To celebrate the upcoming release of my first science fiction novel, Thursday, I’ve decided to share some stories of my life: Tales from the music industry, tales from my career in writing, tales from my work as a Silicon Valley business development executive, and possibly some random life moments in there, too. You can find them on Youtube on via the below playlist. I hope you enjoy them as much as I’m enjoying sharing them.
Back in the nineties, I was the Alternative Music editor for Radio & Records, an industry publication that was inluential with radio music directors and program directors. These were the people who could make or break careers and decided which songs would be hits. My office was in Century City in Los Angeles, a half block from the building made famous in Die Hard as Nakatomi Tower. One of my favorite fellow editors, however, lived in Nashville—Country Radio Hall of Fame member Lon Helton.
I talked with a lot of radio consultants, and one that often was mentioned for her influence and insight was Country radio consultant Jaye Albright. I didn’t know Jaye, and, indeed, I’ve never talked to her. However, I had been close enough to the industry to know that just a few years before I joined Radio & Records Jaye Albright wasn’t a consultant. She wasn’t even a she. She was influential country radio program director Jay Albright, who was at the time presenting as a man.
One day I saw her name in a column, and being curious I called Lon Helton to get her story. He was nice enough about it. Just basically said that Jaye wasn’t really ever a man. She was just physically that way, and it was a tragedy and that it had to have been tough for her. I believe at one point he said something like, “Can you imagine how difficult that must be?” I kind of just shrugged and thought that it must have been really difficult for Jaye to be trans in such a conservative format and community as country music.
As time went by, I would be reminded of Jaye every so often, and it struck me that every time I heard of her it was due to some incredibly intelligent or insightful thing she was writing about or some accolade she was receiving or some young music director that she had helped. In short, she wasn’t a stranger at all in country music. She was one of the family, and not just one of the family—a matriarch. She eventually ran country music stations for a large broadcast company and was inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame.
That was over 25 years ago, and today I often think of Jaye and how different things were back then. Being publicly trans was practically unheard of in the nineties. So the enormous courage of Jaye staggers me. With basically no public support or common cultural context, she made the decision to be the person she was always meant to be, and as you can see in a front page column in Radio & Records (written by Lon) about her final transition surgery, she was kind and generous in explaining why what she was doing was important to her as a person.
I am sure that Jaye’s battles then were different than the battles we see today, but they had to be just as difficult. I mean, just imagine going to a country concert as a guest in the deep South as a trans woman in 1997. The looks you receive. The whispers. The comments from strangers. I’m sure it’s not that much different today unfortunately, but back then, she was alone.
But she wasn’t really alone.
I think back to Lon’s comment about Jaye—”Can you imagine how difficult that must be?” Lon wasn’t talking about being trans in the country radio community. It didn’t even cross his mind. He was talking about a friend being a woman trapped in a man’s body.
Twenty-five years ago being trans wasn’t considered dangerous, even in the deep south or the conservative country radio community. It was just someone being different. And while that has its own challenges and own dangerous biases and many other hurtful aspects, what it doesn’t have is a lack of sympathy or understanding that, at the end of the day, the pain is one of a person just wanting to be who they truly are.
If country radio back in the days of Garth Brooks and Kix & Dunn can see the person behind the label and the pain they are facing, what the fuck is happening today?
As I’ve noted in a number of places, I deleted my Twitter account. However, I’ve joined Bluesky and you can find me there as @jake.kerr.social.
You can also find me on Mastodon as @firstname.lastname@example.org.
I regularly check both locations, so if you’re into the social media thing and want to say hi, feel free to @ me.
I could not agree more with John Scalzi’s post about the artisan web. I’ve spent a lot of time recently moving off of corporate structures that own the entire structure of not just what delivers your content, but the moderation and filtering of it, as well. His description of the why is compelling.
A metaphor is valuable here. Think of it as renting versus owning your house. In both cases, where you live is entirely your own, but the constraints and limits of renting are far greater than when you own a home. There are simply things that you can’t do and that you can’t stop that are run by the corporate entity that owns the building and property.
When you own a house, you obviously still have to tie into corporate structures for things like utilities and communal structures for things like roads. And, of course, there are laws. But at the end of the day, it is your own plot of land, and you have a lot of say in how you interact with others and what you can do.
That’s the artisan web that John is talking about.
To that end, I am moving from Facebook and Twitter to the social web, best typefied by Mastodon, but Mastodon is just one front end. I use Friendica, which is actually much more powerful than Mastodon in terms of filtering what you see and limiting who sees what you post. But they are linked and talk to each other, so it’s pretty much just a personal choice. Similarly, I didn’t want to be linked to larger groups to host my content, so I created my own server at Digital Ocean. The upshot is if Mastodon Social goes down, my little server will still be trucking along. You can find me at @email@example.com. (And that’s another side benefit–my social presence is branded to me, not mastodon.social or mastodon.world.)
I’m pretty much moving my entire digital life “in house.” Of course “in house” doesn’t mean that I’m not reliant on corporations. I still have to connect to the Internet, and I pay Digital Ocean to host my servers. But it’s about as independent as I think you can realistically be at this point.
So I do recommend others to join a more personalized web. And, as John says, it’s not an either/or. I’m still on Facebook because I have important friends there. But it’s not my “home.” It’s like the local bar where we go to meet. If you want to find my home, well, you’re here! Or you can follow me at @firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, god forbid, you actually want to email me? You can do that, too. You go, oldtimer, you go!