Music News

Watch It: Joel Zigman Drops Video for Transgender Day of Visibility

Joel Zigman in the music video for "Passing Problems."
Joel Zigman in the music video for "Passing Problems." Joel Zigman
Classical composer turned lo-fi pop singer-songwriter Joel Zigman has released a new music video for his song "Passing Problems" to mark the Transgender Day of Visibility, Tuesday, March 31.

“I wrote this song during a time when I was asked by my employer to keep my transgender identity private," he explains.

Zigman taught elementary-school music in Jefferson County Public Schools, and says he was told not to disclose his transgender identity to his students. Realizing that kids as young as kindergarten age were coming into transgender and gender nonbinary identities, however, he realized that staying silent about his own experiences was not acceptable.

After trying unsuccessfully to convince JeffCo to change its policy, he left that job to start a private music studio, where he teaches kids a variety of instruments and discloses his identity on his own terms. His advocacy to shift the school district's policy remains a work in progress.

The video, which starts with Zigman tentatively walking onto an empty stage, evolves into a full-blown musical number with a cast of gender-expansive performers dancing comfortably alongside him. In it, Zigman tells a story about how challenging it can be to disclose your identity, but ultimately how doing so feels right.

While watching the video is a perfect way to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility, it is also a comfort to anyone who has struggled with imposter syndrome, fitting in or just feeling socially anxious.

"I was feeling inadequate in a lot of ways, and I think whether you’re trans or not, that feeling of being insecure and unsure of yourself is relatable," Zigman explains. "The video is a play on trying to fit in."

Find out more about Zigman and his music and teaching at his website
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris