Interview: Gunner Scott!

Underneath This recently enjoyed interviewing Gunner Scott. Please learn more about Gunner in his self-penned biographical statement before reading the subsequent interview.

Gunner Scott is the Director of Programs at the Pride Foundation and received a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Goddard College, where he completed the oral history project entitled “Boston Area Transgender Community Leaders and the ENDA Crisis.”

Gunner brings over a decade of experience leading change in the LGBTQ community along with extensive experience policy development, program management, training, legislative campaigns, fundraising, and communications. Prior to living in Seattle, he was the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) where he led a five-year legislative campaign for the Transgender Equal Rights bill, which passed in 2011.

Through Making Waves Coaching & Consulting, he supports artists, activists, creative professionals and entrepreneurs in developing their practices and self confidence in promoting their craft, their brand, and their passion to the world. With a 20 year background in providing mental health, substance abuse, and survivor empowerment counseling, he has supported individuals in making change. Along with his executive level non-profit management experience, he has been creative culture maker producing community arts events, including Boston’s Gender Crash Open Mic and the pop-up art show entitled, Undivided: Dewey Square Pop-up Art Show – Inspired by Occupy Boston/Occupy Wall St.

He has written articles for Boston Phoenix and Bay Windows newspapers, What’s Up magazine, and Sojourner Women’s Forum. He penned “Agitate and Activate,” the introduction to Pinned Down by Pronouns, a 2003 Lambda Literary-nominated anthology and he is a co-author on the study and 2011 American Journal of Public Health article “Transgender Health in Massachusetts: Results from a Household Probability Sample of Adults.”

He is also passionate about saving wild lions from extinction and captivity including advocating for lions to be added to the Endangered Species Act in order to stop the rapid decline of lions.


Please describe your trajectory to becoming an activist.

Great question, for me it started in high school with regards to environmental activism and student rights. I was not out as queer until about 23 and trans about 1999, and it was the 70s and 80s when I was in middle and high school and to be gay was unheard of let alone transgender at least where I grew up in Plymouth, MA. It was not until the AIDS crisis became more public in 1987/8 did anything about being gay come up and even then it was very homophobic.

I became active in LGBTQ activism in the late 1990s when I joined the Boston Lesbian Avengers. I participated in several direct action events, marches, speak outs, and eventually participated in the vigil march for Rita Hester, an African American transgender woman killed in Allston, MA two weeks after Matthew Shepard. And following the vigil a protest at the Boston Herald and Bay Windows newspaper for their transphobic use of male pronouns and publishing her birth name and making it seem as she had “lived a double life” even though she was well known in Allston/Boston as a woman and a musician. Her murder is still unsolved. After that my trajectory was towards transgender rights and participating in the transgender movement that had been slowly building for a number of years.

Eventually, I was lucky enough to work full time as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, which is still one of very few trans led, trans organizations with paid staff and an office in the country.

How have your social and personal identities informed your work?

I think for me, I have always had a strong streak of fighting for the disenfranchised, maybe my own experience of dealing with homelessness as a young adult, my mom being a single parent when I was very young, having experienced poverty, homophobia, and sexism. Later experiencing transphobia and discrimination in housing and health care, but because of privilege, because of my being white, I have had more opportunities and I am treated significantly different now that my gender expression reflects a white man.

I seriously get angry when I see someone being treated disrespectfully, discriminated against, often dehumanized because they are not in the majority, because they are visible different in some way.

What are similarities and differences between activist communities in Massachusetts and Washington state?

I am not sure I can yet point those out, if there are any significant differences. I was so embedded in Massachusetts activism, politics, and community and here in Washington, I have been slow to get involved, mostly because I needed some personal space and time to take care of myself after working on a legislative campaign for so long. I know there are plenty of opportunities here in Washington when I am ready.

What were the expected and unexpected aspects of the results of the Transgender Health in Massachusetts study you co-authored with Kerith Conron, ScD, MPH, Grace Stowell, MA, and Stewart Landers, JD, MCP ?

I would say one of the unexpected results was the number of transgender people that had a primary care access and I think that is because the survey was done after Massachusetts instituted mandated health insurance. I was also just pleasantly relieved that transgender people did self-identify when asked on a telephone survey. I have heard so often from data geeks and public health folks that asking more than one gender question or asking about being transgender will cause the results to get compromised from too many non-transgender people not understanding or claiming to be transgender to purposely throw off the results or that transgender people may not disclose. I am hoping that our cities and states will add additional gender categories.

How was the process of developing the oral history, “Boston Area Community Leaders and the ENDA crisis?

I wanted to understand how those who live openly as transgender and are community educators, leaders, and/or activists of today were affected by and dealt with the setbacks of the 2007 specifically the “ENDA Crisis.”

It was really out of anger and frustration with constant accusations by some gay, lesbian, and bisexual activists (GLB) and organizations that the transgender community had recently “tagged on” to the equal rights work and the transgender community is trying to get a “free ride” without having done any work for their own rights. It was like some GLB activists and politicians were saying we [transgender people] have just shown up today and expect to be included. In 2007, Representative Barney Frank alluded to this assumption in his statement he released after he introduced an employment non-discrimination bill to be voted on the House that only included sexual orientation after previously introducing an employment non-discrimination bill that included sexual orientation and gender identity.

I knew there were transgender activists that had been doing education work, being visible, changing policy for decades and yet, they were almost completely invisible on state or national stage. So I started with those who were some of my mentors and my peers in my Boston community. I explored their experiences, feelings, and reactions during that time and about Federal-level LGBT equal rights legislation. I wanted to understand how these leaders came into transgender activism, what they think about legislative tactics as way to end discrimination and if they had to express a public message different from their personal feelings with regards to the situation. I wanted to share that transgender people had been fighting for their rights, alongside GLB activists for decades, visibly, without having their stories erased or re-interpreted to fit a gay narrative. Yes, some of my participants are gay/lesbian or bisexual and some were not and some came from the gay or lesbian community before transitioning. I proved my own theory, which is that we, transgender and gender non-conforming people have been part of the “gay rights movement” for as long and in some cases gender non-conforming people have been organizing since before the first “gay rights group was established in the early 1920s.”

