March 31st is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day meant to celebrate trans people in a world that frequently marginalizes and mistreats them. This year, as states like Arkansas pass cruel laws aimed at denying trans people healthcare and dignity, observing this day feels especially important — and the history of trans resistance offered by Boston-based artist/activist Evan Greer’s new music video for “The Tyranny of Either/Or” couldn’t be more timely.
The song is a pop-punk anthem that could fit in with Green Day’s Nineties hits, with lyrics described in a release as “an angry open letter to TERFs and other transphobes.” Greer sings over surging guitars: “From the second we are born, we’re forced to fight for every breath… You play the victim, our existence is a threat/But we were not the ones to declare war.”
The music video opens with footage of the late activist Sylvia Rivera speaking at a 1973 rally, challenging the mainstream gay liberation movement of that time to do more for transgender people, people of color, incarcerated people, and other vulnerable communities. The video goes on to chronicle the crucial role of trans people in historic events like the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot of 1966 and the Stonewall uprising of 1969, highlighting the radical politics that have powered this movement through the decades, and celebrating the contributions of Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and others.
“So much of this history is hidden and inaccessible, especially for young trans and gender-nonconforming people,” Greer writes in a statement. “So why not have a pop-punk music video that’s also a mini-documentary about the movement for trans and queer liberation?”
Greer’s statement continues: “It’s been more than 50 years since Stonewall, and trans and gender-nonconforming people are still under attack. We still face systemic violence and discrimination, and we still have to struggle just to have our basic humanity recognized. Not just by the public at large, but even within the mainstream LGBTQ rights movement, which has consistently failed to fight for the most marginalized members of our community, especially Black and brown trans women, sex workers, incarcerated people, and unhoused youth. ‘Tyranny of Either/Or’ is a song that I needed as a young trans person navigating the world. It’s about reconnecting with our collective history of resistance and self-determination, and celebrating all of the bullshit that trans people have overcome while recognizing how much further we still have to go.”
(In case anyone is wondering, Greer confirms to RS that the title of this song should not be interpreted as a sneak critique of Elliott Smith’s classic 1997 LP Either/Or: “I honestly could not think of a single bad thing to say about that album,” Greer notes with a laugh. “It’s more just about the gender binary and thinking about it through the lens of an unnecessary and repressive structure that has just dominated so many people’s lives for literal centuries.”)
“The Tyranny of Either/Or” is the latest single from Greer’s new album, Spotify Is Surveillance, out April 9th on Get Better Records — the righteous Philly DIY label that has brought us great punk records by bands like Empath, Control Top, and Suzie True — and Don Giovanni Records. Bandcamp proceeds from the single will go to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.