Ezra Furman Talks Coming Out, Sex Education, and Punk Rock’s Parallels to Judaism

Ezra Furman has a thing for time, dates and places.

She remembers Feb. 17, 2017, as a day when “I’m broken, bleeding, but damn it / I’m alive” on 2018’s “Peel My Orange Every Morning.” Transangelic exodus. She recalls her and her first band opening for Margot & Nuclear So and So’s while on tour in April 2012 in Tallahassee.

“I keep a diary,” she said. “I think my little OCD tendencies could be an explanation – loving everything to be organized and knowing exactly when things are happening…the other impulse is to make a story out of my life. It’s both trying to organize the chaos in a way that comforts me and keeping track of the grand narrative.

Part of the grand narrative of Furman’s life can be found in his 2018 contribution to Bloomsbury Academic’s 33 1/3 book series, a 40,000-word study of Lou Reed’s 1972 album. Transformer.

“The idea to write this book came from being really fascinated by Lou Reed and especially him at that time which was when I was 30 years old,” Furman said. “I was dealing with the weirdness of being seen and having to face the public in a bigger way…I was discovering my gender and queer identity publicly, when I still felt really, really unsettled about everything. that .”

Furman’s journey to find that identity is one she’s shared publicly since her days as a macho, indie-rocker with Ezra Furman & The Harpoons. His identity can be heard in the lines of one of his early songs, “Bloody Knuckles,” in which 21-year-old Furman sings, “My mouth is all full, full of blood / Looks like I’ve got red in my mouth. lips on / Little boys don’t grow up to be men / No, there’s something else happening to them.

It was four years before Furman wore a dress in public. Singing is truly a confession.

“That’s something Lou Reed said about ‘Satellite of Love’,” the Transformer scholar said of the album’s seventh track. “He was like, ‘I didn’t know what this song was about, but then it got me singing every night for 20 years.'”

Thinking back to his own catalog, “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” stands out for Furman as a song with an involuntary dive into his own subconscious.

“Did I really know when I wrote it why I was singing about a secret compartment, hidden in the maintenance closet of the grocery store?” she asks rhetorically. “Now I can see more clearly how boxed in I felt, and I don’t think reading that resonance is wrong just because I wasn’t consciously thinking about it.

“I think…I would think other songwriters would agree with me,” she continues. ” You do not know. You just grab the darkness of your subconscious and your dream life and search for what you don’t even know why, but that’s what I have to say in front of people or in people’s ears.

On April 20, 2021, Furman came out publicly as a trans woman on social media after living her life as a trans woman and mother for over two years.

Furman released his latest studio album, 12 Nudes, in August 2019, which included the song “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend,” where the singer reflects on “ditching Ezra and going through Esmé.” Clearly, Furman chose to keep his birth name.

“Because that’s my name,” she said simply.

“There are lots of different tactics for trans people to feel better about themselves and gain more control over their lives, and each of us chooses our tactic in some way,” Furman says. “I spent a lot of time thinking about whether it would be a step towards being free to use a different name. And I think for me, in this particular case, I feel more free to keep my birth name, which means “help” in Hebrew, by the way.”

Slow, sloppy, undefined, defined and redefined as the coming out process has been for Furman, she is happy to report that she feels stable in her identity as a trans woman and will not change her mind again.

With the world frozen as it is right now thanks to the pandemic, Furman says that’s how she’s approaching her upcoming tour.

“I feel a bit frozen, especially in terms of ‘out-ness’ because no one sees me,” she says. “I’m a little nervous to really have to introduce myself to strangers again because I’m not used to it anymore. Maybe something has really changed in terms just for me since my last tour. My trans status is more firmly established, but it’s a question of whether I should think about it. Does it affect how my voice sounds or anything? »

Furman pauses, realizing she’s falling into an awkward questioning hole even now, two months before her tour begins.

“What I tend to do when I’m embarrassed,” she says, “is think about it, think about it, think about it, and then just say, ‘Fuck you, I I’m not going to think about it anymore,” and then do everything on instinct.

Doing everything on instinct pushed Furman enough. She still doesn’t know how she ended up composing a soundtrack for the Netflix series Sex educationbut she’s happy to stretch her creative muscles in new ways.

“Not having, like, assignments and specific coaching throughout the process is probably better,” she says of writing original songs for the show with only a little background on how they go. will be used. “I know they wanted us to sound like us, so we did things that we thought sounded like us.”

Two songs from his time with The Harpoons were used in the show’s third season, but these songs are unlikely to accompany him on tour.

“At some point we stopped playing songs,” she says. “For me, it’s like baby pictures. … My musical goals have evolved. I feel like this band succeeded in many ways at who they were trying to be. Me being 21, looks like I was feeling then.

Furman briefly pursued an education at rabbinical school before realizing that the demands of motherhood were more of a priority for her.

“Some parents want to go to school, but I found it next to logistically impossible,” she says. “I thought I was going to do the semester and then see how a semester goes and take 2022 completely out of going to school and doing music, but it wasn’t really doable. So I just took a class last semester, and I loved it so much.

Furman grew up in the Jewish tradition but didn’t take it seriously until he was a teenager. Since then, she has found the parallels between Judaism and punk philosophy to be a source of strength and acceptance.

“Despite the difficulties of that, I’m more into mainstream Judaism, so let’s call it more…liberal amounts, and I guess because I wanted to be more different than American culture,” she says. “Judaism almost everywhere is like a destabilization of human authority and a concern for the poor and against the abuse of power. My devotion to the divine and human dignity of every person completely supersedes any allegiance I might have to any country, leader, or society, and I just wish that was the first thing on everyone’s mind.

Furman found the gay-led Talmud study of SVARA to be particularly helpful in finding and coming to terms with his identity.

When Furman plays Tulips in Fort Worth on March 14, it will be the first time she’s played a show in North Texas since her days with The Harpoons in 2008 (aside from a weird festival she played during the day at Dallas on her way home from SXSW a year).

Furman doesn’t like to go on long tours, so she tends to prioritize the places that hold her attention the most.

“I guess I don’t hear enough Texans trying to send me flowers,” she says. “Let it be known that I encourage people to bring flowers and throw them on stage.”

Since the tour was dubbed “On the Attack in Lilac & Black,” the band’s unofficial team colors for the tour, Furman says lilacs “would be ideal, but I’d go with any non-toxic flowers”.

In the past, Furman has involved activists in his shows, providing open mic and booths to help those in need.

“Sometimes we have people talking about specific local political issues on stage to say their tune — maybe before they play an encore — and I want to keep doing that,” Furman says. “All I can think of are issues with democracy in Texas. So if you want to do that in Dallas, anybody who might enjoy a minute on stage for a good cause, I’m interested.

Diana J. Carleton