You have been a Commissioner on the Massachusetts Commission on GLBT Youth and the Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth. What are the most salient issues affecting LGBTQ+ youth in the United States today?

That we still have LGBTQ homeless youth in general and that parents, foster homes, and/or families still get away with disowning their kid and they are not held accountable for kicking them out and putting them in danger. These parents should be paying child support to the programs that pick up the pieces.

Homelessness and poverty are solvable issues, yet as a society we continue to not solve these problems and too often blame poor people and poor young people for their situation.

Being homeless can and does interrupt the trajectory of a person’s life. I know this. I failed out of college the first time, because I was homeless and trying to work 3 jobs at 18 years old. I was then not able to get my degree until I was almost 40 years old, because constantly trying to get out of the cycle of poverty, my potential was stunted because of that experience and today, I am still making up for lost time. I am excited to say I am buying my first house at the age of 44 with my husband.

From your experience as the Director of Programs at the Pride Foundation, what are some ways that cisgender queer and trans* communities can collaborate to work towards social justice and equality despite differences?

I think just understanding that experiences of discrimination are often based on assumptions about gender expression. When we work to eliminate sexism and gender expression discrimination we are doing something to lift up the whole community. First thing for cisgender queer and straight people, stop talking FOR transgender people and talk with us, that would be awesome.

How can people become and continue to be informed allies to trans* youth and adults?

One easy way to self-educate, read books or watch documentaries, attend a Transgender Film Festival, Seattle’s is in May, set a e-news alert for transgender stories. Question “gay rights” history and why no transgender people are visible in books and some films about Stonewall. Encourage more gender categories on forms in school, work, etc… we don’t necessarily need 50 (but thanks Facebook for giving us all something to strive for!) but at least 4-5 would be great. Allow space for people to self-identify, not just trans people, write letters to the editor when positive and negative stories come out about transgender people. Donate to transgender projects, organizations, and causes. Transgender movement work is the least funded and yet often has a wide impact GLB as well.

How have trans* people diverse in race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, spirituality, and ability worked together for activist causes? What have been challenges and strengths in this collaboration?

This could be a dissertation… short answer is yes and we still need have a long way to go on dealing with racism and classism in the transgender community, much like the GLB and the larger population.

What was it like participating in The “Trans-Form The Occupation” as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement? What is your perception of the movement overall?

Awesome! Just being at Occupy Wall St was amazing as an activist, especially as I was so involved with Occupy Boston. I was just inspired by the number of people that showed up to participate in a workshop that required us to use the “human mic” – I said something then the crowd repeated back so everyone could hear it… might be the loudest transgender 101 I have ever done. The connections made between trans justice and economic justice were incredible, I made so many allies and friends from being a part of that movement.

You have also been actively involved in protecting wild lions from being captured and killed. How do you see animal and human rights activism fitting together?

Easy, when we disrupt the eco-system by eliminating one animal in the larger eco chain we are hurting ourselves especially in terms of adding to climate change and destruction of the environment. For instance, eliminate lions from the plains of Africa, the herbivore population animals are unchecked and can decimate the grasses, which then can lead to drought… as an example.

In addition, what right do we have to trophy hunt an animal in extinction or use up all the land it lives an hunts on, there are similarities to how we treat some people as less than because of who they are and how land ownership and gentrification pushes some out to the farther edges with least amount of resources, this can also be seen in how we treat animals, particularly wild animals.

What insights do you have for aspiring activists?

Breathe, self-care, and work in collaboration or a group. I did not do anything and everything alone, I would as part of a team or group, sometimes I was the most visible and other times I was in the background. Check your ego against what is best for the community and the larger movement and always go with community.

Know when to step aside as a leader and make space for new leaders to emerge. That for me is one the main reasons I stepped down from MTPC and moved across the country. I wanted to make space for new voices and leadership in Boston and Massachusetts.

What are you working on next?

Besides just trying to be really good at my job as a grantmaker with Pride Foundation, I have recently been elected to the Seattle LGBT Commission. I am excited to work on city level policy and contribute to my new community in that way. I really enjoy being civic engaged.

As for other creative things, I have a startup project, Making Waves Coaching & Consulting ( Through Making Waves Coaching & Consulting, I am looking to coach/support artists, activists, creative professionals and entrepreneurs in developing their practices and self-confidence in promoting their craft, their brand, and their passion to the world. This will also include developing social media campaigns and marketing strategies for artists, activists, creative professionals and entrepreneurs.


Interview: Ruth Marimo!

Underneath This had the soulful and meaningful experience of interviewing Ruth Marimo. Before reading the interview, please read more about Ruth in the bio statement that she wrote.

Ruth Marimo was born and raised in the Southern African country of Zimbabwe. In 1999, at the age of nineteen, after arriving in England she found herself booking a round trip ticket to the United States. She never boarded her return flight. Ruth now lives in Omaha, Nebraska, where she feels her number one job is raising her two beautiful children. To support her family, she owns a small residential and commercial cleaning business, and in her free time she continues to work on her writing, advocating for immigration reform, and speaking out against the mistreatment of LGBTQ people in Africa as well as the world. You can learn more about Ruth’s current work by visiting her website:


Please describe your path to becoming an activist and writer.

