Every year the Dad Grass team partners with a suite of fantastically talented queer artists for a limited edition capsule collection that seeks to give back to a non-profit supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. This year, with Dad Grass Head of Product Kevin Sampson at the helm, and a little help from our friend Delilah Friedler, we’re committing our 2023 ‘Daddy Chill’ Collection to Knox Pride.
Delilah, a trans writer, journalist, (and DJ) sat down with the Assistant Director of Knox Pride earlier this year. When our Kevin reached out to her to discuss her recent advocacy and our upcoming collection, she knew exactly who we should be partnering with. Based in Knoxville, TN., The Knox Pride Community Center provides a gender-affirming environment, support groups, resources, social events, food pantries, and clothing closets for homeless & LGBTQIA+ communities. The Tennessee community has been disproportionately targeted by anti-trans legislation.
Our Daddy Chill Pride 2023 Collection celebrates the art of drag in all its glory and brings to life the irreverent spirit of the community. An art form that is a powerful catalyst for empathy and change, rooted in a rich tradition of dissidence in the name of radical self-love and commitment to community. Drag offers a home to anyone looking for one. Check out the full playlist here. Learn all about the collection here.
A Quick History Lesson
Kevin - First of all, thank you for taking the time to make this playlist with me and also do something to make a difference in the lives of trans people, drag performers and anyone in the LGBTQ+ community being affected by this wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. It’s something that I care about a lot, and I know that you do too. And I think that's a big part of why we bonded when we first met at the Somos Festival in 2022.
Delilah - My friend Arturo, aka @kodemul, told me about the Somos Festival when I was visiting the area. To get to go be with hundreds of queer people on a beach in Mexico… who wouldn't want that?
It's so special for us as queer people to have spaces to be together because throughout so much of our lives we’re fighting to have space for ourselves. And I can’t speak for everyone taking political action, so I’ll just speak for myself when I say that sometimes I really need those spaces to go and enjoy the community and be surrounded by queer people who understand one another and share their experiences and dance to amazing music together.
The 2023 ‘Daddy Chill’ Collection
“People are missing that it's not about the kids and it's not about the minutiae of trans people in sports or whatever they're trying to build a case for. It's really about power.”
Kevin - One of the reasons why we chose to celebrate drag as an art form with the Dad Grass 2023 Pride Campaign is to celebrate that beautiful, joyful irreverent feeling that Drag instills in people. And the space that Drag allows for us to question gender roles and gender norms and to find power in gender expression, and allowing people to feel good however they want to portray themselves to the world. It’s a conversation that people used to have to fight to have, and drag brings it to the table in an unapologetic, over the top and loud way. But now, unfortunately, it's under attack. Delilah, what do you think about all this stuff?
Delilah - Queer culture definitely has its own celebrities and icons. We love a diva, a Britney, a Whitney, a Cher. The gays have always loved these big feminine personalities and drag is sort of a translation of those divas into our own homes. Of course when I say homes, I mean gay bars and clubs. But now, queer icons are becoming icons in the larger cultural zeitgeist in the straight and international spheres, but they still started in the queer underground nightlife scene. For example, before Aquaria became the IT girl after winning RuPaul’s Drag Race, she was the IT girl in the New York City club scene.
Kevin - Yes, absolutely. And, you know, I think the saddest part is that a lot of these politicians are using this narrative not because they actually believe that Drag is fundamentally wrong or it’s immoral to be anything other than a cis man or woman, but because it’s the easiest way to harness power and to gain political advantage. People are missing that it's not about the kids or the minutiae of trans people in sports. It's really about power. And that’s devastating. Because people’s lives and livelihoods shouldn’t be tools for political maneuvering and legislative wins.
Delilah - Totally. They're using us as political bait.
Kevin - I've been living in Mexico for the last two years. Before that I was in the States. At the same time that these bills are being passed in the US, Mexico issued its first non-binary passport. Which is fantastic. Mexico as a country is usually seen as a developing economy on the south border of the US. The reality is that people think it’s “less” than the US, but it's actually passing much more progressive and inclusive laws that protect all people, not just cis, straight people.
Things are far from perfect. There's still a lot of work to do in Mexico, especially outside the bigger cities. But it's really interesting to see how Mexico City is going through a really queer moment. You see it on the streets. You see young people playing with their gender expression freely. It brings a lot of joy for me to see that materialize on the streets of my home city, not just in queer spaces.
Introducing Knox Pride
“It makes sense that in these economically depressed and rural places, where churches have a lot of power in the public conversation, is where we’re seeing these waves of queer phobia and transphobia.”
Delilah - I see trans people on the street in Mexico City every single day. It’s amazing. When you compare the lives of trans youth in cosmopolitan cities compared to the lives of trans youth in places like Tennessee, it’s easy to see why you guys are partnering with Knox Pride.
Kevin - They’re doing really cool stuff. Why don't you tell us why you thought they'd be a good fit as the beneficiaries of the funds raised by the 2023 Pride Collection?
