My music of choice is heavy metal. I love it. I buy the music, the merch, and I go to shows. I support the art I love, and it brings me a lot of joy.
The metal world is very dude-centric, specifically cisgender white dudes. More of these dudes than you might expect are LGBTQ+ allies, while a not insignificant number are homo/transphobic creeps.
On April 30, Paul Stanley of Kiss decided that he needed to step into the discussion about trans kids. In a post that began, “My Thoughts On What I’m Seeing,” he said that parents of trans kids were “turning this into a game” and “normalizing it as some sort of natural alternative.”
“With many children who have no real sense of sexuality or sexual experiences caught up in the ‘fun’ of using pronouns and saying what they identify as, some adults mistakenly confuse teaching acceptance with normalizing and encouraging a situation that has been a struggle for those truly affected and have turned it into a sad and dangerous fad,” Stanley wrote.
He’s basically arguing that adults who support trans kids or their health-care needs are being reckless and don’t have the best interests of the kids at heart. That’s the right-wing narrative that lawmakers across the country are using to ban trans health care or, like in Florida, declaring parents of trans kids as unfit and taking their kids away. To be clear, it’s not a game or a fad and no one who loves and cares for a trans child, especially in the face of so much hatred and bigotry, thinks that it is.
Stanley also confuses gender with sexuality, which aren’t the same. To allow a kid to express their gender identity is not sexualizing them. That’s another gross right-wing talking point.
The next day, Dee Snider decided that he, too, needed to weigh in on the topic and defended Stanley.
“You know what? There was a time where I ‘felt pretty’ too. Glad my parents didn’t jump to any rash conclusions! Well said, Paul Stanley,” Snider tweeted.
Except, for all of the reasons I’ve stated, it was not well said. Stanley’s were not the comments of someone knowledgeable about this issue, and he was perpetuating danger. And so, Snider was disinvited from the San Francisco Pride event where he was going to perform his signature song, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
“When we were notified about the tweet in which Dee expressed support for Kiss’ Paul Stanley’s transphobic statement, we were heartbroken and angry,” San Francisco Pride said in a statement, continuing that they “appreciate Dee seeing this as a teachable moment and a reminder that even allies need to be educated to ensure that they are not casually promoting transphobia.”
Except Snider has apparently not used this as a teachable moment. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry, I’ll do better,” he has made this all about him. He’s the real victim here.
“I was not aware the Transgender community expects fealty and total agreement with all their beliefs and any variation or deviation is considered ‘transphobic,’” Snider wrote in a Facebook post. “For some Transgender people (not all) to accuse supporters, like me, of transphobia is not a good look for their cause,” Snider said in response.
It’s like he doesn’t understand, or feel the need to understand, why Stanley’s comments were so harmful. The idea that little kids are being sliced and diced as part of a trans agenda is an incredibly harmful lie that incites violence. Stanley was perpetuating that lie. And Dee’s response was to AGREE WITH HIM.
“As a parent, I disagreed with children’s ability to make cognizant decisions at the age of five, six and seven. In my learned opinion, they are not capable,” Snider said on June 8, doubling down. “You’re not canceling me. You’re not shutting me up. And…the LGBTQIA+ community, and whatever letters we’re adding, they need the support of not just the people who agree with them one hundred percent. They need the support of the middle, and that’s where most of us are.”
And that is true. Most people are in the “middle” on this issue. Unfortunately, what constitutes the middle is not at all clear since it’s hard to find a middle ground between “Let trans kids exist and be happy” and “Eradicate transgender kids and terrorize them.” Stanley’s comments were much closer to the latter. Snider agreed with him. And he doesn’t see it as a problem. That’s the problem.
There is a difference between Stanley and Snider, however. Stanley (kind of) apologized.
“I’m not apologizing,” Snider said. “Not when I did nothing wrong.”
A teachable moment, indeed.
Oh, and if you want to check out some awesome queer metal, check out Project: Rowenwolfe (their new self-titled album absolutely rips), Transgressive and, of course, the mighty Judas Priest. Rock out with your Pride out.
D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.