My path to becoming an activist and a published author was quite accidental. I started writing my life-story in jail awaiting deportation back in 2009, my book started as a goodbye letter to my two children. I was finally released from immigration hold after 30 days in jail. I went to church that first Sunday after my release and the pastor of the church preached an anti-gay sermon. I was so angry that I confronted him about who I was after the service. That was my first act of activism and I have never looked back since that incident.

In what ways have your social and personal identities influenced your activism and writing?

Who I am intersects on so many different levels with so many marginalized minority groups: I am an African immigrant who was undocumented; I am a single black mother; I am an out African lesbian woman; I was in an abusive interracial heterosexual marriage; I have children who are biracial; I was orphaned at the age of five; I date outside of my own race; and I am a woman from a third world nation. So in a sense I feel that I have so many causes to fight for, that my battle is never really done.

You have so much resilience. How have you survived and thrived through very challenging times?

As ironic as it sounds, I think losing my mother at such a young age and basically having this understanding that I was an outcast from childhood has made me resilient, I had to find ways of coping at such a young age and that has helped me deal with life’s trials as an adult. I have also been resilient because I have never wanted to repeat the actions my mother took, so I have never allowed myself to feel so defeated that I give up.

Your mother died by suicide when you were 5 years old. What could the world be doing more for those who have lost loved ones to suicide?

Society needs to understand the pain inflicted when suicide occurs – especially for children. I grew up in a culture where bad things are not talked about so I suffered in silence as a child. Society needs to understand that grief counseling is a must any time suicide occurs. Also silence about the person does not help, it is better to reflect on the person’s life and find healthy ways to remember them. Perhaps the most important thing is to foster environments that prevent suicide from occurring in the first place. Which could start by removing the stigma associated with mental health disorders.

What was the coming out process like for you as a woman from Zimbabwe?

It was extremely challenging. My ex-girlfriend had to literally force me to come out of the closet. When I finally did come out I faced a lot of homophobia from both family and friends. It was as if I had stopped being the person they knew, I felt shunned and people I was once close to distanced themselves in very obvious ways. It was lonely, even though I live in the United States.

Homophobia and heterosexism are experienced and perpetuated around the world, and there has been much focus on aversion to LGBTQ+ people in Africa today. What do you make of that and how do you respond?

I think it is so tragic the way African nations think they are fighting back against a Western influence by punishing their own citizens. The ability for Africans to easily turn violent against one another is something that has always bothered me. What is more disgraceful is the influence of the evangelical right from Western nations in perpetuating that hatred. That factor is actually one of the main reasons I have recently made a decision to walk away from religion. I can no longer identify with something that is so divisive.

What was it like emigrating from Zimbabwe to the UK?

It was a challenge because I was only eighteen and so uniformed about the ways of the world and its laws. I experienced some of the most difficult transitions in my life while living in the UK.

You are a survivor of domestic violence perpetuated by your ex-husband. What are ways that services can be more accessible to survivors of abuse?

I think funding programs that help employ people equipped to counsel survivors of abuse would help greatly. That area needs more case workers, more follow ups of these women and their children. Programs that actually help women escape abusive situations are imperative because most women stay because they have nowhere else to go, with no means of starting over alone. Here in Omaha Nebraska organizations like Heartland family services and Catholic Services are great examples.

What were some of the most challenging parts of being in the immigration detention center in the United States?

As an undocumented immigrant in custody I had no rights whatsoever and the jail that housed me had no information regarding my case . If I did not have relatives here who managed to hire an immigration lawyer on my behalf, I have no idea what would have become of me. The lack of rights undocumented immigrants have in detention centers is deplorable. I lost twenty pounds in thirty days – that is how miserable I was while in jail.

What has it been like living as a lesbian woman of color raising two children in Nebraska?

For the most part it has been good, we live in a great neighborhood in Papillion, which has some of the best schools in the nation and ranks among the safest in the country as well. My kids play outside with the rest of the kids in our neighborhood. I am out and open at their school which is diverse in terms of ethnicity, and ability, which makes the school terrific and inclusive. However racial disparities are very apparent in Omaha depending on where you live.


What have been some of the most rewarding experiences of the activism and motivational speaking you have done? The most challenging?

Last February I traveled to Yale as one of the featured speakers at the annual IVYQ (Ivy League Queer Conference) and last week I facilitated a creative writing workshop at a women’s symposium at Metropolitan Community College. I have had many challenges but I haven’t noticed them as much because my activism started from rock-bottom. I was prepared to stand entirely alone when I began this journey.

Congratulations that your next book, “OuTsider: Crossing Borders. Breaking Rules. Gaining Pride” is being released very soon, in fact on the National Day of Silence. Was this date selected intentionally?

Yes. So many aspects of my story are views we never hear. People living in the shadows are too busy trying to hide and survive and hence never speak up.


What has the experience been of writing and publishing this work?

It was a grueling process, my editor, Stephanie Finnegan, was relentless in making sure I brought raw emotion to paper. The publishing team at Scout Publishing LLC, CEO Ryan Sallans and Art Director Erika Block, have respected my voice and believed in my story. My girlfriend, Deanne, is also a writer and helps to give me different perspectives.

How has your family responded to your art and activism?

They have been mostly silent, they don’t yet know how to react. I think writing my story is too revealing for them and who I am is still uncomfortable for them. We come from a culture woman don’t grow up to write books – let alone their life-stories. However my family has come a long in accepting my identity and I am included in anything that pertains to family.

In what ways is your work feminist?

Every aspect of it is, especially from an African perspective, I have done everything I grew up being told women simply can’t do.

How does the experience of performing poetry compare to writing a memoir?

They’re both cathartic and are inspired by my experiences so I guess the difference is only that I use more metaphors when I write and perform poetry and writing a memoir is more factual and with performing I’m in front of a crowd and in writing I’m alone.

