On Monday, February 29th, 2016, active member of the Akron punk rock scene, LGBTQ* activist, and loyal friend to many Rachel Bishop (AKA Rachel Logic) was involved in a fatal car accident. During her life, she made a huge impact on nearly everyone who knew her, and was an inspiration to so many due to her bravery, honesty, sense of humor, and big heart.
When I met Rachel, everyone knew her by a different name. At the time, she was the bassist of the band Dropgun, who my band at the time, Dead City Dealers, had played a number of shows with. Though the two of us had never talked at any great length at that time, Dropgun had become one of my favorite punk bands in the area.
Then one day, in the Fall of 2009, I got a long, detailed MySpace message from a woman with the screen name "Rachel Dreadful", explaining that she was this person I had known the last couple of years, that she was transgender, she was going through transitioning, and wondered if I would like to do an interview with her for Artless Nonculture (2.0), in order to fully come out to the regional punk rock community, as well as to help answer everyone's questions, "all in one shot." After taking a minute to let this news sink in, I was eager to help.
Over the years, Rachel became sort of an "FAQ" for transgender issues, not just for me, but to many of the people in her life. Not that that's all she was, mind you; Rachel had a huge amount of knowledge on geek culture and punk music, as well. She had a sharp, sarcastic wit, and a warm, caring personality. She was also very humble, and would probably not care much for any tribute such as this one.
When my girlfriend of 6 years passed away suddenly, back in 2014, Rachel Bishop was one of the first people to reach out to me, offering support in any way she could. Keep in mind, before this we were not close; there was a lot of mutual fondness and respect there, definitely, and we would bullshit on Facebook, but I would say we were more fond acquaintances rather than good friends. And around the one-year anniversary of this loss of a loved one, Rachel actually took the time to drive to Cleveland from Akron to spend the afternoon with me. When I sent her a message thanking her afterwards, all she said was, "We all gotta take care of each other."
Over the last 2 years, we would periodically check in on each other via social media (me, struggling with depression and other issues related to the death of my partner, and her with her own moods and health issues. This would typically be in response to one of us seeing a Facebook post from the other).
We would always invite each other to come and hang out in each of our respective cities (we were only a county apart, after all), but something would always get in the way—typically money or car troubles. I really wish we had spent more time together now, because I truly believe we would have become good friends had we lived just a little closer to each other, or had fewer financial issues. Unfortunately, time gets away from all of us, and you never know when it's gonna be your last chance. I just feel really lucky that I got to know her at all while she was here.
As a tribute, I'd like to republish the 2009 interview I conducted with her while she was transitioning. Maybe her story can help someone else who's going through a similar situation, or help quell any confusion about the entire subject for someone who just doesn't "get it."
Interview with Rachel of DROPGUN
by Sam Sinister.
ANC: Please state your name, and what you do in which band.
RD: My name is Rachel, and I play bass in DROPGUN and maybe You Have Ten Seconds to Unfuck Yourself, if we ever play again.
Now for anyone who is confused, you're not a new member to either band, correct?
No, I am not. I've been in DROPGUN for three years. My legal name is John, that's the name I was given at birth. I'm a transsexual, and Rachel is the name I go by, and will legally be my name soon.
That answers my next question then... the legally changing your name thing.
I'm reading your mind.
Wanna explain the difference between a transsexual and a transvestite?
Well, the term transgender is a blanket term, covering transvestites/cross-dressers, genderqueers, and transsexuals... and others. They all have one thing in common: They mess with gender.
A transvestite is a person who lives as their birth gender, but get some sorta kick outta cross-dressing. [The term "transvestite" has fallen out of usage in most circles within the trans community, as it is now seen as being archaic and, to some, offensive— much in the same way that "colored" and "negro" are within the black community today. -Ed.]
Transsexuals are people whose bodies developed differently than their brain.
Now, this is a new term to me... What is genderqueer, and is that different from homosexual?
Yeah, it's just people who screw with gender to the point that they completely break the binary laws of male and female. Gender and sexuality are not related.
So, how far along are you into the transition? Are you taking hormones?
Yeah, I've been doing that for a year-and-a-half or so. I've got a therapist. It's been interesting, first trying to hide the changes, like wearing a coat on stage while sweating. Second, not hiding the changes, like when my friends look at my chest. It's funny. I take two pills every day, and one shot in the leg every week. So it's a routine, but it's worth it.
At least you have a sense of humor about it. What's the reaction been like so far from your friends/band? Your family?
The band has been pretty rad. Everyone reacted in their own way, but all positive. My friends have been great; I haven't had a terrible reaction yet. I'm not saying people 100% get me, or accept me, but it's been fine so far. There's so much gender-bending in rock, I think I can get away with it a little more than, say, an accountant. (laughs)
How long before you're done with the hormone treatments, or do you never stop with them?
I'll always be taking estrogen, but I won't have to block my testosterone once I lose some of the male equipment.
When will that be?
