Hi, everyone! This is my first time in the newsletter driver’s seat, so let me introduce myself: I’m senior editor Ziya Jones. Basically all I ever do is read, talk and think about queerness, so I have lots to share with you in this edition of Xtra’s weekly news roundup. Don’t forget to subscribe Xtra Weekly to get the full newsletter experience, though—this is just a sample.
What’s the buzz? 🐝
Following an accident on Jan. 30, pioneering trans electronic musician and producer Sophie Xeon (better known by her stage name, SOPHIE) died at the age of 34. Her death was confirmed Saturday through a statement by her management. It read, in part: “True to her spirituality she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell.”
The Glasgow-born artist remained a mysterious figure in her early career, deliberately concealing her identity as she rose to prominence with hits like “Lemonade” and “Bipp.” As a producer, SOPHIE worked with big-name artists, producing Charli XCX’s Vroom Vroom EP and Madonna’s 2015 chart-topping single “Bitch I’m Madonna.” SOPHIE came out publicly as trans in 2017. The following year, her album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides was nominated for a Grammy award for best dance/electronic album.
Fans, collaborators and loved ones have shared their grief online this week. The trans community in particular is feeling the loss of an icon whose art brought many of us empowerment, comfort and frenetic joy. As Niko Stratis wrote for Xtra, “SOPHIE didn’t make art about being trans; rather, she made art imbued with transness in all of its pieces.”
What were we thinking?
I woke up Saturday morning to my girlfriend Nour scrolling beside me in bed. The first thing she said was, “SOPHIE died. The musician.”
It feels cliché to say that I don’t tend to get emotional over celebrity deaths, and that hearing of SOPHIE’s passing felt different, but both those things are true. A couple hours later, I found myself crying in my girlfriend’s arms. Most young queer and trans people have lived through the death of another young queer or trans person. The odds often feel as though they’re stacked against us. And even when we survive, trans people—trans women especially—aren’t expected to thrive. To see someone who managed to withstand the world get torn away early, while chasing beauty and fullness, feels particularly cruel.
The online outpouring of sadness was at once comforting and jarring. There’s solace in communal grief. But this year, as the pandemic has disproportionately harmed communities that were already vulnerable, I’ve seen hundreds of trans women’s GoFundMes or call for aid go underfunded. I wish that we as a queer community would mobilize with the same fierceness and in the same numbers to support our trans siblings while they’re still alive.
On Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides we can hear SOPHIE whisper, “There’s a world inside you/ I want to know what it feels like/ I want to go there with you.”
By necessity, dissociation is trans culture. It can be uncomfortable, to say the least, to sit inside a body or plumb the depths of an identity that may feel neither home nor whole. But on crowded, sweaty dancefloors or in intimate moments through our headphones, SOPHIE ushered us into our inner worlds and helped us find the beauty in them. As a drag artist, I’ve performed to her music, and evenings spent dancing onstage to her soundtrack were some of the rare moments I felt strong in my body early on in my own transition. SOPHIE gave us permission to deconstruct ourselves and the world around us, to imagine rebuilding everything in our own image.
Thanks, SOPHIE, for shepherding me into my own inner world. I hope you’re finding peace in the next one. <3
Other Xtra news
👉Growing up in Texas in the 1990s, sneaker culture helped Daric L. Cottingham embrace his queerness—and brought him closer to his dad.
👉To find out what “non-binary” actually means, editor at large Tre’vell Anderson interrogates the growing use of the term.
👉Abigail Thorn, the U.K. personality behind the account Philosophy Tube, came out as trans to her 820,000 subscribers last weekend, even though it meant becoming the newest “princess of TERF Island.”
Rest in peace, immaterial girl.