How do you represent your marginalised identity in your work? (Race, disability, gender identity, sexuality, class etc.)

My daughter has a brain injury. From the age of 12 she has struggled with incontinence and just that whole person injury thing that is a brain injury. Your emotional, sexual, spiritual, physical and mental health is profoundly affected.

So yeah, I feel you. I mean, I don’t feel you but I’ve been along with the journey of a young person who is now 29. It is hard, eh. It affects all.

She writes poetry about it. Should you make it your focus? Would it help?

When you talk about representing your identity and that you feel like you live through others’ ideas and reactions to you, I think you will find it useful to separate out what that means for you and what it means for people who don’t face the challenges you do.

Like, I know that a lot of perfectly able people have the exact same issues as you. They act on the reactions of others and they are often who others say they are. But they do not face the life that you do. They have not. They will never face those obstacles.

What is heart and what is brain? When you feel shit and someone says that there is always someone who is worse off than you and your brain knows that but your heart still feels like shit then you have an example of what I meant. What is in your heart? What do you think?


I can’t resist adding some context here on the nature of political representation. From Towards a New Socialism (Cockshott & Cottrell, bold emphasis added):

It is one of the great ironies of history that election by ballot, for millenia the mark of oligarchy, should now pass as the badge of democracy…Aristotle, describing the democracies of his day, was quite explicit about the fact that democracy meant rule by the poor…With regard to the filling of official positions, he further remarked that in Greece, “to do this by lot is regarded as democratic, by selection oligarchic.” (Politics, 1294)

What the ideologists of capitalism call democratic procedures, would be accurately described as psephonomic procedures (Greek psephos: vote by ballot). By glossing over the nature of class relations, such ideologies confuse the right to vote with the exercise of power. In fact all capitalist states are plutocratic oligarchies.


Bookmarked and interested on what continues to pop up on this topic.
My wife is a Black woman who I create a lot of work together with. For herself and our largely Black dance/arts company, she is often asked to explain the aspects of race and identity in our work when sometimes she just wants to be able to create works for the sake of the work the way many white artists can. Maybe this is the “other side of the coin”. I can’t find the Octavia Butler quote, but she said something about there being no choice but for her identity to be a part of her work.
(We’re both huge fans BTW)
The funding streams tied up in these issues and the often limited resources are a whole other discussion…


This is always how I think about my work and anything I create. I can’t remember a single time that my marginalization and the intersections I lived in haven’t influenced my art (typically music and writing), whether explicitly or implicitly.

One thing that I think a lot about that I hadn’t seen mentioned in this thread (sorry if I missed it) is how the concept of marginalization and creating from the margins is context specific. Even though my marginalization is present in how I view the world and therefore everything I do doesn’t mean it will be perceived by others (I realize this gets into discussion of meaning and artist intention versus external interpretation). This also means people who know me might interpret and understand a work and what it means differently than other people or as Terre Thaemlitz has said “music isn’t universal” (Terre Thaemlitz discussing this perspective)


So many great perspectives in this thread.

Personally, things just get too complex for me the more granular I get.
I have no understanding of where I come from, I know I’m black, among a whole host of other things, but those definitions constantly change.
Just move the country over, or the region, or the city, or the village and people’s conception of all these identities are completely different. Sometimes they feel as though they have no common basis, leaps of logic (if it even reaches there) and confusion in the already made tangle, overtime supposed to be fact. You end up at a place where you can’t distinguish beginning from end. Where it’s all hearsay, even your own. It’s crushing.

And sure, it can all be rationalized with in depth knowledge of history and social analysis and so on and so forth, but that only puts names and timelines on what’s already and still there. I’m thankful for the clarity its brought me, but I haven’t felt any better from it.

I just make art to connect things together that are personal to me, relate the local tangle to the big tangle, linking it to threads which have their own momentum at stable points.

Having momentum as in musical traditions, or forms of language (think poetry, but also dialects, colloquialisms, baby talk,…), and anything that has the power to shift a culture.
Stable points as in outside personal and human creations. (mountains, bodies of water, places, events,…)

I can’t speak for the how this changes anything, just like i can’t explain how these tangles form and twist with such power in the first place, but I’ve found carving a place well rooted has helped tremendously.
It somehow gives the thousand assumptions of the tangle a place to talk with what is at least the most far removed from it.
And that process can grow and form into different mediums. And those too can have such conversations, always at stable related points. I’m reminded of Anthony Braxton’s Trans-Idiomatic Musics in how they can begin to relate, and I’d very much like to explore that.

Just trying to give an answer here that isn’t (rightly so!) questioning the question, sorry if it seems nonsensical :heart:


Firstly I though that this When I read the title of this thread I though that this is not for me. You know - I am white heterosexual cisgender man from central Europe. :slight_smile:

However I realised I actually have strong handicap in music making community - I came from poor family. My finacial situation is kinda OK now, so I can even buy some (cheaper/second hand) gear (which I do a lot). But it definitely changed me somehow.