In your poem, “Who Am I?”, you eloquently and vulnerably reflect on some of your experiences including being “an alien to my own nation.” What do those words mean to you now?

Those are deep words that remind me that I am less valued where I come from because of my sexual identity. That I am less understood by the people I share a blood line with. That I was an outcast among my own people because orphans are not loved equally in my culture. That my own biological father never bothered to have a relationship with me – most likely because I was a girl.

As an African woman, how do you perceive the LGBTQ+ rights movements in the United States? How inclusive are the communities?

The LGBTQ movement in the US still has a long way to go, there is often division within the community. We have a long way to go as far as being trans inclusive, particularly in making space for trans people of color at the table. The rainbow flag is still largely a white flag; and that needs to change.

What feedback do you have for aspiring activists and authors?

You have to master the ability to stand in your own truth. The ability to allow people to walk out of your life because they will. The ability to make new families made up of people who see you as you are and believe in what you say.

On what projects are you working on next?

My next focus will be the first of a 12 series children’s book, titled ‘What Is Africa Really Like’. I will partner with American based Cameroon artist, Gerard Pefung. The motivation behind the project is to give children everywhere an accurate depiction of far-away places in the world. Often the picture they get from television is largely one sided and inaccurate.


Interview: Bella DePaulo !

Hi. I had the very enjoyable experience of interviewing Bella DePaulo after being quite inspired by her writing an views on singlism. Thanks Bella! Before reading the interview below, please check out the bio sent by Bella:

Bella DePaulo, an expert on single life, is the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After and of Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It. She also writes the “Living Single” blog for Psychology Today. Dr. DePaulo has a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard, and has been a Visiting Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara since 2000. Visit her website at

Bella DePaulo

How did you first become interested in doing scholarship and activism regarding singlism?

In an interview that a friend conducted with Bella, she expressed, “For years, I kept a secret file folder of observations of what I would later call singlism. Some of them were stories in the media. Others were my personal experiences. The thing about my personal experiences, though, is that I really didn’t know if they had anything to do with the fact that I was single, or whether there was some other explanation entirely.

For example, when I first started at a new job, my colleagues invited me to lunch during the week, but over the weekends, the couples would socialize only with other couples. Were they excluding me because I was single or because they didn’t want to spend time with me (and felt obligated to include me during the week when they left from work to go out to lunch)?”

Please read more of this interview at:

In your groundbreaking book, “Singled Out,” you cogently identify 10 myths associated with singles. The most emotionally intense is that singles are lonely, tragic, and miserable. I like how you described research to combat that stereotype. What are some ways folks can become involved in activism to work against singlism?

In a post on Psychology Today, Bella recommended,”Are you someone who is willing to engage in conversations about the issues? Keep posting your comments at relevant blogs and other media sites. If you have the time and the inclination, write your own blog (and let me know about it if it is not already on my list).

Lots of stories in online newspapers, magazines, and television sites allow for comments. Jump in and have your say. Whenever possible, post your comments early so you have a better chance of influencing the subsequent conversation. Don’t just point out the stereotyping and stigmatizing of singles – also let writers know when they get something right.

For more ideas, please visit:

After being inspired and informed by your work and as a single person myself, I am wondering if there is a more affirming term for “singles.” What are some of your thoughts about this?

I have to confess that I don’t love the term “single,” but I have never been able to come up with something I like enough to use instead. Here’s a discussion:

How do cultural, gender, and national identities affect the experience of singlehood?

I think these are very important distinctions. (I don’t have one article or blog post I can point to that addresses these distinctions comprehensively, but I have written a few articles here and there about specific groups.)

In what ways can politicians reach out respectfully to single voters about issues that can be compelling for them?

Sex and the single voter

Anyone want a few million more votes?

Single voters should rule, but will they?

How has the progress regarding marriage for LGBTQ+ individuals affected the zeitgeist about singles?

A key argument in the same-sex marriage movement is that you should not have to be a certain kind of couple (heterosexual) in order to have access to fundamental rights and benefits and protections. I think all of the conversations around that issue should have made one particular question very salient – why should you have to be any kind of couple in order to qualify for basic rights and protections? Although there have been writings here and there expressing that point of view, they have not taken hold the way I would like them to.

How can workplaces make systemic improvements for people who are not partnered?

Best story I’ve ever read on singlism in the workplace

Creating a singles-friendly workplace: How would you do it?

Enlighten your workplace: From speaking out to buying an office kid

Hey, Singles: Do Co-Workers and Bosses Expect You to Cover for Everyone Else Over the Holidays?

Sabbaticals for singles?

Please describe how you developed the single at heart concept and what has the reaction been to it from readers?

I think it started when someone once asked me how they could tell if they were “meant to be single.” When some people use that phrase, they mean it in a bad way. But I just loved the idea that some people really are single at their core – single is how they live their most meaningful and authentic lives. That’s how I think of myself.

Many people seem intrigued by the idea. People who identify with it, well of course they love it. Others just can’t fathom that there really are any people who really are single at heart – they believe that people who claim that they love their single lives are just fooling themselves.

Please see more here:

How have your friends, students, and colleagues responded to your research and advocacy?

It has been a very telling experience. I learned some things about the people around me that were not always obvious or predictable. Some responded very enthusiastically, and that was great. But others were very resistant. I had been studying the psychology of lying and detecting lies before I started studying singles and singlism, and there were clearly some colleagues and even some friends who wished I had just stuck to that.

I understand why it was difficult for some of them, perhaps especially the ones who were coupled. In my talks, I often pointed out ways in which coupled people act in privileged ways and treat singles unfairly, and that did not go over well. What compounded the problem for some of them is that they think of themselves as very progressive people who are not prejudiced or unfair, yet they could see for the first time that some of the ways they thought about and behaved toward single people were not very enlightened.

