Transgress Fest Returns to Celebrate Togetherness in Music

Transgress Fest came into this world as a statement of purpose. For festival creator Drew Arriola-Sands and many of the queer and trans artists who helped organize the event, it was about creating a space for OC’s vibrant LGBTQ performers who were tired of having their bands sidelined or exoticized in mainstream festival culture. The second annual event returns this year to celebrate community, raise hell and hopefully some awareness of a scene, culture and a lifestyle that is never short on talent. We spoke to festival founder Arriola-Sands (aka the lead singer of hardcore punk band Trap Girl) about the importance of the fest and the plans to make it even more inclusive this year.

OC Weekly: What would you consider a highlight of the fest last year?

Drew Arriola-Sands: One of the many highlights was the amount of people who wanted to perform at Transgress Fest. I started the festival for bands like my band Trap Girl who are hardcore punk and the few bands that I knew that were trans-fronted hardcore bands. After booking and releasing the lineup, I had trans people from all over the country saying “Oh I’m a dancer I would love to do Transgress Fest, or “I’m a singer-songwriter and I’d love to do Transgress Fest.” They totally overlooked that this was a hardcore punk festival because they relate to me because I’m a trans person putting on a trans event. So what really touched me was people contacting me wanting to perform even though it was a hardcore festival, they felt comfortable enough to ask me.

This year has been a very trying time for the country in terms of gender politics and the civil rights of transgender people. Do you feel any extra sense of urgency for Transgress fest to make it’s return?

Definitely. Last year, we had the fest days after the Presidential election and Donald Trump won. So many kids at the festival were crying or embracing each other, and telling me they had nowhere else to go and nothing else to look forward to except for Transgress Fest. And now here we are a year later it’s the exact same thing. Trump’s a year into office and it’s been pretty shocking but Transgress fest is here again to share that message of togetherness through music.

Talk about the diversity of the acts at Transgress Fest and how the selection process for bands works.

This year, there’s a couple bands who couldn’t make it last year, Xina Xurner, an industrial noise act from LA. I’ve always been a big fan of Xena Xurner and before I had a band or anything I was a big fan, so I’m super excited to have them this year. And another one Forced into Femininity from Chicago, who totally shocked and impressed me. Whenever a band shocks me, it excites me and I want to feature them. We have the Hecks from Chico where a lot of great music is happening and there’s a lot of trans folk from there so I’m excited to have them on the bill as well.

What is something you’re looking to improve on about Transgress Fest this year?

Last year we had a lot of people wanting to perform who aren’t necessarily in bands but what I did this year was create a Transgress pre-party on Friday Nov. 10 at the LGBT Center in Santa Ana and it’s more of an open mic variety show for performers of all times from 7-11p.m. And people can read a poem or do a song or express themselves. It’s just a way for people to mingle and hang out and hopefully it just opens the gates a little wider for everyone who wants to do it.

Lynn Breedlove, Trap Girl, Xena Xurner, Forced Into Femininity, The Hecks, QTPi Express and more perform at Transgress Fest at The Brad Brafford LGBT Center on 4th, 305 E. 4th St., Santa Ana., (714) 953-5428,, Friday Nov. 10 (pre-party/open mic) 7-11p.m. $5-$8, and saturday, Nov. 11 4.p.m.-12 a.m. $10. All ages.

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