I am big fan of open source and my own open source music projects are strongly influenced by this and are designed to be used with cheap gear. These are:

  • Cyber Music Studio - a DAW running in the browser - some parts are even usable without MIDI controller - all you need is modern web browser
  • Guinea synth - an attempt to make synth out of surplus RaspberryPi and noname MIDI controller

This, yes, but try directing it at the power structure and not at marginalised peoples discussing their artistic practice in this thread. Representation alone is not a politics of freedom, as others have said already, but the existence of “otherness” reveals the lie — it is divine spark you refer to. People make the mistake of thinking the labels and categorizations are anything but a harm-reduction strategy, sure I would grant you that, but I’m not sure how putting down people who are opposing the very systems which you seem to be agreeing we have a need to transcend is helping; be mindful of the unnecessary baggage you might be adding, as well.

I’m assuming you mean this as a friendly prodding, to encourage thinking outside-the-box or some-such, but just a note so you know how you’re being received: referring to people’s survival techniques, defense mechanisms, or sources of community/family/shelter as “monkey brain” without couching it in language to indicate you are a friend to “others” does not make it seem, on first blush, like you have much interest in transcendence.


Well said.

It would be wonderful if we could all be seen and embraced by each other as the beautiful beings of soul that we are. All of us, no exceptions.

But our conditioning either causes us pain or teaches us that the pain of others is not our own pain. If all is one, as some of the wisdom traditions teach, then the pain of my brother is my pain as well. The bodhisattva remains on this side of nirvana pledging to aid all beings to attain liberation while recognizing that the suffering is already an illusion… cosmically, not as experienced…

Extending pure light and wishes for peace and healing to all who suffer…

On a personal note, I have learned so much from the courage and thoughtfulness of the many who have shared in this and related threads. Deep bows to you all.


I think this is it. You are who you are, and your work is the product of that.

IMO, this is the important bit and will always transcend the specific content of your songs.


This has been suggested upthread a few times by people and I just wanted to point out that to a lot of marginalised people, sometimes, yes, we are who we are, but also, a lot of the time society forces me to be not who I am. And this has a significant affect on how able we are to access that true self when it comes time to make art, so it’s not quite as simple as ‘be who you are and the art will show it’. In this thread, I’m asking how do we be ourselves, and what does that mean, when we have multiple selves, depending on context.

My pronouns are they/them, i don’t have a gender, but when in spaces where that’s not safe, I am forced to use she/her, and be perceived as a woman.

I am autistic, and this has significant behavioural affects, such as hand flapping or vocalising when I am excited by something. When in public, I mask, I subdue and hide these traits, through great mental efforts, because society has abusively trained them out of me from an early age. It took years of effort in my early 20s to be able to reclaim hand flapping and vocalisations at all, I wasn’t even concious that i was putting in all this efforts every day to subdue them.

I know for people of colour, code switching can be a big part of day to day life when interacting with a predominantly white society.

So ‘just being yourself’ can be a challenging thing to achieve as someone who is marginalised, someone who has all these defence mechanisms and survival techniques, sometimes so deeply rooted they need education from their own community to undo them.

For people like us, who we are and who we present to society as is not the same. Often making art that reflects who we are is not the default, but takes actual effort, or specific methods and techniques.

I personally have to completley forget ignore the fact that cishet neurotypical people are going to listen to my music when I sit down to record something, otherwise I will find myself masking my autism and subduing my queerness automatically, as has been subconsciously drilled into my most my life.

Now wether the nuance of that conflict itself can be heard in what I create, and wether that’s an interesting and valuable aspect to the work, that’s another question.


I don’t want to make assumptions about your own situation or reasoning behind this, and I can understand not wanting everything in life to be boiled down to identity politics, but this sounds like it could be unnecessarily contrarian and or possibly even hurtful to the people and situations that are being discussed here. I understand you are saying what you want from art, which sounds like a completely non-confrontational apolitical inclusive experience, but many people here are talking about and exploring why they maybe can’t give you exactly that, or better yet why they maybe shouldn’t. It is possible to listen to or experience alternative viewpoints and life perspectives through art and music - this in a way is its greatest power. If someone is trying to communicate to you who they are or how they see the world and that includes a sense of otherness, isolation, difficulty connecting - intentionally or just inherently- why ignore that? Maybe someone is trying to tell you/us something important and we need to listen, especially since outside of and even within the world of art and music, those voices are often sidelined or silenced or those ideas or feelings can’t be as well expressed or communicated through non-creative means.


