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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter amplifies vocal “noise” as a polyvalent marker for the complex nexus of oppressive and liberatory effects of Joe Stevens’s voice. A white, upper-middle-class, transgender, disabled Americana/folk singer, Stevens’s visibility provides critical redress for white trans men. Yet the discussion cautions that the emergence of visibly able-bodied white trans men as the new face of transgenderism risks (re)producing Others who are too Brown, Black, disabled, poor, or otherwise strange to fully “count” as trans. Drawing from four years of ethnographic fieldwork between 2009 and 2013, the chapter deploys noise literally, metaphorically, and metonymically. On a literal level, noise signals timbral changes to Stevens’s voice as a result of growing up in a society that renders transgender an unlivable subject position. Through coping mechanisms of smoking and drinking, Stevens’s voice literally became “noisy,” to borrow a communication science term for hoarseness or breathiness. The chapter also considers the effects of testosterone hormone therapy on the voice. Metaphorically, noise makes audible underrepresented narratological and affective aspects of transgenderism in Stevens’s music. The discussion harnesses noise’s metonymic capabilities to think through the effects of Stevens’s music on a wider popular trans imaginary. The research nuances Stevens’s race and class privileges by considering how chronic illness and addiction trouble his claims to status or power. Employing a theoretical methodology of “trans-ing,” the discussion analyzes Stevens’s race, class, gender, sex and sexuality, and disability, all from a voice-centered perspective.

Keywords: class, disability, masculinity, noise, race, sexuality, transgender, voice, whiteness, music

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