What has been the most surprising part of your research about singles and singlism?

I can tell you about the most surprising – and discouraging – thing about the work I do in debunking myths about single people: Those myths are entrenched in our culture. We are so sure that getting married transforms miserable, lonely single people into happy, healthy, connected married people that it sometimes seems that no amount of data can dislodge those beliefs. It is especially exasperating to me when fellow scholars, who should know better, eat up these myths.

What was it like collaborating with other authors to publish, “Singlism; What It is, Why it Matters, and how to stop it?”

I loved doing that. On my Living Single blog, I put out a call to readers to contribute. Some published authors responded, but so did some people who had never published before. One of the things I loved about the result was the variety of perspectives and experiences and domains of singlism that were explored, from religion and politics to teaching and research and the workplace, the marketplace, and the media.

I just learned of National Singles Week even though it is about as old as I am. Are there ways you commemorate it? How can the media increase visibility of it?

Part 2: Taking singles seriously – in a fun way

What are some examples of positive media images of people who are single?

In a blog post, Bella indicated, “Before the 60s, producers worried that a single woman “would fail to carry a series and capture viewers’ loyalty.” As the number of single Americans continued to climb, though, single women (usually called “girls”) began to be cast in lead roles. Concerns about viewer loyalty were forcefully addressed by the success of series such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, That Girl, Charlie’s Angels, Cagney and Lacey, The Bionic Woman, and many more.” To learn more, please read the link that follows and the subsequent ones:

Before ‘Mad Men’: Single women take 1960s and 1970s television by storm

Skimpy attire but strong messages: Single women in popular media in past decades

The movie ‘Brave’: Has Disney gifted us with a princess who is single at heart?

In sitcoms, singles are not alone; in movies, marriage…

Bite me? That’s what TV and movie romances do

Has the media in the United States made progress in its portrayal of those who do not wish to partner? If so, how?

Singles rule! The surprising media phenomenon of 2012

5 sweet somethings for singles: Enlightenment is so delicious!

What future projects you are considering?

I really want to learn much more about people who are single at heart, so I will be continuing to do research on that. I have also been interviewing people about innovative ways of living and how we all find our place, our space, and our people.


Interview: Caravan of Thieves!

We had the enjoyable experience of interviewing Caravan of Thieves not long after their January 18 show at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH. Please read a bit about the band (adapted from before reading the interview that follows.

Caravan of Thieves, a gypsy swing folk band, began with married couple Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni performing as an acoustic duo. In 2008, the band expanded to include violinist Ben Dean and double bass player Brian Anderson. The quartet released their debut full-length album, Bouquet, in 2009, and took their show on the road. According to the band, “This idea of bringing the street performance to the stage led us to gypsy music and the 1930’s swing era as these are free feeling, charismatic performances by real entertainers. With this as the musical backdrop, combined with our fascination with macabre images and sharp-witted sarcasm, we began writing happy sounding pop songs with pretty harmonies, dark thoughts and creepy characters.” In 2010, they released their next album, Mischief Night, a live recording of a sold out show in Fairfield, CT. Their third album, suitably titled The Funhouse, was released in 2012. Fuzz explains, “We had a concept going in, both from a sound and production standpoint, lyrically and thematically. A lot of crazy stuff happens on the road, and we took our experiences from on and off the stage, and brought them into the studio with us.” Caravan of Thieves is currently touring the U.S. To find tour dates, visit their website:


Please describe your path to forming Caravan of Thieves.

Fuzz: There was always music around my house growing up, lots of Motown, Jazz, Brazilian, etc so as a kid I loved listening to my parents records. My sister and I used to take junk from around the garage and bang on it and pretend we were in a band. Eventually I picked up a guitar and learned how to actually play and write songs which led to discovering new music. Early jazz, swing and world music have been some of my favorites over the years and after Carrie and I met and were deciding where to go next with our sound as a singing acoustic duo, I had the thought to infuse some of the swing rhythms and gypsy spirit of the Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli Hot Club from the 1930’s. With the right instrumentation it could be reminiscent of this gypsy jazz sound, and we could keep it acoustic while delivering enough energy and rhythm to make it a fun performance. Ben and Brian were the right players and available at this time so it all came together quickly.

Carrie: As soon as I could talk I started singing… according to my mom. I grew up in a very musical family. My father is a singer/songwriter who was always playing and having me find harmonies with him when I was young. He introduced me to all kinds of music from folk to classical to classic rock. Music resonated with me so deeply as long as I can remember and though I have many other interests, it has really been one constant thing in my life that I knew would always be a part of me. Fuzz and I met and connected instantly. We just knew we wanted to be together and shortly after we met we tried playing a few shows together and realized that music was another strong connection between us. It took us a few years of playing and writing together to find our way to what is now Caravan of Thieves. We loved the sound of our voices together and playing our acoustic guitars but wanted to fill out the sound and give it a bit more rhythm, backbone and flavor. So we looked to gypsy jazz as a style to incorporate into our folk/pop writing.

Your sound has been described as “gypsy flavored songwriting.” What do you make of that depiction?

Fuzz: Gypsy flavored songwriting is a fairly accurate description, it certainly was part of our initial intention, as I mentioned in the last question. But we prefer not to have a single phrase that describes our sound as there are limits to that we couldn’t fully commit to. Folk, pop, classical, flamenco, Dixieland and even some comedy and theater also contribute to the overall sound and performance so the gypsy flavor is just one of the ingredients. But it does spark much of the inspiration for what we do, even when the song doesn’t sound much like gypsy music.

Carrie: Gypsy jazz music is definitely an influence on our style and spirit but we are in no way a traditional gypsy jazz band. There are plenty of very talented musicians who do that and we will leave that to them!