Delilah - Thank you for making the partnership happen because it couldn't be more important. Knoxville isn’t a liberal bastion like Nashville, but it’s also not one of the most conservative parts of Tennessee. I got connected to the LGBTQ+ group, Knox Pride in Knoxville, because I was reporting a story about what it is like to be trans in rural parts of Tennessee, where I spent some time living in the past, and how it's changing because of recent legislation, public discourse, and the culture of vigilante justice that’s emerging to threaten queer events in Tennessee and in much of the US.
Someone referred me to Story Venice, who is a non-binary trans femme and the Assistant Director of Knox Pride. The non-profit connects with trans people in the surrounding suburbs of Knoxville with resources that help them find jobs and deal with transphobia in the workplace. They do a lot of advocacy against recent legislation, which has been called the “Slate of Hate.” And the Knox Pride Community & Resource Center helps improve trans people's lives on a daily basis. They have a food pantry, clothing closet, queer sports groups, life skills classes, youth groups, and social events like the city’s big Pride festival, which this year is going to be a protest.
Tennessee doesn't have resources the way that we have in New York or California. The economic disparity is very obvious. It makes sense that in these economically depressed and rural places, where churches have a lot of power in the public conversation, is where we’re seeing these waves of queerphobia and transphobia. The Knox Pride community center is a beacon of support and resources for people in Knoxville and the surrounding counties.
They say in Knoxville, there are about 1,500 homeless youth between 16 and 24. They estimate about a third of those are queer and then about half of those youths are trans. That tells you what the situation is like. They estimate that 1/6 of all the homeless youth in their city are trans kids who have most likely been kicked out of their homes.
Kevin - I wholeheartedly agree. We were looking for a place where these donation dollars would make the most impact for the people that are feeling the burn of this moral panic.
Song 1: 'TOGETHER' by KAYTRANADA w/ AlunaGeorge, GoldLink
“Because of the fight of past queer heroes, this generation gets to experience joy. Publicly. Without shame.”
Delilah - I've been listening to Kaytranada since 2013 when he was making these really interesting hip-hop edits. He actually performed at my house in college, back when he was just this guy we found on SoundCloud, so I love that I have that personal connection with him. This song was on his first major studio release, and he made it with AlunaGeorge, this beautiful vocalist who I also loved in those college years.
It’s a fun song to party to. Not too fast. Not a dance-floor halter. It's breezy. It's giving sunny summer day. Now that I know that Kaytranada is gay, the song has this perfect Pride season context for me. The lyrics are saying that “we don't have to fight no more.”AlunaGeorge could be singing about the dynamics within a family, or a larger community. The reality is that there will always be conflict, but Pride is a time for our community to set down our differences and recognize that sometimes drama is just silly, and ask ourselves if the song is right - “this isn’t the time to be tumbling on the floor.” You know? This is a time to be together. But as a community, we also have to do a lot of fighting. In particular, at this moment trans people in the United States, are literally fighting for our lives every day.
Pride exists because people were fighting back against the police and the criminalization of our community. But it's so beautiful that because of the work of our mothers and our trans-cestors - the gay men and lesbians who came before us - we can enjoy a huge amount of prosperity and freedom in public that didn't exist all those decades ago.Because of their fight, we can experience joy. We get to take trips and enjoy queer festivals and dance in public and be ourselves. We don't always have to fight -with our families or with the world or with each other. We can simply exist and enjoy ourselves. That's why I picked this song.
Kevin - For us as a community, and especially trans rights, we have a lot of fighting to do. A tremendous amount. But at the same time, we gotta live! We've got to be able to find joy in life. Just like every person experiencing the human condition deserves to find joy in life. Maybe this song is a bit of a reminder that, while things could be better, it’s still our responsibility as human beings to also enjoy the moment and be together.
Queerness, Vibes & Weed
“Weed has the power to help you think outside the box and see the world differently. A similar thing happens with Drag.”
Kevin - When we talk about community and queer spaces, I’m curious what’s your personal take on the connection between Queerness, Music and Weed?
Delilah - Weed is a friend to me. She might not always be the easiest friend, but she can be a good friend. Smoking weed was my relief at the end of a long day when I was early in my transition and trying to figure out my identity. I was being really misunderstood by the world, so after a long shift at the restaurant I would light up, get into the bath and listen to an entire record. It wasn’t an escape exactly, more like my inner sanctum. A place for me to release trapped emotions. A tool to touch those parts of me that I didn't quite know how to access.
A few months ago I was really depressed and I didn't know why. I smoked a bowl and I got into the shower and had a complete breakdown. But it was one of the most helpful breakthroughs I’ve ever had, like a portal opened in my mind and allowed me to see the things that were stressing me out and actually face them. I realized, these feelings can hurt, they can be really strong - but they're not going to kill me. Weed has been a friend to me through those most difficult parts of my journey by offering me peace but also holding up a mirror to force me to confront who I am, who I want to be.
Weed is very popular with queer people and has brought me closer to the community as a whole. I think it helps us sustain and empower an alternative lifestyle. It can be a relief from the stress of living in the world as a minority, whether you’re black, brown or queer. There’s also power in taking back the plant, since those same minorities have been historically stigmatized and criminalized for those relationships with marijuana.
