JORDIE, the electrifying drummer in the local pop punk outfit Practicing Sincerity, shares tales of punk rock glory and how her struggles with gender identity, marriage, and the music scene forced her to choose her most authentic life
Photos by Kelly Brennan
Interview by Brian Gnerre and Kelly Brennan
Where are you from? How did you get involved in the music scene there?
Jordie: I’m from Atascadero, a town of 27,000 people, 10 miles inland from SLO. I got my first drum set freshman year of high school. My dad bought it without talking to my mom about it because they were divorced at the time, but my mom was stoked for me. There wasn’t a lot of money growing up so getting this kit was a big deal. It was revolutionary. I first learned a Led Zeppelin song called D’Yer Maker that was more on the slow and technical side. Then, I learned the fastest, loudest punk song I could find, Punx Unite by The Casualties. At that age I was a fast, loud, angry person. A month later, I started a band with friends. I remember leaving school at lunch to go to a friend’s house. It was super hot that day, so we sat in the living room with a huge shop fan blowing, smoking cigarettes and playing. Our main inspirations were The Damned and TSOL. We were called Manifest Destiny and our logo had a cigarette and a Zippo on it. This was in the early 2000s and there weren’t a lot of punk bands at the time. Most in the area were more on the hardcore/screamo side so we were able to fill the niche of straight punk. We opened up for The Dwarves, Agent Orange, TSOL, The Angry Samoans, and The Smut Peddlers while still in high school. It only took 2 years from my getting my first kit to playing big shows. Manifest Destiny disbanded in 2008, and soon after I hooked up with The Scurvy Bastards. My first practice was in the middle of nowhere in this unfinished house with studs on the walls, a concrete floor, and plastic sheeting over everything. I played all their songs aggressively and drastically upped their tempo from rock to hardcore, which became a common theme with other bands. I don’t like soft playing, it’s not fun for me.
How did you end up in Santa Cruz?
Jordie: I met my ex-wife in 2009. [When I met her] we became instant best friends. At the time we were living with a group of like minded people playing in bands together. I got an offer for cheap rent with a friend in San Francisco and moved into the room, which ended my thing with her for the moment because she wanted to stay in Atascadero. I lived in SF for a year and played in a band called Gunnar. I also played Gilman which was a dream come true. It was a weird time in my life because I was depressed and closeted and drinking way too much. I got arrested for drunken vandalism and spent 70 hours in SF city jail. 2 days after moving back to Atascadero, I had a traumatic bike injury after riding my bike in SF every day without issue. I had no alcohol in my system and there weren’t any cars around. The crash fractured my skull and nearly killed me, but I recovered after 4 days of hospitalization. Soon after, I started talking to [my ex-wife] again and we quickly moved in together. We got married 2 years later in 2012 and had a beautiful outdoor wedding. There were massive lighted trees and everyone there said it felt like a warm Tuscan evening. I rocked a huge ridiculous mustache, a kilt, and a garter belt made by my mother-in-law that was really sweet. After the wedding we bought a travel trailer and went up to Oregon and Washington, where we lived awhile. We also hit Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, and Montana, traveling for about a year in total. We afforded it by telling wedding guests we didn’t want presents and wanted to travel instead. Our friends and family responded by gifting us around $8,000 in total, which allowed us to get new tires for the truck and remodel the trailer. It was only 17 feet from hitch to bumper but we made it cozy and homey. We had two dogs with us, a cocker spaniel, whose full name was Sargent Little Bear Trompador Peppers, and a square headed pup named Ms Magoo. That time traveling around the west was so happy and the nomadic lifestyle is something I want to get back to. However, at the time gas was 4-5 dollars [a gallon] so we quickly blew through our travel money, otherwise we would’ve gone across the country. Part of the trip’s intention was to find a new place to live and Santa Cruz was a place where I’d always had family so we ended up there. My uncle got me a construction job and we stayed in our trailer at my dad’s place in town until we found a place in Bonny Doon that we stayed at for a couple years.
How many bands have you drummed for in Santa Cruz?
Jordie: 2, but I tried out for a couple others. One had a Cali reggae style with a punk influence. I played all their songs well but didn’t like the people that much. They were good musicians but the songs felt too formulaic. They asked when I could start and I told them straight up I wasn’t that in to it. There was a tension from knowing I could get paid for consistent gigs with them but I knew it wouldn’t be worth it if I didn’t enjoy the people I played with. I also played in a band called Moonbeaux with my roommate Emma. She wrote all the songs, some of which she’d been sitting on for 15 years. She’d written them in a melodic, down tempo style but my drumming made them heavier and faster and so much fun. I really miss that band, but she moved to SF for a job so we had to break up.
How did you end up joining Practicing Sincerity?
Jordie: I had 5 months between bands which was a long time for me. I’m someone who needs to be playing music or else I go to some deep dark places. I don’t really exercise, or do yoga, or self defense, so music is not only a way to express myself but also my main outlet for aggressive energy. I knew PS through playing music with Moonbeaux. Got a message from Kevin, our lead singer and principal songwriter, saying they needed a drummer and that I was the only one they wanted. We clicked at the first practice and have been having a blast every since.
What would your ideal band be?
Jordie: I want to start a punk rock band, and I think the climate is right for that style of aggression. I’ve been playing more electric guitar with a loud amp and I’d like to be the lead singer, something I’ve done in past bands. I had an intense style then that would be exactly the same now with my transition, but I do wonder how my scream would sound. When I practice singing it’s either softly in my house or screaming at the top of my lungs in my car.
What audience would you like to reach with your music?
Jordie: Well I know I don’t want to play any more shitty dive bars full of drunk white men. Unfortunately punk can put out that vibe, but I believe it should be all inclusive. I’d like to foster a safe space with my music and use punk as an outlet for aggression for my audience, as much as for myself. I love seeing an audience stop moshing to pick up someone who has fallen in the pit.
Can you name some local bands you’re stoked on?
Jordie: Eve’s peach, Gal pal, and Day Trip come to mind. I really look up to Lauren’s [Day Trip] style of drumming and the technicality of her grooves and fills. She plays with intensity, but enough composure to comfortably wear a blazer. When I play I need to wear just a tank top and shorts, because I will sweat profusely owing to my full-fisted aggressive style. Honestly composure like Lauren’s would take years for me to learn.
Outside of drumming/music, are you drawn to other artistic pursuits?
Jordie: I try to write as much as possible but it comes and goes. I may have a month of diligence followed by six months of abstinence. I’ll often journal about my days and write short stories. I’ve also been working on my penmanship and analyzing it. Besides writing I’ve been creating physical art the past couple years. One project involved plastic Starbucks gift cards that would normally be thrown away while I worked at a Starbucks in San Francisco. I collected 2800 in total which didn’t take up much space but were definitely heavy. With them I’ve been making mosaics and collages and incorporating paint. I really like making art on circular things. I never have an idea of what I want to create, I’ll just start putting pieces of plastic on a circular canvas and see where it goes. I’ve been trying to create as much as I can. I like to paint, draw, and play guitar. I also want to get an acoustic piano soon.
Jordie puts her nose on an ornate mirror in Coffeetopia and sniffs it
Jordie: I don’t know why but I really like putting my nose on things. I went to go get a driver’s license renewal and I tried to use my nose as a thumbprint. The lady at the counter asked what I was doing and I was all “Oh, I dunno! Will that work? Can I have that be my thumbprint?”
When you were younger, what went through your head that kept you from being yourself?
Jordie: That questioning my gender was not okay. I felt like I needed to censor my posture and my voice. It used to be really deep and it took me a long time to get to my voice now, but sometimes I’ll go deep for fun. I remember standing in line for the grocery store and thinking, “don’t put your hip out, or point your toe this way, and keep your arms stationary, and slouch a little”. In situations with men around I would always consciously puff my chest out.
Did you initially think you were gay?
Jordie: I did for a while but now I consider myself pansexual. Now when I talk about my ex wife people think it’s a man.