There has been a recent resurgence of folk-based music with such bands as The Head and the Heart as well as Mumford & Sons. Where do you see yourself in connection with this genre?

Carrie: I see us fitting in on the acoustic/folk resurgence but maybe coming from a little further left of center than bands like these. The broad genre of “folk” music is something that people will always look back to amongst all of the modern trends and sounds because there is nothing quite like people playing their instruments and telling a story in a very raw and exposed format.

Fuzz: You could say that in relation to those artists and genre, which we do enjoy, we are all acoustic based music with thoughtful songwriting. But other than that, we have carved out our own little niche that is pretty different conceptually and sonically than a lot of the new folk music.

I especially like the vocal harmonizing on “Rattlesnake.” What is it like combining and integrating sounds as a band?

Carrie: Thank you. Fuzz and I have been singing together for about 10 years now and have really found a way to mesh our voices to almost sound like one. Though we both enjoy singing on our own from time to time, there is something really special about creating a sound together. Brian and Ben really complete the picture with the upright bass and violin. We often treat the violin as a third voice either doubling or harmonizing our parts.

Fuzz: Yea, it’s similar to other arts such as cooking, painting or poetry where the combination of colors or flavors affect the senses and in turn, an emotional response. Certain combinations of sounds, pitches and rhythms can really affect the listener’s mood so as a composer and arranger you have to always consider the listener and how they will be affected by your work. We experiment a lot with this stuff and constantly revise based on our own reactions and feelings as well as the audience’s.


How would you describe the difference between the feel of your album, “Bouquet” and your more recent music?

Fuzz: Bouquet was written and recorded all within the first ten months of us being Caravan of Thieves. We had a very specific concept going in, both musically and visually. We wanted to capture something like a street performance or a gypsy camp spirit and the sound and feel of just the four of us playing and singing together in the room, so that was a recording and performance objective. But in addition, there was an emphasis on the macabre and fantastic when it came to songwriting, which made it almost theatrical at times. We maintain a lot of that still, but over the years we have broadened the palate a bit more.

Carrie: Some of our newest material is slightly less gypsy flavored and less far out, as a change of pace for us. We have a few new ones that have a little more of an old time swing feel, looking back to some of the classic love songs. And dance songs. But still with a sense of humor to it all if course.

The video for “Raise the Dead” has an uplifting, communal feel. What role(s) do you see music playing in shaping communities?

Fuzz: Music is universal in its appeal and language, and historically it has brought people of varied race, nationality, religion and gender together as both participants and spectators. Some of those prejudices and divisions in the population only exist within the realms of our spoken language and become conceptualized and propagated as a result. But the musical language is void of all that and focuses on a more primal and emotional connection between people. I feel music contains the fundamental elements that matter most for social connection and community.

Carrie: And that is so clear to us at all of our shows, especially when we perform “Raise the Dead” live. We often close with it by getting off stage, standing in the crowd unplugged and having the whole audience sing, stomp, clap and move with us. It’s a final connection we all make together and at that point it feels a lot less like a show and more of a community event that we all participate in together equally.


Proceeds from some of your song purchases have gone to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, which I think is really great. What inspired you to become involved in this cause?

Fuzz: The increase in joblessness and in turn homelessness and the growing gap between the distribution of wealth amongst classes over the past five to ten years has been concerning for us. And we travel to many parts of the country, where this inequality is loud and clear as well as in our hometown of Bridgeport, CT.

Carrie: Fuzz and I had been writing a few holiday songs, one being an anti consumerism Christmas song called “I Don’t Want Anything for Christmas” so it seemed appropriate to offer them up as holiday downloads to raise money for NAEH and raise awareness. And since we were away on tour for most of the holiday season it was a catchy name for our fall tour: “Homeless for the Holidays”.

Is the band involved in other social justice causes?

Fuzz: Not at this time, but hope to keep active in the future. We just have a few songs that make a nod to some of humanities ongoing social snafus in a fun, sarcastic way. Much of the Funhouse album has a message which knocks some of the systems we have set up for ourselves and the pitfalls that go along with many of them. Its essentially the theme of the album. See the lyrics to the last song on the album “The Funhouse Exit”, it pretty much sums that up.

In what ways is your music feminist?

Carrie: I wouldn’t say our music is overtly feminist, and if anything not even very gender specific, since its Fuzz and I singing all the songs together. But some of the underlying themes are of equality and fairness amongst all people, in a variety of situations so in that respect you can find a connection in some of the songs.

I really like your cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” What and who have been your stylistic influences?

Fuzz: Well, Queen is one of them! Along with other art rock and classically influenced pop from the 60s and 70s. Beatles very much so. But Django Reinhardt and other swing music from that era such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway are big influences as well as quirky songwriters like Tom Waits and a variety of classical composers (mostly Romantic Era).

You have toured with other great artists. What was it like touring with Nanci Griffith and Emmylou Harris?

Carrie: We didn’t actually tour with Emmylou Harris or Nanci Griffith, we just shared a bill on a big show in Ann Arbor, MI. Glen Campbell was performing as well. It was a great night of music though and we all learned a lot watching the legends at work!

What’s next for Caravan of Thieves?

Fuzz: Carrie and I are writing a lot right now. Our plan is get in the recording studio in the next couple of months and get a record done in time for a midyear album release. Lots of US tour dates being planned, summer festivals and some UK dates on the horizon as well.

Carrie: We hope to also put together and release a few more videos, maybe simpler production and just have more of our music out there in new and creative ways.

What feedback do you have for aspiring artists?

Fuzz: No career happens overnight so it’s important to be patient with yourself and enjoy each step of the journey. The journey in many ways could last your whole life so I’d say don’t get caught chasing the dangling carrot without appreciating what you have achieved so far. A positive attitude can be the most important tool for survival in a career that presents so many challenges along the way.

