“Transfiguration: A Wrock Comp for Trans Rights” Brings Humor, Heart to Difficult Discourse

Following J.K. Rowling’s public comments on transgender identity, there have been many questions about how members of the Wizarding World fandom plan to move forward in relation to the franchise. Particularly for queer, transgender, and non-binary fans, the matter is more complicated, and a new wizard rock (or “wrock”) compilation album addresses some of these feelings.

Transfiguration: A Wrock Comp for Trans Rights was released on October 11 and organized by CG Matovina, Sage Palmieri, and Jami Schafer, with artwork by Quintin Gell. The proceeds of the album, priced at $7.77, will go to Camp Lilac and the National Black Trans Advocacy Coalition.

We at MuggleNet had the opportunity to interview Sage Palmieri, whose track “Harry’s Haikus” is included on the album, to learn more about the project. Palmieri – who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns – explained that they were already friends with Schafer and Matovina through the Harry Potter fandom and that the album’s origins were in an open mic night hosted by the literary magazine Wizards in Space as part of the programming for the Harry Potter Alliance’s virtual version of Granger Leadership Academy, called Camp GLA, this past summer.

During the open mic night, Palmieri recalled, there were at least three different pieces performed in response to Rowling’s comments. From there, Palmieri expressed on the Camp GLA Discord server that someone should make a compilation album out of the responses, but they didn’t expect that they would be one of the people to do it. Being at Granger Leadership Academy when the idea came about, Palmieri explained, reinforced that they could be empowered to make a difference.

I feel like the beauty of wizard rock specifically is that we are all in a position of being fans first and foremost, and there’s this interesting line between being a creator and being a fan, and wizard rock kind of branches that divide, which I think is really essential for this conversation in particular because it is us – the fans – having a problem with what the creator has done, and what more perfect medium than wizard rock?

From there, Palmieri, Schafer, and Matovina began to reach out to others in the wizard rock community, and they were able to find a wide range of genres and emotions. Submissions came through wizard rockers they knew who happened to be queer or trans as well as through submissions to a Google Form.

The choice of the National Black Trans Advocacy Coalition and Camp Lilac as organizations to support through the album’s proceeds was born out of a desire to amplify Black trans experiences, while Camp Lilac is an organization with which Palmieri and some of the other wizard rockers on the compilation album have previously worked.

It was very important for us from the beginning to support people of color with this work even though the majority of the people on the [compilation] are White. We tried really hard to get more people of color on the [compilation], but there'[re] a lot of layers as to why the Harry Potter fandom is pretty White, currently. That was definitely important to us.

When asked about their favorite trans, non-binary, and/or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) creators in the fandom, Palmieri enthused that everyone on the compilation is “amazing” but that they were especially excited about the work that Totally Knuts is doing. Meanwhile, they noted that Anna Dardick – who is making her debut as a wizard rocker on the compilation – “blew [their] mind” with “The Metamorphmagus Song.”

It was one of the last submissions we got and I’m so glad that we got it because it blew me away.

Will we be seeing more albums from the organizers of Transfiguration: A Wrock Comp for Trans Rights? Palmieri stated that, while nothing is set in stone, there have been questions about it already.

 

 

Full Transcript with Sage Palmieri, Thursday, October 15, 2020

Transcribed by Marissa Osman

Mary Wojcicki: My first question is, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the team behind the compilation album?

Sage Palmieri: I'm Sage Palmieri. I am twenty-one years old. I've been into Harry Potter as long as I can remember. I'm non-binary. I use they/them pronouns. The other two people that are a part of the team putting it together are Jami Schafer and CG Matovina they are also non-binary people. Jami uses she/they, and CG uses they/them. They've also been in the Harry Potter fandom forever. We've all been really into wizard rock for a long time specifically the wizard rock community. We've all attended shows together for years, and gone to conventions together, and roomed together, and done all of that stuff. Harry Potter is why we met, because of mutual friends in the Harry Potter community. I think Jami and CG have roomed together at conventions before and we specifically have all gone to Granger Leadership Academy by The Harry Potter Alliance before, which is a Harry Potter convention specifically geared towards activism and creating change and I think in a lot of ways it has... The ideas for the compilation album came from Camp GLA this summer, which was a virtual version of Granger Leadership Academy that was over a weekend in July. There was an open mic, and there were three different pieces that were responding to J.K. Rowling's whole situation and I said to our Discord server, "Somebody should make a compilation album out of this." [laughs] Out of all of the responses. Because beyond that we had heard other ones. I think there's a whole album out there that's just about J.K. Rowling being the worst. I was just talking, but they were like, "Wait a minute, maybe we could actually do that." Specifically because of what we were doing when it was said, being at Granger Leadership Academy, which the whole point is empowerment and showing your passion for fandom, and your love for creative works can be redirected into making a difference.

Mary: Yeah! So you basically just took the idea and was like, "Oh, someone should do it," and it ended up being you. [laughs]

Sage: Yeah. "Someone should do that!" That someone's me. [laughs]

Mary: That kind of answers my other question, which was why wizard rock, or wrock, as a medium. But if you want to touch on what you feel the value of wizard rock and spoken word is as opposed to, say, a written piece. How do you feel that conveys things?

Sage: I think a lot of it is just approaching the topic in a different way and spreading the idea to every kind of format. The open mic that happened was done by Wizards in Space, which is a literary magazine that is for people in fandom to publish their own creative content that isn't fan-works, necessarily. That's another really empowering part of our little corner of the Harry Potter fandom that we're in. I feel like the beauty of wizard rock specifically is that we are all in a position of being fans first and foremost, and there's this interesting line between being a creator and being a fan, and wizard rock kind of branches that divide, which I think is really essential for this conversation in particular because it is us - the fans - having a problem with what the creator has done, and what more perfect medium than wizard rock?

Mary: So what can listeners expect from this compilation in general? I got to take a listen to, not all of it, but definitely some of the pieces. It ranges from super quirky to some more metal, sort of screamo stuff.

Sage: It runs the gamut. I think there's something for everyone on it and I love it so much; it's so good. It really brought all of the different kinds of wizard rock you can imagine out of the woodwork. There's something for everyone. It really does range in mood, in genre, in production quality. [laughs] It's everything of every part of the musical genre that you can imagine.

Mary: I have to ask how did you approach people about this/ How did you find people who were willing to contribute? Was this just all out of GLA, or?

Sage: No. Actually, what we did was first we reached out to people that we knew were trans or queer wizard rockers already who we knew would have pieces like this already ready, or already thinking about this kind of content. We emailed them directly, but then we made a Google Form and published it and just reached out to the community calling for anyone and anything spoken word, acoustic, whatever. We just got all of these submissions and it was beautiful.

Mary: I guess my other question is, obviously, this is a reaction to Jo's comments and what I, personally, at least, would consider blatant transphobia. Based on your opinion of that, and obviously, there's a ton of discourse around that right now, but for the average listener who maybe is a member of the fandom in some capacity but isn't necessarily queer, or trans, or non-binary, what do you hope people take away from this album?

Sage: I think what I would hope people take away is that while we are not the creators of Harry Potter and Harry Potter is fundamentally flawed - and has always been, even before J.K. Rowling said what she said this year - that doesn't mean that it is without value as content. It still can be a force for change and for good. And we can make it work for us.

Mary: I think just speaking to the approach that MuggleNet has taken with this and what I've seen from a lot of people who have been entrenched in the fandom for so many years is trying to find that balance between, "Okay, obviously what Jo said is awful and vile, but also how do we move forward from this?" Literally, even me sitting here, I'm surrounded by various Wizarding World franchise-related stuff. I have magazines sitting on my table that are special editions that MuggleNet has done for Newsweek, and I've got unofficial Harry Potter related earrings sitting in front of me. When so many of us have had to reconcile our feelings for a brand that has shaped our lives in so many ways and then also trying to renegotiate that in light of what's been said and what's been communicated by both Jo and then also the franchise at various levels, be it Warner Brother's or what have you.

Sage: Absolutely. I think how you reconcile that is different for every person. Personally, I'm not going to buy any more official merchandise for Harry Potter. I'm only going to purchase fan-made work, but that's not everyone's cup of tea and that's cool. Other people, for all of the merch that they buy, they're also donating an amount to charity organization like the one that this [compilation] is going to support like Camp Lilac and the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition. I think that's a cool thing too. There's so many different ways to wrap your brain around it.

Mary: For people who are interested in Camp Lilac and the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition, do you want to speak to why you chose those specific organizations?

Sage: Yeah, absolutely. Originally, we were going to donate to the Okra Project, but a couple [of] weeks into the project, we discovered that they've been having some internal issues that we didn't necessarily want to support as much, so we switched to the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition because we wanted a portion of the proceeds to go to supporting people who even more so than just being trans are suffering. Especially right now. We didn't want to not be aware or... I can't think of the exact word I'm thinking of right now, but we wanted to recognize what is going on in America currently and the struggle that is happening on a broad scale. It was very important for us from the beginning to support people of color with this work even though the majority of the people on the [compilation] are White. We tried really hard to get more people of color on the [compilation], but there'[re] a lot of layers as to why the Harry Potter fandom is pretty White, currently. That was definitely important to us. And we chose Camp Lilac because I actually have worked there before. I've been a volunteer there and some of the wizard rockers on the compilation have also been a part of Camp Lilac before. It's this really awesome summer camp for transgender kids and that one was more of a near and dear to our hearts kind of thing. They're doing awesome stuff, and they're friends of the [compilation], you could say.

Mary: My other question in that is, who are some of your favorite trans, non-binary, and/or [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] creators in the fandom right now?

Sage: Oh, gosh. Obviously, everyone on the compilation is amazing. I'm really living what Totally Knuts is doing. TK [Visalia], they just churn out albums like it's nobody's business. I believe they recorded a whole album in a week this summer because they got so mad about J.K. Rowling, and I can't even fathom. It's the coolest. Totally Knuts is doing awesome stuff. One of the artists on the album, this is their debut as a wizard rocker. Anna Dardick. They've been writing wizard rock for years and years, but this is the first time that they've actually published something and it's so good. It's called *The Metamorphmagus Song" and it's so good. it blew my mind. It was one of the last submissions we got, and I'm so glad that we got it because it blew me away. There's so much. You would think that it would be more of a weird niche than it is, but there's so much good stuff in the queer wizard rock community.

Mary: So, riding off of that, do you have any future plans for more wizard rock compilations, or more albums, or anything coming in the future? Coming off of this, what do you think your plans are going to be?

Sage: There's nothing set in stone right now, but right away, as soon as it debuted people were... We streamed the initial launch on Twitch on Saturday, and as soon as the album ended, people were already like, "When the next one?" "When are you going to do 2?"

[Mary and Sage laugh]

Sage: So we've already been getting a lot of sales and a lot of really good response. Keep your ears peeled. Maybe we'll do another one.

Mary: I think that sounds pretty solid. Is there anything else that you'd like to add in terms of the interview or in terms of wanting MuggleNet readers to know?

Sage: Not really. Other than even beyond listening to and buying the [compilation], support trans voices. And keep learning, and don't let J.K. Rowling get away with anything. Don't forget the stuff that she has said because it's not acceptable and we won't let it stand.

Mary: Alright! Well, I think that's about it for the interview, then. I think that we covered most to-do with the album. The Bandcamp page also has lyrics for the different songs and everything, so people can see those if they're interested. Some of these are absolutely great. I didn't have time to listen to everything but I was reading over it and I was laughing to myself. Some of this is so creative; it's great.

Sage: I love these artists so much. They're delightful. I love it so much. It's so good. Though, if you only have time to listen to one you should listen to the one by Shauna Carrick, Where Do We Go From Here. It's the last one on the album. Every time I listen to it I cry. It's a masterpiece.

Mary: I love wizard rock songs that accidentally make me cry, even when people aren't trying to. End of an Era. There's some old fan video on the internet, I don't know if it's even still on YouTube, but there is some old video for End of an Era that always just gets me even though the fandom has continued on and now it's a little bit of a mess, but that one always...

Sage: Even just on its own, End of an Era will make me cry. Oof. Oliver Boyd just hit me right in the gut.

Mary: Thank you for your time. I'm super excited to listen to the rest of this and I need to buy the album as well instead of just listening to the preview stuff on Bandcamp.

Sage: That's the really cool thing about people who are buying it. You can pay extra and there's been a ton of people who have just been... The price is $7.77 but there have been people giving us $20 for it. And it's great to see.

Mary: Thank you for your time, and it was great talking to you!

Sage: Thank you so much!

 

You can find out more about Transfiguration: A Wrock Comp for Trans Rights and purchase the album on Bandcamp.

 

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Mary W.

I am a Slytherin, a lifelong fan of Harry Potter, and a member of MuggleNet staff since 2014. In my Muggle life, I am passionate about human rights, and I love to travel around the world and meet new people.