So there’s an assumption there?
Jordie: Yeah but in a strange off-handed way, it helps me feel like I’m passing for my gender. For the first year I was very very freaked out that everyone thought I was just a transvestite. Even the little things, like people saying it’s nice to see a woman in the meat department, mean a lot. Honestly I don’t fucking care how people see me now, and that’s really helpful because I can live my life how the fuck I want. Growing up as a punk rock kid I had a “get outta my face I don’t give a shit what you think. You live, I live, we’ll all have a great time and be fine” attitude. Except that I had this other side where I really did care what you thought and how you saw me. In general, growing up with that punk mindset has really helped me with acceptance of myself.
When did you know you were meant to be a woman?
Jordie: Elementary school definitely. Being conscious of how I was presenting became evident in 2nd grade and I always thought it wasn’t right.
What made you realize that something needed to change?
Jordie: I was very, very, very depressed while living in Bonny Doon with my wife, but one thing that kept us solid was her acceptance of my gender questioning. There were a lot of signs I would transition later in life. I was so scared and nervous about navigating the world in a different way. But my partner’s acceptance made me comfortable and confident with it. She honestly wanted me to explore myself more in a way no other partner had. As my feelings about myself got stronger, I got more depressed living the way I was, and I knew that if things didn’t change I would get sadder and sadder and would kill myself. I’m a gun owner and I’ve always liked guns but they’re so problematic now that sometimes I feel like, fuck it, I should get rid of them. Some nights when my partner was working overnights as an interim care person, I’d be alone, looking at my hand gun and crying, knowing I was gonna kill myself in the woods. I’d be so positive it would happen that I would get really sad. I’m not spiritual or religious but when you’re in your deepest darkest moments and someone calls you on the phone, there’s this weird tendril of universal connection. Someone called me looking for my ex but we ended up talking for hours, and it not only changed my perspective, but totally saved my life.
What’s been difficult about the transition?
Jordie: My family relationship has suffered. It’s always been lacking and distant. Some in my family try but it doesn’t work. But my relationship with my dad’s been especially rough. He’s not the most understanding of my transition, so it’s been hard to spend time with him. We haven’t spoken in two months which is rare. We’d have meals out, or at my house often and that’s going away, but I feel better about it. I’m a fucking adult and I have other people as family now. Outside of family the transition has been very natural which is nice, though I’ve noticed I have a lot of internalized transphobia.
Because of the environment you grew up in?
Jordie: Not especially, I always felt like it was fine for others to be trans but not for myself, like I was unintentionally stopping myself from being happy because I didn’t think I deserved it. When I finally made the decision to live authentically it came really naturally. I had the idea people would think I was forcing something, or being something I wasn’t, or somehow phony. Like, you see a man who suddenly is next to you in the ladies restroom and you question it. But I’m not a weirdo phony putting on a show, I’m just living life and it’s so much easier than before…
How was it going from Jordan to Jordie at the same place of work?
Jordie: All of my friends I talked to were like, cool! It would’ve been very different and less accepting in my hometown.
Most said they never saw it coming but that it made sense. The person I was was definitely a show, a huge front. My background in the music I was playing also encouraged that strong alpha male aggro attitude.
How have the hormones affected you?
Jordie: It can be a struggle. I had 25 years of a certain thing coursing through my blood, and adding/subtracting certain chemicals has caused me to go through puberty again, which definitely makes me more self conscious. It’s strange cause I can talk about a lot of things and know what I’m saying but this topic is harder.
What’s the best part of transitioning?
Jordie: Getting on with life and not worrying about it. There are some weird things and potential hazards though. Thankfully my landlord is sweet and caring and has been in contact with queer people, but if I was in a different situation and received mail for Mr Jordan Washburn, a lot of landlords and might be less accepting. With him it was totally unquestioned. In California there are no set in stone regulations to keep being a trans person from disqualifying you from keeping or getting a job. There are societal things and sex and discrimination laws but the wording is nebulous for trans people.
In general, are you treated the same as a woman vs as a man?