Carrie: And challenge is the mother of invention, as it’s been since the dawn of time. You have to face the challenges with enthusiasm, so it helps to do what you really love, both artistically and in your day to day. If you go for the quick and easy payoff you can wind up in a situation that doesn’t inspire you and/or forces you into a scenario that’s not right for your lifestyle.

-Sem & Strike

Musician Interview: Will Dailey!

Will Dailey at the Paradise Rock Club in 2011

Will Dailey at the Paradise Rock Club in 2011

I began listening to Will Dailey, a Boston native, after seeing his concert at Harpers Ferry (now Brighton Music Hall) in 2008. I quickly became a fan of the catchy, guitar-driven songs on his 2007 album, Back Flipping Forward. Will is a three-time winner of the Boston Music Award for Singer/Songwriter of the Year, and he is currently nominated for Male Performer of the Year in the New England Music Awards. Last year, Will started a PledgeMusic campaign for his new album, National Throat.

Below is a video for Out On The Floor from the 2011 album Will Dailey & the Rivals:

Will Dailey will be performing at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA on 2/5/14.

How did you get involved with Farm Aid? What has that experience been like?

I was invited in 2008 when Farm Aid had their annual concert in Boston. It has been a soul filler on many levels. There is obviously the musical level but over the years I have become close with many families and who have been a part of Farm Aid’s growth and success and benefited from the support system. It is always fulfilling to be around a large group of people who understand the importance of agriculture from top to bottom.

Why did you decide to move away from your label? What has it been like doing your new album through PledgeMusic?

A giant record label did not feel like an open environment to make the kind of music I felt I needed to make. They’re not evil or bad people, just a bad place for me to be personally. Pledge has felt like a safe place. It is made up of musicians and it brings in and includes the people who want to hear my music the most.

How would you describe your new album?

National Throat, for me, tells the story of doing this for a living the past 8 years. Highs and lows. Delusions and victories. I look at new material as not the most important I’ve done but the culmination of everything I’ve ever done. It has to add up and equal something. That sum should exhibit exponential growth beyond my abilities if I follow that path correctly.

Who and what inspire you?

Everything. I’m inspired by things I don’t like as much as those I am drawn to. I’m inspired to to be better at completing interviews after this one took me so long! Musically I know I aspire to keep one foot in the soil while doing my damnedest to reach one hand to the clouds.

Do you have a favorite song to perform live?

There are old ones that never really fail us live: Down The Drain, So Many Wrong Ways, So Do I. Since we’ve been playing the new album live it seems “World Go Round”, “Sunken Ship” and “Castle of Pretending” never let me down.

What music are you listening to right now?

Ah! My latest vinyl order just came in the mail: Death, Lucius, Jason Isbell.

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?

Make sure you and those with you are willing to eat bread and water for 3 years.
Choose goals right in front of you and accomplish those first.
Don’t let yourself or anyone else compare you to anomalies.


Activist Interview: Dan Leveille!

After reading a bit about Dan (description sent by Dan), please see the interview below.

Dan Leveille is a marketer, developer and product guy living in Los Angeles, CA. Dan is currently working at deviantART as a Product Marketing Manager. While he’s not working at deviantART, he’s building Equaldex, a collaborative knowledge base for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) movement. Dan is passionate about LGBT rights, the social web, and building innovative web products. Dan’s passion was really amplified during his college years at Rochester Institute of Technology when he created BookMaid a textbook exchange website for students at the college, back in 2007.

What inspired you to become an activist?

It actually started through social media. Back when I was in college there were a short period where quite a few gay marriage laws changed while others came close to changing. I heard about them through my friends on social media and started to follow the news very closely. As I followed the progress of the LGBT movement, it deepened my passion for being an activist. As the laws changed, I realized that there wasn't really a good place on the web (or anywhere) to see the global status of gay marriage and other LGBT laws. I decided that I would create one, and the idea evolved from being just a map on a website to a full collaborative website that aims to cover more than just laws.

What have been highlights of your activism? What have been some surprises?

I run a blog for Equaldex and I’d say there were quite a few highlights running the blog. There were a few stories that brought in quite a few thousand views and a few of my stories got picked up my major LGBT blogs, which was pretty encouraging.

Back in August, I private launched Equaldex to a group of Alpha Testers. After several years of slowly working on the site, it was a huge milestone to have people finally using it and seeing people really excited about it.

One surprise I’ve noticed was actually about myself, personally. When I first started being involved in LGBT rights, I wasn’t entirely comfortable about speaking publicly on LGBT topics, especially on social media. Whenever I would write about or share LGBT related news or stories on social media, I’d question what some of my friends, old classmates, and colleagues would think. But as I continued to speak out about these issues, I lost that self-consciousness and began to be much more comfortable, which is a really great feeling.

How does your involvement in different causes and movements reflect your intersecting identities?

Sometimes the most effective thing you can do when you’re involved in a cause / movement is intersect it with something you’re good at. It’s great to see people grow into activism by doing what they do best; journalism, film, art, etc. When you combine two passions, it can really make your work effective since you’re so dedicated to both.

As I started to pick up an interest in LGBT rights, I did the same thing, using my skills to make a difference. Equaldex really brings together a lot of my “identities” and passion; LGBT rights, web development, product design, entrepreneurship, graphic design, UI design, and marketing. I think that’s why the project is coming together so smoothly and why I’m so passionate about it. I’ve also been very vocal about LGBT rights on social media and by writing about LGBT news on blogs.

Please describe the evolution and goals of Equaldex.

