I have found that I may be the only transwoman who is into folk metal as a genre. Why? Probably because, for whatever reason, interest in Celtic and Norse language, history, and culture has been adopted by fascists and white supremacists.
I hate fascists and white supremacists. I have even begun entering into the quagmire of attacking their shitty ideas online. Why? Well, I’m an American, for one. But if I’m honest with myself, it’s also a self-hatred thing. If I had never left my racist little hometown, I may well have become one myself.
Now, to be clear, I have never ascribed to racist ideology, or gotten aroused by the thought of authoritarian rule. But then, I think it likely that few people who enter into that world do. Rather, those eventualities are simply the endgame for the extreme conservativism which is unquestioningly enforced in the Bible Belt. It is the capital of “I’m not racist, but…”, a place where evangelical rule by biblical literalism provides justification for whatever deeply prejudiced belief the ruling culture has. A seething pool of secret hate just waiting for the right catalyst to bring it to outward hostility.
It only took an openly racist, misogynist, predatory capitalist idiot to be elected president to make it happen.
Wait, wasn’t I talking about folk metal? How did this digress into anti-Trump hate for the heartland? Okay, I guess I should back up a minute. It’s just so easy to fall into that these days.
Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that I have always been deeply into “Celtic things,” be those things music, language, mythology, history, or whatever else. My favorite movie is Braveheart (I know, cliché). I taught myself some Gàidhlig in highschool through a .pdf textbook I found online. I even taught myself to play the pennywhistle (poorly). Heck, even my go-to doodle is of a triskelion. “Folk metal”, therefore, was a natural addition to my list of interests.
Folk metal is a pretty niche musical genre that is, as its name implies, broadly a mix of “folk” and “metal”. However, “folk” doesn’t mean Bill Monroe, but rather, traditional music from more ancient cultures. Typically (but not always), this means a blend of traditional Celtic or Norse music with modern metal sounds. Yes, it’s often as campy as it sounds, and I admit, it’s probably not for everyone. That said, from the moment I first heard Eluveitie’s album Spirit in highschool (now more than ten years ago), I was hooked.
Folk metal, as a genre, was made for nerds like me. Epic songs of the dragon Fafnir set to electric guitars and hurdy gurdies alike? Yes, please. So what’s the problem?
The problem is the aforementioned fascist interest in these same things. Over time, I have watched neo-nazis and white supremacists, by co-opting Viking symbolism, recruit fellow nerds from disadvantaged red states like my own. I’ve seen it happen more than once.
Of course, nazis love to twist history and culture to suit their own authoritarian needs. “Tribal European culture” (as if such a unified thing ever existed) has thus become a lightning rod for maintaining masculine hegemony. Ragnar is awesome, and takes what he wants–why can’t I? Thus, those who challenge the gender/sexual norms of a patriarchal society (aka, LGBT+ individuals) are enemies to the cause. To them, I am little more than a degenerate, a race traitor who has devolved from the mythical white successor of a unified “Western/European culture” that never existed in the first place to little more than a decadent “other”. I am Rome circa AD 400, rather than Rome circa 44 BC, as if one were any less multicultural or sexually liberal than the other. But, again, I digress.
In short, in liking folk metal, I have found myself often in spaces which are openly hostile to my existence. But you know what? Fuck them. Interest in ancient pagan cultures is not the sole property of pasty racists, and I will continue to challenge their horrific beliefs in whatever way I can. It’s a shame that I had to become a member of one of those groups they hate so much in order to gain the courage to stand up against them (a problem which in and of itself plagues this country), but I am glad for being where I am now all the same. Being transgender has given me empathy throughout my life, and admitting to it has given me strength.
I’m glad I’m trans.