story and photo by Jack Silbert
Lily Mastrodimos’s band, Long Neck, has received major acclaim from Rolling Stone and the New York Times, but her heart lies with longtime friends and also in the tightly-knit network of fiercely independent musicians and small venues from coast to coast. So when a leaked memo revealed that the Trump administration wants to narrowly define gender as one’s birth sex, she knew that her many transgender friends stood to lose crucial rights. But how can a 25-year-old, Hoboken-raised cis girl (cis = gender identity matching birth-assigned sex) make a difference?
“I didn’t want to be silent and inactive, especially when so many people I love are hurting and afraid,” Mastrodimos tells hMAG. “I was trying to think of the best way to use my resources.”
One obvious resource is the popular 11th Street music store Guitar Bar Jr., owned by Lily’s dad, James Mastro, a renowned musician in his own right. The shop occasionally hosts intimate performances by national acts such as Jill Sobule, Freedy Johnston, and Garland Jeffreys, and James had encouraged Lily to organize her own shows there. Lily says, “So when I brought this up with him, saying I wanted to do a show the next week, he said, ‘Yeah! Do it.’”
The bill came together quickly (“I know some pretty incredible, really generous artists,” Lily explains) and will be held Saturday, November 3, beginning at 7 p.m., with all proceeds benefiting the National Center for Transgender Equality. The evening of nonbinary, trans, and queer musicians (click here to get up to speed on all the gender terminology) features a full-band set from Human People (Lily says: “They rip! Very cool grunge-y punk.”) and solo sets from Gobbin Jr. (“If every good dream you had came alive; sweet and tender synth pop.”), Absinthe Father from Philadelphia (“lo-fi folk with tinges of punk”), a solo version of the band Hit Like a Girl’s pop-punk from Nicolle Maroulis (who also runs an organization, No More Dysphoria, which helps transgender people get funds to start medically transitioning; she’ll have resources on hand and merchandise for sale), and Adult Mom (“Really beautiful queer punk and pop for when you’re feeling vulnerable and soft”). Earlier this fall, Lily joined Adult Mom on guitar for a United Kingdom/European tour.
The suggested donation is $10, but Mastrodimos stressed that no one will be turned away for lack of funds. “If you are able to donate anything, that’s great,” she says. “If you’re not, come anyway. Have a conversation with a queer, trans, or nonbinary person. Get to know who they are and what they need. Carry what they say with you so you can talk with other cis people about it.”
If you are unable to attend, Lily suggests making a contribution to the National Center for Transgender Equality or other organizations dedicated to the cause: Trans Lifeline, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, No More Dysphoria, Black and Pink: NYC, Lambda Legal, and the Transgender Law Center.
With attacks seemingly coming from every direction — transgender rights threatened, Nazi bands playing in Clifton, New Jersey, pipe bombs sent to Democrats, a white supremacist killing people at a Kentucky grocery store, anti-Semitic gun massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, etc. — it’s easy for gentle, caring people to feel completely helpless these days.
“The best thing you can do is educate yourself, and get involved any way you can,” says Lily Mastrodimos. “I think this administration wants us to feel hopeless. But see if you can muster enough strength to take that feeling and turn it into action. Become a better neighbor. And don’t be afraid to get a little radical.”
Visit the event page on Facebook for more information and any updates.