When I raise the money. Insurance normally won't cover trans health issues in the USA, so the brunt of the bill is on me and my family. It's not uncommon for trans people to drop 40k during transition. A lot go bankrupt, blow through savings, and sell everything that's not crucial to life. If I had the cash I'd be done by now. If I hadn't of sold my soul to the devil for rock n' roll I'd be cashing that in.
(Laughs) This is gonna be an in-depth and complicated interview...
Maybe you'll win an award.
Well, if it makes you feel better, the Cavs are up by 27!
Not a basketball fan (laughs), sorry... or any sports for that matter.
If you live in Akron you gotta like the Cavs, it's the rules.
So, when did you first realize that you were... uh, for lack of a better word, different?
From the time I was able to notice the difference between boys and girls. I knew if I tried to hang with the girls I'd get messed with, so I hung out with the guys and envied the girls from afar. It was weird when everyone was growing up, I didn't understand why I was becoming more boyish.
Well, then later in life, I'm sure it's easier to hang out with mixed company, though...
Sure, and I didn't hate being a guy, it just wasn't the perfect fit. When I was growing up, I latched on to punk rock, because at least then I could control why I was an outcast. I know other trans people latch on to things like sci-fi, and comics, and stuff like that. In fact, there was a band called Label the Traitor that were huge when one of their members came out as a trans person. So I know there has to be more of us out there. If I could reach out to just one punk still in the closet, then they'd reach out to one, and so on. That's one reason that I'm open with being trans, and not trying to go stealth.
One of the early New York punk frontmen, Wayne County, later became Jayne County...
That's right! Very early on, too. How punk rock is that?
I guess very... I mean, if punk is being "real" and saying, "Fuck you, this is me and you can deal with it or get out of my way," then I'd say you're pretty damn punk rock.
Bobby Steele of the Undead is friends with Jayne and he's shared a few stories online (laughs).
Okay so, you mentioned that sexuality and gender are completely unrelated. What exactly is your sexual orientation? I mean, since "gay" and "straight" are usually determined by whatever gender you happen to be...
Well, as a guy I'm straight, and as a girl I'm lesbian. It's a weird line to cross. That's an issue some gay people have with trans people. Some don't like the switching ability.
Would you be lesbian right now, or would that happen once the transition is complete?
I think of myself as a lesbian right now, plus it makes sex hotter (laughs).
You're married, right?
June 1st, 2010 is the big day. It's a Tuesday, because nothing is ever normal with me.
How did she take it? Was this something she's been aware of all along, or did you sorta spring it on her?
She was amazing, it doesn't hurt that she's bi. All of her family has been really nice about it too. I will marry her as a guy, however, as there is no gay marriage in Ohio (yet).
Ah, that brings up an interesting point. Once you're married, and then you "officially" become a woman, can they sort of revoke the marriage? In a legal sense, I mean?
In Ohio, where I live, I can't change my gender on my birth certificate, so my marriage will not be voided. It's really sad, some people lose their marriage after years together.
But you'll have a new social security number once you legally change your name, right?
(Very long pause) ...I think you win a prize for stumping me. I have no idea.
Yes! Free DROPGUN t-shirt?
Well, first we gotta make 'em.
We're a lazy band.
Umm... MP3's emailed to me that aren't on Devil Music?
It's all up on MySpace right now, even that Groovie Ghoulies cover we did.
Yeah, you can't download off MySpace anymore.
MySpace pisses me off more and more everyday, but I'm hooked.
I have "Alone" and "Black Whip". I downloaded those before all the changes to the player took effect...
I can't wait to get this album out, it's going to shock people a little. We have five or so songs being worked on right now. It's a real change from where the band started.
DROPGUN started off as a cover band, mostly Oi! and hardcore stuff. Then came Shittin' n' Gettin', and that was very rock and very punk with hard yelling vocals, and then Devil Music added a ton of guitar solos and calmed down a bit. The new one has a hint of surf in it, but in a rock n' roll kinda way. Sounds like nose bleeds and hooker spit.
Surf is rock 'n roll!
And I don't think Devil Music was very tame, by the way... Pretty hard rockin' stuff.
Yeah, those guys really made that one work.
What kinds of covers did you guys play in the beginning?
Well, I wasn't in the band then, but it was a lot of early punk, hardcore, and Oi!. On any given night you could have heard anything from "Crucified" to "Borstal Breakout". Now we stick to the Dead Boys, and more rock n' rollish punk.
Electric Frankenstein, New Bomb Turks, stuff like that...
Yeah, but no covers of bands who are still around. Unless it's a special kinda deal, like the Misfits for Halloween...
Well, if you play the Glenn-era stuff, that band definitely isn't still around!
Yeah, no kidding. I did go see Danzig when he brought Doyle with him to do a classic Misfits set, it was amazing.
Anything else in the works for DROPGUN besides the album?
Nope, we're just doing that right now. Billy and Paul have been writing songs left and right. We just gotta get 'em recorded and fire 'em at ya.
Any last words for our 3 or 4 readers?
Yes. If you are questioning your gender or sexuality, contact your local PFLAG. Educate yourself. Also -Rock N' Roll.
- 4/26/2009 09:02:00 PM