break a boy like me
I want to stand and deliver
Be the one who makes it better.
“Stand and Deliver” deliberately plays with anthemic production modes and structure, the kind intended to hail large rooms of thronging fans. But what theme exactly does Amy Ray seek to politicize? Butch-femme relations? Can an anthem represent queer relations and not monumentalize or reify the fluidity once offered by (and for) sexual resistance?
Even if the answer to these leading questions were not obvious, I’d still enjoy “Stand and Deliver” for precisely daring to speak for me, a lonely striving butch who never feels good enough. Not good enough for womanhood in general, and certainly not good enough for any woman. You can talk about pride and self-knowing, and you can even be really successful with getting men’s wives to sit on your lap (it’s easy, actually). But there’s a part of every deep-in-the-bone butch that can never believe any (real) woman would have her. That’s the butch’s throat, the wondrous contralto from the uncertain center of an unsung identity. Cue the swelling strings and the Robinhood garb:
All I’ve got’s this little chalice
Born of fear and forged with malice
All I’ve got’s this coat of mail [male?]
But in its time it served me well.
It’s useless now as I wither
Why can’t I just deliver?
Forget Robinhood, it’s almost Wagnerian in its endless, swelling drive to cement the lovers and heal the wounded hero with love-death. Sometimes Ray stands behind her electric guitar and delivers, drives forth her contralto from down in her chest, the covered place. This is not a natural voice. I know. I remember one summer vacation in the Catskills making the decision to break the shyness and order an icecream cone. I pitched my voice low, threw it down that hole, tried to feel it supported by my solar plexus, the fundament of my social projection: chocolate cone, please. From that utterance on, that pitch stuck in my butch throat.
No one ever enjoys hearing themselves played back on tape (it’s way more disturbing than a glimpse of yourself unawares in a mirror). The discomfort probably stems not from judgment but more likely from misrecognition: we do not hear ourselves