In Conversation with Rainé Eliza
I met Raine at the Sentient Bean which makes sense because it’s run by hippies and we talked about local music and systematic oppression.
I was one of those people and Raine was that artist and now nine, maybe ten months later I am sitting at the Bean talking to Raine — who performs with the House of Gunt — because I thought they’d have some interesting things to say about the music scene and the state of things in our sweet little Savannah.
I asked Raine some questions. Below are some of their answers, cut down and edited for brevity and cohesion. Also I’ve sprinkled in some of my post-conversation thoughts.
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Raine: There’s just not a lot of diversity. The people that feel underrepresented are doing their best to be represented and the people who feel represented or who don’t give a shit about representation make no effort to help those who aren’t represented.
Raine was wearing brown jeans and their eyebrows were artfully slitted, hair black and short-cropped and ate a salad while we talked. I drank coffee.
It was a very pretty sunny day when we first talked. Raine and I have gotten back together to talk a couple times since this and probably again in the future.
No one is booking people because they’re trans, because they’re women, because they’re people of color.
R: Nobody in the scene is choosing to say, “No we won’t have you play;” no one is like, “No we don’t want these trans people to play,” or “No we don’t want these women to play,” but no one is booking people because they’re trans, because they’re women, because they’re people of color. And this idea that no one is trying to be discriminatory gives a lot of room for not taking responsibility because everyone is like, “Oh i’m not trying to do it, it’s just happening that way,” and you still have to take responsibility for the fact that things aren’t happening.
The bolding here is mine.
R: That’s the thing.
H: Or is it on the crowds?
R: The responsibility mostly falls on bookers and promoters because they’re the ones that are putting the lineups together and as far as the fact that there aren’t a lot of female musicians or trans musicians or people of color or black people who are doing stuff here. If there were more opportunities for them to see themselves reflected in a lineup it would encourage a space where those people feel comfortable doing something.
This next bit was from much later in our talk but I thought it ever relevant here.
R: Out of 80 acts [in the period of a month], 69 were all men. And out of the 11 [dissenting performances], six of those were shows at our house. So that’s five [not all men] acts split between eight other venues over the course of a month.
I prompted this fact when I told Raine how, when starting to write for this local music blog, I made a quick checklist of people to talk to and had some names I was (and am) really excited about and quickly realized that my whole list was straight, white, cisgendered guys. I wasn’t really sure how to feel.
R: It sucks to feel like when you criticize a community that people think that you’re causing a rift that wasn’t already there. I don’t think anything is above critique, ever. The more you care about something the more you should value being able to have comprehensive conversations about how to improve what’s happening and it’s really difficult feeling like a lot of people don’t want to put in the energy or are so off put by being criticized that they can’t see past their initial reaction to dig into what that critique is about.
I really dug the line:
The more you care about something the more you should value being able to have comprehensive conversations about how to improve what’s happening.
R: As a trans person I shouldn’t have to be telling people that they need to be doing these things [promoting diversity in representation, music]. It’s up to y’all to do it. I’m just doing it because I’m fucking sick of no one else doing it.
R: And don’t tell me I’m doing it the wrong way because you’re not doing it. You don’t get to choose how I do it. I will respect and try to understand your opinion but at the same time my priority is not making you feel comfortable. My priority is getting shit done. And if you can’t overcome how uncomfortable you feel then I don’t know really need to be wasting my time on you anyways.
Bolding mine again. I really am in awe of Raine’s convictions, the way they trust their critiques and worldview. Of course conviction can be dangerous in its zeal but Raine’s is not (I don’t think) absolutist or self-reverential but more so a dedication to critique which (I think) is cool as all fuck.
Raine then went on to describe a rift of sorts that went down this summer, the details of which don’t need to be dealt with here (I think) but in doing so they discussed an aspect to activism and dialogue and dealing with ‘backwards’ people that I thought important and interesting.
I found this to be a divisive comment. On one hand I very much dig the idea of utilizing anger and emotion and it struck me a lot because a lot of activism that I have encountered and studied has been very academic in nature. And I also dig the idea of value in discomfort. Comfortability (especially moral and ethical) seems often way overvalued.
The latter bit of the comment, though, is where people have issues. It gives off an idea of dismissiveness, maybe. There’s a common critique of activism these days that goes: “Maybe stop being so angry and just educate the people that aren’t in the know about [insert issue]. There’s a lot to learn and not everyone knows the specifics about [gender pronouns, latent discrimination, representation issues, etc.].”
In a sense this is similar to the “I dig the message but not the method” critique in that it’s dismissive of an energy or a feeling without looking at context and intent and logical structures. And I think, like Raine says, it comes more so from a place of discomfort and alienation rather than legitimate critique.
The conversation snaked to another cool point here:
R: An interesting facet of being a queer person here is that considering SCAD, there’s a lot of people who are experiencing life not heterrosexually but who don’t identify as queer. Or don’t identify as gay because right now they’re just young people who are doing stuff. That’s a whole group of people that you have to figure out how to interact with because visibility in general is a privilege. Being able to be visible about your identity is a privilege because so many people can’t do that. And it’s really important for people who can to do it.
The bolding is again mine. I love the idea of kids being kids and young people being young and not necessarily labeled, just sort of exploring. Like the corn maze has been razed or maybe they’re blind to the chalk-lines on the sidewalk that make people walk a certain way, and file into certain categories and queues.
Also notable here is the childishness (and I don’t mean to peg a purely negative connotation to ‘childishness’) of acting freely and without the consent of the structures around and above us. It’s beautiful and very much what drives a lot of people to yearn back for their childhood, to remember nostalgically youthful ignorance but it’s also important to address and confront the context which you are operating — here, identifying visibly, recognizing your identity as political and powerful.
There’s more I have transcribed from this talk and maybe I’ll share it later. But will end this here, for now.