is central, but the driving force of this tour is community. “I have never met so many children who understood their s— much more than I did when I was a teenager!” Tris says laughing and commenting on the beautiful cycle of trans validation between the group and the crowd every night.
After each concert, the group takes photos for hours with fans, and even received letters of thanks and support. Strauberry brought 20 skateboards with her on tour to distribute to kids, hoping to inspire more trans skateboarders in small towns. The last skateboard she gifted was her own full deck to a 16-year-old trans girl in St. Louis that her mother had brought her to the show. Many parents came with their trans children to see Twompsax, and Strauberry spent several nights crying with these parents and children of joy and hope.
In the vein of bands like Blatz and Limpwrist, Twompsax negotiates aggressive, fast, short and catchy songs that make you want to dance and scream. Some songs directly tackle trans issues like “Trap,” a manic punk anthem about taking transphobic and homophobic slurs and turning them into something powerful. “Chelsea Hair” is a soft, bouncy 30 second pop banger that cuts through punk hair politics, feeling cute and experimenting with the cisgender look in public. Twompsax’s last tape, “Disgusting Me Out,” was recorded by the band in a room in Texas turned into a studio.
A whole punk rock vans tour of the United States is grueling. There are a lot of traditions and fetishization of “the pickup truck” from a white male perspective. Die-hard punk fans are very familiar with the aesthetic of getting into the van and sharing a duffel bag, swinging and rolling across the plains with a borderline Protestant emphasis on work ethic, sacrifice and brutality. as the ironic cornerstone of punk.
“Touring with a trans and queer band is a lot different than touring with a bunch of stupid guys,” says Ian, “tours are really tense for a band like us, but we support each other. Billboards, road signs and public toilets on the road are a constant reminder of the dangers and potential harm to trans and gay people.
The gigs are safe, but during the interim Strauberry notes that she feels they are a “moving target.” It’s not just a sentiment, 2021 saw the introduction of the most anti-trans bills introduced in the United States as well as the most reported homicides of trans people. Luckily, Ian and Chris take extra responsibility by checking gas station toilets to make sure they’re safe for Strauberry, Izzy, and Tris. use. And to settle scores, the group is tagging trans symbols on highways and rest stops whenever they can.
The definition of punk is something that is constantly debated within the subculture, which has been both a haven and a site of violence for queer and trans people as well as women and people of color. Twompsax is propelled by something new in the classic confrontational and do-it-yourself spirit that the genre was built upon. While Black Flag was only about damage, Twompsax was focused on aggressive repair.
For Cher, Twompsax is an outlet to inspire transgender children “to be who they want to be,” she says. Whether it’s “write a book, go to college, [or] playing sports ”, punk is the only way for her to get the message across.
“What we do is punk,” Strauberry says, laughing at the way the word “poseur” has been thrown at queer people by men with self-imposed punk authority. “We do it 10 times harder. I hate to prove myself and I have nothing to prove. But I’m going to show these kids what they’re capable of. And that’s important to me. “
Twompsax plays on December 4th in San Diego at Fear of Noise Fest at Queen Bee’s Art and Cultural Center and on December 5 at a secret show in Los Angeles – if you wanna go, you’re gonna have to ask a punk for the address.