Trans Country Artist Slyly Subverts the Form
By Rachel Cholst, Contributing Editor
It had been a while since I’d heard from Amina Shareef Ali. Her stunning 2014 album A Place to Remember the Dead is a gentle and furious folk punk masterpiece of Occupy-era Oakland, reckoning with ingrained toxic masculinity, and parenthood. Listening to it now takes me to an era that feels impossibly long ago: an era of frustration with politicians who say the right things but fail to act on them. That’s a universe away from where we are now.
And Amina’s universe has changed as well. I recently “ran” into her quite by accident on Twitter on a thread searching for trans women country singers. Turns out a lot can happen in six years, and Amina’s newest song is a slyly sweet country two-step about transitioning. At first glance, “Farewell to My Man” would seem to be a nostalgic waltz through a relationship with a particularly rowdy young man.
However, as Amina posted a poignant blog entry about the song, it is in fact a fond farewell to what she describes as a facet of her identity:
“I emphatically felt that I hadn’t not been a boy or a man, and I didn’t relate to any description of gender dysphoria that I had encountered. (Side note: I have since had a lot of both experiences of and thoughts about dysphoria, but that’s for another piece.) There are a lot of reasons that I chose to keep my given first name as another middle name (largely having to do with racial identity, which is also another piece altogether), but one of them was still feeling a strong connection to and affinity for all the people I’ve been. Put simply, I believe that I was a man, until I wasn’t. I wasn’t a woman, until I was.
There are so many core aspects of my identity that weren’t inherent to my being from the jump. I was not born but became a songwriter, a radical, a parent or a therapist, yet no one casts aspersions on my fitness for those roles (usually). Why should my current gender being newly formed rather than latent have any bearing on its validity?”
As a queer country song, “Farewell to My Man” checks all the boxes:
- References to tarot
- A warm irreverence towards country music cliches
- Fantastic wordplay
- Beautifully vulnerable
Amina Shareef Ali expects to release an album sometime this year. In the meantime, you can listen to “Farewell To My Man” on all your favorite platforms.