Reading this thread is a terrific reminder to me that the boundaries of art must continually be pushed and moved if we are to grow as human beings.

While it may not be necessary to do work that reflects identity, there should always be room for work that does exactly that.

While the complexity of my identity has little to do with gender, my mixed race status makes me wonder about how useful our antebellum race constructs actually are.

How are we to truly dissect the inequities and marginalization of the gender expansive when we still use the same constructs of race developed and implemented during the our most egregious period of human trafficking and enslavement?

These terms survived the Civil War, and remain on our tax forms. One bad consequence of this is that a significant swath of people think that “white” has supremacy, and that the logical response to that understanding is to force a race war on everyone to “cleanse” the US.

It strikes me as completely logical for the gender expansive to feel constrained and/or enslaved with regards to their art in a society that, to begin with, agrees preemptively to forget authentic signifiers of European identity in favor of the term “white”, and to replace an erased-by-enslavement history and genealogy with the term “black”.

Our continued adoption of these constructs simply allows them to enact long-term dehumanizations and tyranny upon us, and that tyranny of identity is part and parcel to the identity issues faced by the gender expansive because it is the fundamental grounding of the identity of the supposed “Free World”.


This is not a direct answer to your question I guess, but I feel myself taking a step back and ask myself what identity really is? To me that is somehow the core question, or the question that is most interesting to me personally. I don’t believe we should be restricted or defined by gender, race, sexual preferences, handicaps, and so forth. I would consider those, maybe the word is “adornments”, to what we really are. We are consciousness! infinite, godlike, expressions of a multi-coloured expanse of nothingness and everythingness all mixed together in one exquisite explosion of love and wonder. Sometimes music actually manages to make us experience that stuff directly and that’s what I’m here for :sunglasses: :exploding_head:


Just a heads up, please avoid using the word ‘handicapped’, it’s considered actually pretty degrading in the disabled community, by and large we prefer not to be called that.

I get what you’re saying, and it would be amazing to have the choice to not be restricted by things like how society singles us for out and puts restrictions on us for (in my case) gender, neurodivergence and disabity, and be pure conciousness, that couldn’t be further from my lived experience.
They might seem like adornments, from the outside, but I consider these things pretty critical to why and how I exist and interact with the world. And my neurodivergence is my conciousness. My conciousness still has to interact with other conciousneses, and that’s what we are discussing here.


The recent trend on this conversation has been interesting and made me think a lot about this topic.

I think it is fine and good to think about identities (of varying sorts) from a high-level/conceptual/philosophical perspective and how it relates to creative output, but it’s important to also remember that there are real, tangible challenges the people of these groups face which make their way into the artistic process, output and communities (and how those communities act on both a creative and support-system/familial level) too. I think its easy to dismiss this stuff as superficial if you’re only looking at it from the abstract, but sometimes the creation of art and the community surrounding can be the difference between life and death for someone.


For sure! I think Rene said it best, and it’s worth reiterating for anyone thinking along similar lines


Yes, also (speaking as a mod) I find it somewhat disconcerting that this thread was created with a clear purpose which could be derailed if we aren’t careful.

Does anyone else who makes music from positions of marginalisation or minority have any good strategies for putting a little of your identity, or a little social justice into your music? Do you feel it’s even necessary? Does it drastically change your process vs just making music you like?

Would love to hear folks thoughts on this :relaxed:

There have been plenty of great convos and enlightening/surprising expressions already which are welcome, but…I also have seen a few comments centering those NOT in minority/marginalized groups

@nonverbalpoetry and others might feel differently but that seems like counterproductive discourse for this thread

I’m hesitant to make a rule that goes beyond our CoC but perhaps those of us who are approaching this thread and creative work based on these identities as listeners (re: not ‘making music from positions of marginalisation’) can focus on listening

Wouldn’t be best to read the thread, try to understand fellow members here and if you don’t actually fit the description outlined in the OP, remain silent?


I for sure agree, thanks is so much for stepping in :slight_smile: it’s also noteable that nobody who has stepped in with these off topic thoughts have left a single response and not followed up. Less joining in a conversation and more yelling an opinion from the door and then dipping!


Well to be honest, some will be back so I wanted to share my view of the discussion to make sure they better understand whether additional comments are needed and ensure any new posts are showing sufficient empathy toward others

Just a caution we can all consider


Just for the record, I’m mainly engaging in this thread to share some of my wife’s experiences as she’s not a member here and wouldn’t really have the time or interest in joining the forum. We’ve created together on all of our projects, many dealing with aspects of identity, race, gender, etc…
She has throughout the course of her career, been asked to present her credentials, justify her right to speak on certain issues and suffered the assumptions of others based on her gender and race. (Are you sure you can teach this entry level ballet class? We were thinking you’d be great doing hip hop)
I’ve run this past her and she approves this message!