LCD Soundsystem has been in the news for quite some time. After announcing their breakup with a farewell concert back in 2011, the group announced last year that it was getting back together, with a new album on the way this September. The band is in the news again, though this time has nothing to do with music.
Gavin Russom, the iconic band’s synth player, has come out as transgender. She officially came out after years of attempts and questions. In an interview with grinder (a mxdwn first), Russom talks about her early years and how she always suspected that she was transgender. “This is my fifth decade being alive,” she said, “and in each of those decades, there’s been a time where I’ve tried to say ‘Hey, I think I’m transgender!’ This was even before that word existed.”
Russom grew up in a very musical family, and music would not only help her sound while working with LCD Soundsystem, but her gender expression as well. Russom claims that she always identified “along the feminine spectrum.” While a kid in elementary school, she would wear black-and-white saddle shoes and not consider it un-masculine, though classmates would accuse her of wearing “girl shoes.”
While she always leaned on the feminine side of the spectrum, Russom still struggled to fully understand her identity. She consistently dealt with what she called an “or-like thinking.” “You have to be a classical musician or play in punk bands,” Russom said. “You have to be a boy or a girl.”
When Russom was older while living in New York, she discovered the city’s nightclub scene and its “boundarylessness.” For Russom, the dancefloor was a safe haven for queer clubgoers during the AIDS epidemic and the first Bush era. It was a place where queer people could express themselves—whether it was with their sexuality or their identity. Russom’s time in Berlin was also another area where she could feel comfortable coming to terms with her identity. Berlin was the home of Magnus Hirschfeld, who was considered to be one of the first advocates for LGBT rights, and has made Berlin an area open to all LGBT members.
When LCD Soundsystem announced their comeback with a tour to promote the new album, Russom said that she “could not imagine’ continuing the charade any longer. “My body rejected it in the same that it now utterly rejects going into a men’s bathroom or when somebody calls me ‘sir.’”
After the announcement, Russom described her bandmates as “really supportive” toward her transisiotn. “The general feeling in the group is that will make the band better.” Since she came out, Russom says that she feels more connected on stage, both to her bandmates and to the music.
It is not without her struggles though, she says. The hypervisibility that comes with being in the band have made some days difficult for her, not to mention the country’s increasing hostility to transgender people.
Despite that, however, Russom hopes her visibility can be an inspiration to others to come out in their own lives and communities.
“For anybody who is struggling with their gender identity or who wants to come out and is afraid to,” Russom said, “what would be better than giving someone permission to do that through my performance? That’s the ultimate. It’s what other people gave to me, so I’d love to pass that along to other people, too.”
Photo Credit: Sharon Alagna