A new Icelandic album about a woman’s experience of her partner coming out as trans has just been released. The album is called Sinking Island and in a moving post on Facebook earlier this morning the artist María Magnúsdóttir a.k.a MIMRA explains how her own story was the basis for it. GayIceland caught up with María and asked her about the album and her story.
“It’s been a long time in the making and has an unusual history. It’s the product of my experience for the last few years. I wrote the songs and lyrics as I was going through one of the most tumultuous periods in my life. Then I made the arrangements for the songs, recorded and designed the sounds in my music studies, while I was processing those feelings. I can not really launch this album without mentioning how big a part my ex has in it,” she says, when asked into it.
In the previously mentioned post on her personal Facebook-page María tells her story, the story behind the album. The story of experiencing her partner come out as a trans woman. It’s a powerful read and with her permission we publish a bit of it, before continuing.
“As a human being it’s natural to go through changes, examine the past and have a change of heart. It’s also immensely natural to bury difficult experience from the past deep down, to feel as an outsider, feel different from the rest and counter that by trying one’s hardest to fit in the mold which is seen as ‘normal’. I witnessed my partner face emotions, buried so very deep for so long. I saw her peep out, little by little, in tiny steps and huge leaps until time showed her that this was as it was meant to be. This was real. I met this with an open mind, as I’m of the generation that celebrates diversity, but it was not without pain. Not when I put my self in the picture. I loved him then and I love her still, in a different way and in a new life.”
So the album is the product of your feelings in this transitional period, your way to come to terms with your emotions?
“Yes, totally,” she says. “Most of the songs got their subject from this experience. As a writer of lyrics I obviously draw from my own life. In that way the album, Sinking Island, is the story of love and heartbreak which is allowed to flow without restrictions from beginning to end to form the complete story of the island that sunk.”
It goes without saying that the album is full of different emotions, one of them being anger which is the concept of the song Reiðiþula. Was anger the predominant feeling at this period?
“The anger swelled inside me, but I could not direct it at my ex, rather at everything else, as I say in the song Reiðiþula: “angry at everyone but you”. Reiðiþula is the scream that broke out when I didn’t know who to blame.”
So anger was the first feeling that surfaced when your partner came out as trans?
“No. The first feelings were confusion and uncertainity, as the world had been swept from under my feet. I didn’t know if the feelings and emotions that she was experiencing would perhaps pass. I didn’t realise at first and neither did she. We discussed this a lot at that time and I tried to understand. At the same time I wanted to set limits, I wanted her to meet me half way with her gender, but in the end that didn’t work out, of course. The anger came later, after the relationship was finished and was probably a part of the grief process.”
How long had you been together at this point and how was your life as a couple?
“We were together for almost seven years. We moved to the Netherlands to study and together we went through the turmoil that comes with starting a life in a new place. We grew together and apart as artists studying art and being in a band together. We were happy.”
“I wrote the songs and lyrics as I was going through one of the most tumultuous periods in my life.”
Where you familiar with trans issues at the time, or did you have little knowledge of them?
“I wasn’t personally familiar with trans issues at the time, but I knew something about them and I support battle of trans people for equal rights.”
Sometimes couples stay together after one of them comes out as trans, it sounds like you tried that?
“Yes, we tried. We discussed it again and again and tried to meet each other’s needs, but it just didn’t work out for us. We tried for each other to fit into some mold that was not right for us. I realised little by little that we were making impossible demands of each other and ourselves. But the beautiful thing in the grief that followed was that I had never before seen her so at ease with herself.”
It can not have been easy for María to go through it all again while she was making the album, but she makes little of that.
“I was going through that process anyway as I was experiencing heartbreak the whole time I was making the album. To work on the songs that sprung from this experience was also a healing process. It’s a good feeling when the product you have been creating becomes an entity of it’s own. As you get further from the origin of the songs and can look at the product from the outside. On the other hand to talk about this and open up now is a little bit difficult.”
Did it never occur to you to forget about the whole thing and just move on?
“I am moving on by releasing these songs and this album. These feelings are magnificent and true and so are the songs.”
Has your ex heard the album and is she happy with it? Did she maybe have some kind of input to it’s creation?
“She has listened to the album and she thinks it is great. Especially the sound design and production. And, yes, she has a big stake in my music making when it comes to production. As I said we were in a band together for a long time even though we came from very different directions as musicians. It was thanks to her that I got familiar with the music software Ableton Live, in which I recorded and produced the whole album.”
How is your relationship today? Are you still close?
“We are friends today. It’s not only my story but the story of us both that I’m telling through the album and it’s promotion. She has given me her blessing for this and I keep her informed. She’s still very dear to me.”
Main photo: Tinna Schram.