â€śAnytime new diversity becomes visible as a voice of culture, that changes how everyone looks at themselves, and forces a question of just what elements our society is comprised of, who is qualified to speak as an artist and who can represent what.â€ťÂ
Trans identified writer, poet, composer and songwriter Eli Wise is a storyteller who uses lyrics to weave his tales.Â Heâ€™s an artist who uses his songs to provide windows onto his inner world.Â The subject matter of his rock songs is often dark, but Wise isnâ€™t a pessimist.Â He believes transgender musicians and artists are bring something new to cultural expression by simply telling their unique stories.Â
The essence of a culture, Wise says, can be found in its mythic tales. â€śEvery culture, even our modern one, relies on archetypes, expressed in myths, in order to understand itself.Â For instance, Star Wars is the common example given of a modern day myth that kids and adults useâ€¦to better understand our lives. The successful entrepreneur is [another] American myth. As soon as you take ideas that are an undercurrent in every day life, and extrapolate them into a larger setting, you are using a mythic structure.â€ť
Wise first became involved in the San Francisco performance community after attending Gender Pirates, a regular trans and gender queer performance, that Wise later co-produced.Â Gender Pirates is a project of United Genders of the Universe (unitedgenders.org), a San Francisco organization that sponsors support groups for â€śeveryone who views gender as having more than two options.â€ť
Wise recalls the scene during his first Gender Pirates event:Â â€śIt was very much a community gathering, which made it feel accessible to me as a new guy in town.Â Â It was also very clearly a gender queer space, which meant it was open to me wherever I fit on the spectrum, which was great because at the time I didnâ€™t know.â€ť
Later Wise joined the Collaborative Arts Insurgency (CAI), a group of poets, musicians, artists, and other creative folks in San Francisco that Wise says, â€śformed a few years ago with the idea that collaborationâ€”rather than individual egosâ€”were key to making our art succeed.â€ťÂ
Wise joined CAI after he followed friends to the corner of 16th and Mission on a Thursday night.Â He says he was surprised by what he discovered at the San Francisco Mission location. â€śI found the coolest open mic Iâ€™d ever been to.Â Thereâ€™s no host, [and] no explicit rulesâ€”except you only do one poem or song at a time.Â Most people perform with each other. The open mic transforms one of the more dangerous corners of the city into a creative venue for a few hours a week and it is done because we all deserve a voice and art deserves to be public.â€ť
Best of all, Wise says, â€śThereâ€™s no horrible battling of other artists in a line or lottery to get a cherished spot on the stage, [or having] to shout to be heard over the noise.â€ť
Some CAI members went on to create Poems under the Dome, a poetry open mic that happens once a year at San Francisco City Hall, while the rest, Wise says, â€śContinue to build collaborative relationships with each other, across genres.â€ť
The performer (myspace.com/eliwise) identifies as trans male, in the process of transitioning, and he says that heâ€™s increasingly, moving through the world as male.
Wise recently recorded his first album, which heâ€™s currently mixing at Asphodel studios in San Francisco.Â Heâ€™s cutting the album down to nine songs so he can wrap it up and send it to labels and dedicate his energy to setting up gigs.Â But, he says, heâ€™s enjoyed the process.
â€śItâ€™s been a great introspective process, to spend all this time really getting to know my songs, working on the various layers.Â I canâ€™t wait to make the next one.â€ť
Trans writer, Jacob Anderson-Minshall, co-authored Blind Curves, the first in the Blind Eye Mystery series, available now. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Anderson-minshall.com for more information.