I wasn't really in a very good mood on Sunday. Taking the Daughter With One F out of the house so the wife can study for nursing school is my task every weekend, and though my daughter is an angel, I would remind you that so was Lucifer.
It's too hot to play outside except to swim, and the rain derailed that activity. I'm still mad at the Children's Museum for not letting her in the toddler area anymore, so we spent the day amongst the dinosaurs and the new mummies at the Museum of Natural Science. That was the plan, anyway. Instead, it was endless treks trough the gemstone hall because for some reason she thinks shiny rocks are more impressive than thunder lizards and pharaohs.
By the time we drove home, I was out of sorts and insisted on listening to my iPhone library rather than her requests to hear her endless playlist of Doctor Who musical tributes on YouTube. Yes, I was exasperated enough at a three-year-old girl to purposely not to watch music videos about my favorite show. I'm not proud, OK? I'm just tired.
Shuffle brought me to "Fallow Fields" from the Project Armageddon's Tides of Doom. Nine minutes of droning bass lines and vocals about the end of the world seemed just the thing to perk me back up. About halfway through the song, I addressed my offspring.
"Sweetheart, do you know who this is?"
"Who," said my daughter,
"This is Daddy's friend Ms. Alexis singing. Doesn't she have a pretty voice?"
"Yeah, but it's kind of weird, dad."
I had a five-second inner debate, here, and then decided to forge ahead.
"Well, yes, sweetheart. This is doom-metal, and it's kind of weird by definition. However, her voice is a little unusual even for that. You see, Ms. Alexis was born as a boy. Now she's a girl. She's such a good girl singer that she's actually up for a gold star right now."
In case you don't know what I'm talking about, the facts are these. Alexis Hollada fronts one of our best local metal acts in Project Armageddon. I'd describe them as Philip Glass, if he had written the score for Mad Max and had Patti Smith sing it while doing mescaline and Nyquil. It's very good stuff if you're into the vast entropy of an uncaring universe slowly crushing us all under the weight of emptiness.
I'm so into that sort of thing.
Hollada is also a male to female transsexual, which is actually the reason she first came to my attention. Even in a city as diverse as Houston, the transgender-metal fan community is pretty small, so when I met one I met the rest of them as well. Hollada caught me off guard first with the fact that she's -- for want of a more poetic phrase -- hot as hell, and then later because her music is very, very good.
I was especially pleased to see her nominated for Best Female Vocalist in the HPMAs this year. I realize it's not the kind of milestone that having the only major metropolitan city openly gay mayor is, but it's still pretty impressive to me. After all, what says that you rock as a female more than being included in such amazing company? When they mention you in the same breath as Cindy Pruitt, that means you are not messing around on the female-vox front.
You might think that her acceptance as a woman in a very masculine genre might be because people are ignorant of the fact. I highly doubt that's accurate. I've interviewed her pretty extensively over the last year, and while she doesn't start every show with, "Hi, I'm Alexis and I was born a dude" she doesn't hide it either. People tend to be won over by her talent and charm. When the occasional douchebag rises to cover the world in hate and vinegar, the metal scene has rallied around her and lashed back with great fury.
It's a progress that makes me feel very proud of my city.
"How did Ms. Alexis turn into a girl?" asked my daughter, breaking me out of my musing as "Fallow Fields" gave way to "Paths of Darkness."
"Well, sweetie, there's a special kind of doctor that turns boys into girls and girls into boys. They can change their bodies like..."
"Like The Doctor changes bodies!"
"Well, they don't have to be killed by a Dalek first, but yeah. Let's go with that. Some people are just born in the wrong body, and after they make sure that's the case a doctor helps them make the switch so they can have the right body."
My daughter looked thoughtful in the rearview mirror. This was some heavy stuff to lay on a three-year-old, I realized. She must be wondering if she was born in the wrong body. I decided to try a different tact.
"Remember when we went trick r' treating with Avery?"*
"Remember how Avery was dressed in a pretty black dress, and you asked me why, and I said it was because Avery was a little boy who liked girls clothes but was afraid people would make fun of him if he didn't dress like a little boy every day? So he makes a big deal out of doing it on Halloween, and I told you to tell him how pretty he was?"
"Ms. Alexis gets to do that every day now."
"Then why is her music so sad and weird?"
In my mind I was thinking about how many songs I'd written myself back in the rock star days with tears steaming down my face as I remembered the loss of the girl my daughter was named after. You sing what you feel, and what Hollada told me she felt in an interview once is that we have to learn to accept each other or this whole human experiment is doomed.
"Her music is sad and weird because she's worried that people will still be mean to her."
"That's very sad, Daddy."
"Yes, my heart, it is."
"I won't be mean to her," she said finally. "Can I watch Scooby Doo?"
I turned off the doom-metal and handed her the phone to watch Mystery Incorporated expose a time-machine fraud on a cruise ship. The last notes of Hollada's voice and bass gave way to upbeat '60s music, and I wondered if this was all it took to make the world a better place.
For more of Jef's... unique take on parenting check out the 10 First Moments in Parenting That No One Warns You About, or the time he tried to explain CDs to his daughter.
*Not his real name.
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