June 21 2016 06:57 AM

The Vulnerable looks for trans acceptance in the local scene

TUESDAY, June 21 — The Vulnerable is a Michigan band trying to carve out space in the scene for the gender nonconforming community.

“We are a queer band. A lot of us are trans or femme, but we want to play for everyone,” said vocalist and co-founder Kenny. “I try to do that when I’m writing songs. I try to keep in mind that this is me writing from my personal stance, but this applies to any marginalized group of people — or anybody, really.”

In the transgender community, 2015 was a devastating year. According to an article written by Time magazine, by August of last year, 15 transgender people had already had been murdered in the U.S. BuzzFeed News reported that of all transgender people killed in 2015, the highest concentration of violence occurred in the Detroit’s Palmer Park area, mostly against trans women.

Two years ago, just 40 minutes away from this epicenter of tension, Clarkston-native Kenny and a group of likeminded musicians founded the Vulnerable. The five-piece punk/ska group released its latest album, “Is There Acceptance?,” last month.

“The album name is meant to be ambiguous in the sense that it asks the question, ‘Is there acceptance?’ on a personal level and more broadly,” Kenny said. “It asks if there is acceptance of reality, which is a very complex thing. That also entails the acceptance of being a gender-variant person in a world that doesn’t accept you.”

Punk and ska music, with its history of subversion, seemed like the perfect genre for a band trying to challenge cultural expectations.

“I grew up with ska and punk and hardcore,” Kenny said. “I think punk, as a subculture, has always been very anti-authority, which was always appealing to me, being an angsty young kid from the ‘burbs and not agreeing with all the expectation that are imposed upon you, whether it’s in a social way, economic way or a political way.”

But the 24-year-old rocker prefers the term “queercore” to describe the band’s sound.

“When we started the band, none of us were out as trans or queer or genderqueer, but I went out to Olympia, Wash., last summer and there are a lot of bands in that scene that called themselves queercore,” Kenny said. “This label allows people who often feel excluded at shows or just in general to see you’re represented here, that this will encourage you to do what we’re doing or feel a lot less isolated.”

According to Kenny, it’s “no secret” that many music scenes, particularly punk, are composed of white, male, cisgender members. Kenny, who identifies as genderqueer, hopes that the Vulnerable can help create a community of acceptance.

“A lot of those (cisgender) bands are really good, but we’re queer, we’re outcasts, we’re femme,” Kenny said.

The reality is that in the United States, people who don’t have a traditionally clear-cut gender identity have a tendency to be villainized. While the trans community is still a target for violence in many communities, Kenny feels that there has been progress in the public’s perception of the LGBT community overall.

“I think most people would say that being queer is more accepted now,” Kenny said. “Gay marriage is legal now, which is a good thing. People are not being murdered for it as much as trans people are, specifically trans women of color are. I think that that’s something that needs more attention brought to it.”

The band, which just finished a tour of the northeast U.S., hopes to get on the road again soon.

“Right now, we’re reassessing what we want to do as a band,” Kenny said. “We’ve had a tough year in terms of personal lives.”

Kenny is confident, however, that as long as there is inspiration for music, the band will keep performing.

“Me and Daisy, our drummer, have been writing music for 12 or 13 years now,” Kenny said. “So as long as we keep wanting to write songs, there’s going to be something going on with the band. We’ve some new songs right now.”