Jordie: That’s a whole different thing, my life is very different than before. I have different friends. For instance, there is no way I’d have had a friend that is a married woman with a kid before the transition. My interactions are different, the way people talk to me is different, almost everything about my life is different. I definitely realized that being a cisgendered white male in this society comes with a lot of privilege that I don’t have anymore. I’ll wonder if people speak to me certain ways because they perceive me as a woman or as trans. Like why was that person rude to me? Most of the time it’s men. If it’s a woman, does she see through my identity, or is she not accepting of it? Does she think I’m really pretty and is she jealous of that? It’s been really strange for me to quantify interactions based just on appearance. Navigating society has been slightly different and there’ve been things I haven’t anticipated, like my interactions with people. Before I never considered that the things I did or said would affect anybody. I didn’t give a shit about my actions, but I pay a lot more attention to them now. Maybe I’m more nervous about how I’m being perceived, or maybe the hormones I’ve been taking changed my brain.
Have you ever felt discrimination applying for jobs?
Jordie: I’ve only ever been at [my current job] since transitioning so, no. But I have noticed a gender pay gap with what I do. I started working in dairy and when the buyer took time off, I became the buyer, and was making a couple dollars more than as a stocker. They hired someone else to stock who was doing less work and getting paid more. When he pointed it out I wanted to walk out but they addressed the issue.
Did you notice the pay gap before your transition?
Jordie: I wouldn’t have ever questioned it before. 8 years ago I was making 25 dollars an hour doing construction. That is such a male dominated field that if I were to do that work now, I’d probably be making 20, and I can do work well above that pay but it would take a lot for people to see that, because female capabilities are often downplayed or glossed over. People see me play drums and think it’s amazing, and when I talk about prior bands, people can’t believe it. They think it’s cool that I build and do construction, but as a guy, those things are unremarkable. Like oh cool you play in a band, who gives a shit? Everyone else builds things too. I don’t need pity for who I was, but I wonder if that person meant anything. People pay a lot more attention to me now, which is weird, and makes me sad because almost nothing is different about me except for the way I’m presenting myself. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have been interviewed. My different perspective on life is making me more connections. I’m not saying anything on this process but I feel like It’s kind of a novelty thing.
Like it’s being fetishized?
Jordie: Oh yeah, it’s definitely an experience I try to deal with. Not to say I don’t appreciate being asked about my story, I really appreciate it, and it is nice to have anyone interested. Before I had an air of “don’t talk to me”, and I hid behind my appearance a lot. I always had a shaved head, big chops, a big beard, and a big knife on me at all times. I didn’t want to say something weird and be questioned, but now I don’t care and I wanna be super open. I looked like a skinhead in high school with black pants, big combat boots, suspenders, and a constant mean mug. I felt like I needed to do the opposite of what I felt inside because I thought there was something wrong with me. I’d wonder why I thought this way and question what it is that’s so bad. A lot of that came from society saying being trans is a joke and that trans women were just weird dudes. Trans men are treated differently, like they’re just butch, but trans women are often fetishized or thought to be drag queens.
What advice would you give your past self?
Jordie: I would say don’t fucking worry about it, do what you want. I’ll often think I can’t do things because they’re too scary, and there’ll be backlash, but for me, that’s been complete bullshit. Everything is going to be fine because I’m confident and capable. Just to say you’re going to have a much better time than you think you will. I would’ve saved myself a lot of heartache and suicidal thoughts by hearing that from myself.
Jordie: I really hope that our world continues, we’re in this gray area of making it through the next couple years. Things with North Korea and Russia are really scary, and another world war could be the end of the world. I hope we make our way as a species and survive. I have a lotta stuff I wanna do in life and we all need to be better people, I think I also want to mention suicide prevention services. There are so many resources, hotlines, and counseling services out there. Some are free and some are paid which sucks, but depression and suicide are major things that need to be addressed. I hope anybody with depressive feelings can find their worth and know that they are valuable people. It took me a long time to find that and I still struggle with it.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-8255 Available 24/7