“‘Tis the season of holiday gatherings. And we’re all trying to figure out if we belong in the places where we’ve gathered.”

Leela reflects on the ways that finding we like music in common with others can be a first step towards finding our communities.

Notes and transcript:


Recorded 12/1/2022


Hi, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. I've been sick for a little while, so please forgive my raspier-than-usual voice.

I wanted to talk today about something that happened to me yesterday. That Spotify Wrapped thing's going around where people can share what they were listening to this year. And you can click the link and and listen along. My friend Kate, from the Ignorance Was Bliss podcast, posted hers and I clicked through in the morning. I was still even lying in bed, and so I wasn't paying much attention.

And the playlist started playing and I was like, wow, she has really familiar taste and then song after song played and it sounded familiar. And then there were a couple that I really liked, but I didn't recognize. And then an artist that I listened to at a tiny little folk festival when I was in elementary school, and who has since faded into relative obscurity, came on the list. And I thought "how Kate ?How do you know? How do you know L.J. Booth?"

And then I thought maybe, maybe that link just brought up my most-played playlist. Yeah, that's what had happened, she had posted the link that brings up your own and not the link that brought up hers. I still don't know what her taste in music is I need to go back to where she posted the correct link right afterwards and click through on that. But for those few minutes, when I was listening to my own playlist as though it was somebody else's, I felt so seen.

And I realized how often how isolated I feel, because my tastes and music is really, really obscure. And most people just think it's weird or pretty. But, you know, there was this brief moment in the 90s when my kind of music was kind of popular- Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco- At least if you were queer, and coming of age in the 90s, you probably knew somebody who knew somebody who was listening to this kind of singer-songwriter, one person and a guitar on a stage rising star situation. And that was really nice.

Actually, I kind of liked what was out there, actually. And then that moment passed, and music changed again, like it does and that's good too. I really do think that music and musicians need to evolve. I have a lot of admiration for people who manage to evolve their personal style, their musical style, their artistic style as they age instead of either getting trapped in something that doesn't suit them anymore, or just stopping.

Ani DiFranco is one of those people. Of course, she has her challenges. And her music was absolutely vitally important to the formation of my queer identity at that time. There's a whole three or four albums that are the soundtrack to my coming of age. And I didn't even know it was queer yet. I was just figuring things out in my gut, before I had words for them. I did eventually figure it out, obviously, but not that fast.

But, but those moments, those moments of coming into alignment with the people around you, those moments of listening to a soundtrack of somebody else's life that sounds like yours. And it sounds like mine. I didn't realize, I didn't realize how hard it was to feel like I was the only one. Until yesterday. When for just a few minutes, I felt like somebody else had my taste in music. I felt like, "oh, I should get to know this person a lot better." If they like this much of the same music I do. I felt like this person might understand me. But mostly I felt like this might be a place where I belong.

'Tis the season of holiday gatherings. And we're all trying to figure out if we belong in the places where we've gathered. Or if something has changed just a little too much for us to fit in anymore. If that lid doesn't quite snap closed. If that door won't quite latch. If a strong wind could blow it open and blow us out back into the street.

Or maybe, maybe, we are feeling like we have finally finished building the home that we have intended to be building, the family that we have needed to be building, the community that we have so desperately needed, and maybe we get to stay this time. Maybe we get to write the rules. Maybe people can't kick us out. Maybe it will be okay. Maybe we're safe. Maybe there's love.

And sometimes that starts with nothing or sometimes it starts with a shared smile or an unexpectedly familiar story or a lump in your throat and sometimes, sometimes it starts with a playlist. Sometimes it starts with a song, sometimes it- sometimes it starts with recognizing yourself in someone else. Just anything. Something. But the more things the better. So that you can know that where you are is where you should be. So you can take off your shoes, unpack your boxes, stay awhile, and be home.

Thanks for tuning in.