I began working on Equaldex back in 2009. After graduating college, I put the project on hold for a while, and picked it back up in the past year or two. It’s been a slow process, but now I’m working at full speed. Back in August, as I said, I launched an alpha version of the site. In the coming month or so, I’ll have a public-facing version of Equaldex live. Equaldex will began with just the legal rights of LGBT people in each country and region, but in the future I have plans to expand Equaldex to more aspects of LGBT rights and acceptance. The goal of Equaldex is to become a comprehensive knowledge base for everything about the LGBT movement.

Which issues do you see as common to cisgender sexual minorities and transgender people? Which issues are different? Which issues are critical to these communities?

Education is always an important factor in fighting discrimination, but I think it’s even more so for the transgender community. People don’t understand what it means to be transgender, what they go through, how they feel, the legal issues they face, etc. It’s an issue that needs some light. One issue I see a lot online is a divide between the LGB and T communities. There are too many LGB people that are actually transphobic, and I’ve experienced a lot of divide and hostility between the two communities, which really needs to stop.

Within activism movements, what are some ways to continue to forge connections among people from diverse sexual, gender, ethnic, and religious groups?

The growth of the internet and social media really brings people together. People in different groups come together over shared interests, and many times traits like age, location, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, religion don’t even matter.

Another issue I see a lot, especially in younger people, is that they often say or do hateful things towards a group of people because they don’t really know anyone in that group of people. Maybe they grew up in an environment where their parents or friends made a few hateful comments and without much though, they just assumed that that was an acceptable way to act. So when they say these things, none of their friends challenges their opinions. On the internet, opinions can be very public and open to criticism, which is sometimes a really good thing.

Sometimes all it takes is exposure to other types of people to grow to accept them. That’s the beauty of the internet. Sometimes you don’t know if you’re talking to a 23 year old Black lesbian or a 43 year old Asian woman. And the truth is, if you’re having a conversation over the internet about some topic, it probably doesn’t even matter.

I hear what you mean about common interests being unifying across social locations but I am also thinking about the powerful impact social identities can have on the way a person experiences a situation, especially regarding power, privilege, and oppression. I am also thinking of intersectionality; for example, a queer person of color’s experience may be very different than a queer white person due to institutionalized and interpersonal racism, and a person with a disability who has greater access to financial means may have a different experience than someone with a disability without those means.

How have you seen power, privilege, and oppression affecting LGBTQ+ activism?

I can’t think of specific examples off the top of my head, but traits like a person’s oppressions or feelings of [a lack of] privilege definitely play a role in their activism. I think it completely depends on the person. When someone is dealing with a lot of social struggles, such as bullying, racism, sexual harassment, etc., it can really motivate them to stand up for others and be a strong activism to stop others from having negative experiences like their own. The It Gets Better project is a good example of this, as it caused thousands of people to speak out about their past experiences and how they were bullied and oppressed. But I think sometimes these other power/privilege/oppression factors might have a reverse effect, causing a person to feel fear and self-conciousness about the issues and not wanting to speak up about it.

Activist interview! : Jacob Rostovsky

Please read the following for an interview with Jacob Rostovsky.

Jacob Rostovsky is a 23 year old transman activist and founder of Trans United with Family and Friends (TUFF). His mission is to end the struggle transgender people encounter everyday and to help authentic each person’s transitional journey by providing resources to transition. For more information about TUFF, please visit

Please describe your path as an activist.

I came out as transgender when I was thirteen years old. I experienced incredible amounts of harassment and bullying from my peers and was extremely suicidal. What got me through was finding other people who were transgender and seeing their success in life after their transition. When I finally transitioned at 15, I made a promise to myself that I would do anything I could to make sure no other transgender person went through what I did. That’s what lead me to become an activist.

What led you to co-found Trans United with Family and Friends (TUFF) and what is the organization’s mission?

I knew that once a trans person transitions their entire view on life changes for the better. For me, being able to finally be the man I always felt I was instilled hope and passion in me that I never had before. I want to be able to help everyone get to this amazing part in their trans journey. TUFF’s mission is to give financial assistance towards transition costs and costs of living for transgender and gender non conforming individuals.

What has the response from others been to TUFF since its creation?

People are incredibly grateful that there is an organization willing to help them with transition costs. Everyone I’ve talked to about the project is extremely enthusiastic and is rooting for me to succeed.

What do you see as the highest priorities for activism within trangender communities?

I feel that making transgender health care affordable and safe and getting homeless trans youth off the streets are two of the most important priorities within the transgender community.


In what ways is your activism feminist and how does your work reflect your intersecting identities?

Well, I believe that there is no right way to be a woman and nobody can tell anyone else how to identify and live their lives. With TUFF, I can allow trans women to finally be the people they feel they are inside. My various identities push me in my activism, making sure that everyone else’s journey and identities can also be authenticated.

What tensions and collaborations exist between cisgender sexual minority and transgender communities?

A lot of the time cisgender sexual minorities assume they understand the transgender experience because we are all included in the LGBT acronym. Howeever, that is not the case. What happens is that the transgender community often feels ignored and not listened to, and our needs are not met.

In other media stories you have described being bullied and having consequent emotional distress. What feedback do you have for others with similar experiences?

I know this is said a lot, but just keep being true to yourself. Also, find a hobby or something that brings you joy that doesn’t have anything to do with being transgender. For me it was playing the drums. Whenever I felt depressed, I’d just go play my drums and get lost in it.

What are some projects you are working on for the future?

I’m hoping to establish a project with TUFF similar to Gofundme on TUFF’s website. The major difference is that recipients get to keep 99% of the donations they receive, with 1% going into a fund for other TUFF scholarships. Donors will be more inclined to donate through TUFF’s site because they will receive a tax donation receipt, which sites like Gofundme do not provide. Potential donors will also be able to visit the website, read profiles, and decide who to contribute to if they do not have a particular person they came to donate for.