Trans visibility at Ezra Furman’s Brooklyn concert

Williamsburg is a hodge-podge of different eras in Brooklyn’s history. Its upscale apartments reflect post-2005 gentrification. Its bodegas and food joints evoke the era when new Italian immigrants and Mafia soldiers lived in the neighborhood. And its queer artsiness is still highly visible.

When I arrived at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Thursday, March 23rd, I fell into line with a bunch of flamboyant queers. One of the first people in line was a trans woman. Plenty of folks were wearing leather. One gal was talking loudly about her girlfriend. This was definitely a Williamsburg crowd.

Equally, it was an Ezra Furman crowd. I first discovered Jewish trans singer-songwriter Furman a few years ago when a friend showed me Transangelic Exodus, Furman’s concept album about a queer person and their guardian angel fleeing an authoritarian government. Clearly this was extremely my shit, and I fell in love with the album, but for the longest time I failed to hear Furman’s other stuff (a mistake I still hadn’t rectified when I got to Williamsburg).

I wasn’t in the best of moods that night. It wasn’t the first time I’d been to Williamsburg while mourning a turn of events — that neighborhood has some weird associations for me. It’s not my favorite part of Brooklyn, which is probably BedStuy, nor is it my least favorite (Bushwick exists). But it was familiar enough to be comforting.

Lately I’ve been in an emotional downturn. I’ve felt isolated and abandoned in my personal life. My country is slowly orchestrating a legislative genocide against me. And I don’t belong where I am. It’s hard to be visible. Most of the time I feel invisible. Feeling seen when you’re dissociated and grieving feels as paradoxical as feeling loved as a trans person in America. 

Yet that night I felt love in Williamsburg. This was a crowd I belonged to — queer and decadent. The support act, Jeffrey Lewis, wasn’t quite my scene, but he wasn’t unhelpful. But when Furman herself came onstage, I felt like I was watching a trans priestess administer a ritual to heal every person in the room.

Furman, an up-and-coming Rabbi, is profoundly spiritual not just in her writing but in her performing style. The way she strives around onstage feels like nothing short of prayer — a cry to Adonai for help, yet a call of surrender. The way she lovingly caressed amplifiers is a kind of musical tenderness I’ve never seen onstage.

It was healing. It was thrilling. By the end of the night my ear drums were busted but it was worth it. When Furman broke into her classic glam hit “Suck the Blood from My Wound,” I hopped up and released an adolescent scream which I hadn’t heard from myself in about 15 years. One of the venue employees seemed both alarmed and charmed by my display.

More than a week later, I feel invisible again. But for just one night, I belonged to a community. A great trans Rabbi, Ezra Furman, helped me find God in my gender for just one night. It was prayer, it was surrender, and it was decadent, furious rock ‘n’ roll.

Happy Trans Day of Visibility.