Evan Greer hasn’t released an album in 10 years, but she hasn’t been idle. Considering all the other things she does, it boggles the mind that the Jamaica Plain-based transgender activist and social justice bard had time to go to the studio at all to record “she/her/they/them,” which was released on Don Giovanni Records last month.
To name just a few of those things: She’s deputy director of open-Internet advocacy group Fight for the Future. She organized a nationwide tour against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and compiled an album to benefit Chelsea Manning, which featured artists such as Michael Stipe, Ted Leo, and the Kominas. When music festival South by Southwest included a clause in artists’ contracts that suggested non-US citizens could be deported if they were discovered to have performed at unauthorized shows, Greer organized a petition against it.
“I think all effective activism is a form of art,” Greer says, sitting at her desk at Make Shift Boston, the social justice-minded coworking space where she helps lead Fight for the Future by day, and hosts the monthly all-ages queer dance party Break the Chains by night.
Getting in the studio with her guitar was never at the top of her to-do list, she says, but it eventually became important enough to make versions of the songs that she could share with people besides “whoever’s in the living room, the gay bar, or wherever I’m performing.” Those new songs include elastic folk-punk tunes, an Irish-style rebel ballad, and roaring rock anthems. Greer will be playing many of them live when she celebrates the album’s release Saturday at Break the Chains.
Q. Can you tell me about choosing the album title, “she/her/they/them”? [These are the pronouns Greer uses.]
A. Being trans is just one part of who I am . . . but not all of my songs are just about being trans. I care about a wide range of things, but I did want to forefront that aspect of my identity in the album title, partly just as a way of signaling to other trans and queer people that this is music for them, this is their scene.
And the other piece is practical. As a spokesperson for a national activist group, I get misgendered by the press, like, 50 times a week if I get quoted in an AP article that gets syndicated. So just putting it right there in the album title — though I still managed to get misgendered by at least one review of the album.
Q. Do you ever feel any sort of pressure to follow a certain narrative about being trans, or being a trans artist?
A. For sure. I think most mainstream portrayals of trans people are basically that we’re an amalgamation of trauma, or this heartwarming “this football player turned into a ballerina” . . . you know, “trans people are so brave.” I think there’s so little room for portrayals of trans people as complete humans. Sure, trauma is a big piece of many of our collective experiences, but part of what I wanted to do with “she/her/they/them” was also share the celebratory aspects of being trans and queer.
Q. You had a kid between albums. Has becoming a parent affected your worldview?
A. It makes everything more urgent. I want to fight for a world that my child can grow up in. If you listen to [2009 album] “Never Surrender” versus “she/her/they/them,” I think “Never Surrender” is a very charmingly naive and earnest, hopeful record. “she/her/they/them” is maybe a bit more weathered.
I try to bring a pragmatic radicalism and reasonable optimism to what I do. I hope for the future, I hope for what we can accomplish, but it’s not a bright-eyed view of everything. It’s really important to me that I put my energy into things that are strategic where I see results, that are bringing us one step closer to a better world.
Q. Do you see a studio album as an effective way to do that?
A. I do. I know for myself there’s a few songs and a few artists that probably saved my life with their recordings. And other artists set me on the path that I’m on. Phil Ochs’s song “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” maybe had a bigger influence on me than any book or speech. So remembering that: You don’t have to be onstage at a protest singing a song for that song to have political impact. Getting these songs in the studio and sharing them in a more polished way so people can really listen to them . . . it can move people’s minds but also touch people’s hearts and remind people that they’re not alone.
BREAK THE CHAINS QUEER DANCE PARTY
At Make Shift Boston, Saturday, 6 p.m. Tickets at www.digboxoffice.comInterview was edited and condensed. Zoë Madonna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten.