Singer Grayson came out as non-binary earlier this year.
Their life is marked by learning of the infinite possibilities of the world, and walking away from oppressive spaces like the Mormon Church.
GSN recently spoke to Grayson about their journey — from discovering music at a young age, to growing up Mormon, and discovering their fluid identity.
On creating anthems
Grayson recently put out the song Brother (video below).
Brother is beautiful, your vocals are amazing. What was the inspiration for the song?
Originally, a lot of external conflict in my life. It’s funny because as this summer has come, I’ve been working on putting myself out there. It became so internal to me, it’s an anthem for myself when I’m having a lot of feelings.
Where does your sound come from? What are your musical and creative inspirations?
I have inspiration every day from so many different sources. My icons shift. But obviously Bowie, Prince, I really love Freddie Mercury. I love Alice Bag, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. All these icons instilled in me so many different loves for music and performing. But I also draw a lot from my queer community around me.
In the music video, you embrace the strength of your own fluidity. You’re so powerful. What was filming the video like for you?
That day was hard. I cried and cried and cried. I wanted to bind my chest so badly, but I didn’t have the finances to get a binder and I have a large chest, it’s difficult to bind. So I laid on my bed and sobbed.
But then I was like, “You know what? I’m gonna do the best I can.” I put on two body-shapers and I put on a wedding skirt and my dad’s leather jacket. On top of that cliff, I felt so powerful and exactly who I wanted to be. I genuinely found myself in that song.
I am still afraid of presenting too masculine or too feminine. People are always making judgments. I’m finding ways to feel comfortable with myself. It’s a daily battle of validating myself, because other folks aren’t going to do that for me.
On coming out and first kisses
You moved to Los Angeles from Seattle. How do you find the two cities’ queer communities?
At first I had a difficult time finding a community for myself, because in Seattle it was all really concentrated. I moved here and I was like, “Oh my god, where are they?” They’re everywhere! Now I have an incredible group of people, and it took a year.
What is your impression of more people coming out as trans and non-binary in recent years?
I feel incredibly honored and thankful that I have the privilege and opportunity and safety to come out as non-binary. It’s amazing to see how much gender is on a spectrum.
What were your first thoughts when you began understanding your sexuality and gender expression?
I mean, I love Martha May Whovier from The Grinch. It’s funny because I’ve started seeing all these different characters and celebrities, I now understand I was incredibly attracted to. That’s been fun.
I was spending some time with friends and they were talking about kissing your friends. I went back into one of their rooms and said, “Hey, can you kiss me?” At that point, I was 17 or 18. So I came and sat down on the bed and we kissed. It was the first time I ever kissed someone who wasn’t a cis male.
It’s unfortunate because I still have a lot of guilty feelings and I’m sorting through those.
I grew up really feminine. And I love makeup. But I felt like I was cut off from things until I left the [Mormon] church. When I started figuring out my sexuality, I also went, “Wait, I kind of want to bind my chest. I kind of want to wear those pants, or those shoulder pads and feel broad and strong.” I realized both masculine and feminine energies have strength.
On infinite possibilities
When did you first hear the term non-binary?
Sometime in Seattle. I don’t actually remember, but I had a lot of wonderful non-binary folks I knew in Seattle.
I never felt me, I thought I was me. But the self I am now is untouchable because of all the things I’ve discovered. It’s sad now because I was so shut off. I still have a difficult time asking for my pronouns. It’s actually worse since coming out. Every day someone misgenders me, it’s more painful.
Did the world expand for you?
For sure. A lot of people don’t realize there are options, but why wouldn’t there be because everyone is 100% different. We can’t all fit into a binary, it doesn’t make sense.
Once I knew genderqueer, all these different spaces, I went, “That’s my space.” I immediately knew. I had to come to terms with it, but it’s been amazing. That’s why visibility is so important. I didn’t know until I saw.
It’s on a spectrum, there are infinite possibilities, you yourself is in infinite possibility.
On growing up in the Mormon Church
How long was the Mormon Church part of your life before you left?
I grew up born and raised in the LDS Church. I stayed steadfast in the church until I was 17. The church came out with a new guidance that, in my eyes, was really harmful to the LGBTQ community. I hadn’t even come out to myself yet but I was livid. I never understood the church’s relationship with the community. That was a big no for me.
Things started to shift, I discovered my own spirituality and wanted to start exploring my queer identity.
What are the misconceptions about the LDS Church?
There’s a million. They’re not all polygamists.
They’re generally nice people with good intentions. My family remains heavily involved. At first when I left I was bitter and hurt, but now I’ve been able to understand things differently.
There are so many good things about the church, but I wish its relationship with the community was different. But Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons – he’s working really hard to make adjustments there.
I’m sure not everything was a bad experience.
I learned a lot. In the new structure I’ve created for myself, I’ve taken things from my youth and from the church.
Your journey wouldn’t be what it is without the church.
It gave me such an understanding and empathy. I demanded that I knew myself better and I demanded that I figure out who the hell I am. I don’t think I would have had such a need for that if I just… grew up. Because of that, the last three years have been massively educational and confidence-boosting.
On making change
Are you still in touch with your family?
I’m really close to my mom. My whole immediate family, they’re wonderful. I haven’t had a conversation with them about gender. I don’t know how. But I’m close to them and I appreciate them and the sacrifices they’ve made.
My mom has always supported me and my dream. She has done the best with her faith and beliefs to accept me, and I think that’s so important for Mormon youth.
‘Tolerance’ is a word I don’t love because this isn’t something that should be ‘tolerated’. But I never thought my mom could love me if I was gay, and she does. You never know until you open up the conversation.
The suicide rate among youth in Utah is intense. It’s as heavy and as hard as it sounds. There are necessary and urgent changes. This is close to my heart, so I want to do everything I can to open the conversations, even if they’re uncomfortable.
So you don’t want to walk away from the Church entirely?
I don’t ever want to be a part of it again, but I think it’s important to do my best to assist them and help the conversation however I can.
On the musical future
When did music become part of your life?
In the womb. My family is very musical. I performed for the first time when I was three.
My mom is a drama teacher and they were doing Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. I was the little lamb that was raised up and my arm was ripped off to smear blood on the coat. It was a star moment for me. That’s when I knew I loved performing.
And even then, I remember being attracted to Potiphar’s wife.
When did you start discovering your own voice?
I remember writing songs in the car when I was five or six. I still remember a lot of them, and they were terrible. My mother, though, she was wonderful. She would listen to them over and over again.
When I was 12, I got a guitar for Christmas. That changed everything. I started writing and writing and writing.
I put out my first single when I was 12. My dad is a choir teacher, so he had some recording equipment. He recorded this song, Behind the Glass, and I found out how to get it on iTunes.
It’s been a long time coming, finding my own sound, but I think I’ve found it. I have had so many people message me about how Brother’s touched them. I’m really thankful and lucky this song has been so affecting.
What are your next steps?
I have so much anxiety so I get nervous thinking about that, but I want to tour. The EP is coming out at the top of the year, and I’ve been trying to learn more and educate myself. I only really started learning about everything at 17, so I’m still just trying to collaborate and learn.
Grayson’s first EP, produced by Aidan James, is set for a 2019 release.