By Ashley Hart
Surrounded by a swirl of smoke and sitting with legs crossed behind a cup of coffee, 19-year-old Vanessa Marie Spitzer discusses her music, upcoming shows, and life as a transgendered person.
“I’ve been every sexual orientation,” said Spitzer. “I’ve been a straight male, a gay male, a heterosexual woman, and a lesbian.”
Spitzer spent her freshman year at Central Michigan University living for the first time as a female student every day. All her teachers referred to her as Vanessa, she got along with members of the dorm, and she worked as the student assistant to the director of the Office of Gay and Lesbian Programs. The most discrimination she faced was a male student who drove by and yelled “dyke” out the window at her.
“I almost wanted to say, ‘Thanks!'” Spitzer said. “I was half offended, but half excited I passed so well.”
Spitzer’s musical history is just as diverse as her turbulent path to gender self discovery. With elements of folk, punk, techno, and some occasional pop, Spitzer’s albums reflect these different eras in her life.
Spitzer’s newest album, “In Case You Haven’t Heard,” is her most difficult and intricate work so far. She plays all the instruments on the album including mandolin, keyboard, drums, harmonica, bass, banjo and guitar. She wrote, recorded, and produced her album in only one week through the record label she created, Girl on Girl Records.
When asked what her music sounded like, she replied, “If Joey Ramone and Ani had a kid who was queer, it would listen to my music.”
Spitzer’s unique style has received attention from the Trannie Roadshow, Toronto Pride, Camp Trans, as well as a couple of Internet radio stations. Spitzer went on tour with the Trannie Roadshow this past April and hopes to become a permanent performer. This summer, Spitzer will play a half-hour set on the Fruit Loop stage at the Toronto Pride Festival as well as playing at the protest against the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival at Camp Trans.
Spitzer’s career as a musician may be gaining speed, but she is still modest when talking about her music. Through Central Michigan University, Spitzer has played at protests not only for equal rights for the transgender community, but also for the rest of the gay community, and against the war in Iraq. “I don’t want to be obnoxiously rich and famous,” said Spitzer. “I want people to recognize my name so when they see I am playing at a protest or an event, my name will motivate them to come.” Though Spitzer is afraid she will be called naive, she wants to change the world.
Not only has Spitzer used her music to make a statement, she has spoken about transgender issues to classes at CMU and worked to focus more GSA time and money on transgender issues as well. When speaking in front of a group or just talking to curious classmates, Spitzer said she is most commonly asked why she doesn’t dress more “girly.” Spitzer maintains that she dresses to fit her personality and not to try and prove her femininity.
“What defines girly clothes?” said Spitzer. “Short shorts with ‘Juicy’ written on the ass?”