Weed has the power to help you think outside the box and see the world differently. A similar thing happens with drag. That might be why religious conservatives are afraid of drag queens and gender variance; it opens people's minds and makes them question what they’ve been taught. It encourages joyful disobedience and radical acceptance.
Kevin - That's a really interesting parallel.
Delilah - Weed makes her useful to us in countless ways.
Kevin - There’s also something undeniably joyful about smoking a joint, especially when you’re surrounded by your chosen family. Which kind of leads me to my first song.
Song 2: ‘It Girl’ by Kah-Lo & Karma Fields, Associanu
“Whether you're wearing the right shoes or you're having a great hair day or just walking down the street to get groceries, this song makes you feel like you’re on top of the world.”
Kevin - The first song I want to talk about is “It Girl” from Kah-Lo. A Nigerian hottie.
Delilah - Fun fact. She made the queer club anthem “Fake ID” - which, if you think you don't know that song, you do. I guarantee that you have heard it on the dance floor.
Kevin - I picked this song because of those special moments when you're just feeling yourself. Whether you're wearing the right shoes or having a great hair day or just walking down the street to get groceries and you’re feeling on top of the world. That's the emotion that this song evokes for me. I love it.
We were talking about this earlier. Sometimes queers spaces are where this emotion can happen for everyone and anyone, without judgment. Even if a person isn’t feeling themselves, they will get that affirmation from the community. I think that's so cool. It’s important for people to feel nurtured and good about themselves when they’re expressing themselves. That’s the vibe this song gives off for me.
Let’s Talk About Queer Spaces And Party Culture
“Is nightlife the world I actually want to live in? Isn’t nightlife where things are actually more real than the “normal” world?”
Kevin - So we met at Somos. I love that festival because it's one of the first specifically queer festivals that I've been to in Mexico. And for context, in the last 2 years or so, I've been in a “queer shit only” boat, making a very conscious decision of building a queer community and getting more involved. I’m loving it, because, for a long time I kept that side of myself more quiet because of internalized homophobia. Or honestly, just being intimidated of being myself in the larger LGBTQ+ community.
So it was really beautiful that we met at the festival. I remember at one point we were sitting by the fire just chatting about, you know, everything under the sun; and I remember thinking that it was the start of a really amazing friendship. I was enthralled by our conversation.
Delilah - It does sometimes feel like the perception of queer culture is a bunch of people who “party so much” with a capital P, but when you're immersed in this community you can see that there’s plenty of people who are sober. I was actually sober during the entire Somos Festival. The truth is that partying doesn’t mean getting fucked up. Maybe that’s not true for other communities, but for me - for us - dancing for eight hours at the club doesn’t guarantee a hangover the next morning. Sure, I’ll be tired, but really I was there to meet people and socialize, not marinate in liquor.
Kevin - Those spaces are more about making connections and having conversations about things that you can't really talk to straight people about. For example: about how you build a queer romantic relationship and how it differs from a heteronormative relationship. Queer people just don't have many references for healthy relationships in the media or elsewhere. So we have to build them on our own and having safe spaces, whether it’s at a festival or a gay bar, to have those conversations with other queer people is so vital. That's where we can go to have deeper conversations around those topics and explore them further.
Delilah - Yeah! And as you said, it’s a place to play with looks and experiment with gender expression away from the straight gaze. I spend a lot of time in the New York nightlife scene and sometimes I ask myself - “Is nightlife the world I actually want to live in? Isn’t nightlife where things are actually more real than the “normal” world?” I would certainly enjoy having that same sense of community in the waking hours.
Song 3: ‘Bi’ by Young Miko, Brray
“We talk a lot about the gender binary, but there's very much a sexuality binary as well.”
Delilah - Let’s switch to a lighter note. Our next song is so hot. Young Miko is very representative of two trends that I adore. One is the exponentially increasing gayness of the younger generations. She’s only 24 and is one of the rising stars of the Latin trap scene in Puerto Rico. The second trend is how much more queerness is working its way into the mainstream of Latin music. Think Bad Bunny, who has brought elements of gender nonconformity and allyship into the Latin trap genre that used to be so dominated by machismo. And now he's one of the biggest musical artists in the world. Young Miko really represents this incredible wave of change.
It’s awesome to see somebody proudly owning bisexuality. We talk a lot about the gender binary, but there's very much a sexuality binary as well, this standard of selecting one gender or the other as if there's only two. That doesn't just exist in the straight world, but in the queer community as well. A lot of people who have a fluid sexuality are often told that they're confused. But I think we're entering into this amazing phase where pansexuality and bisexuality are inching closer to the norm for both straight and queer communities.
In this song, bisexuality is celebrated and flaunted. She's saying, everybody wants to be bi ever since I came out. She might mean like, oh, I set a trend, but I think really what she means is that, the girls are going bi because I'm so hot.
The “Real World” vs. The “Queer World”
“Maybe you’re not booking distractions from life, maybe you’re just living.”
Kevin - I've had this discussion with my therapist a lot lately. I told him that sometimes when I plan trips to queer places that I feel comfortable and full of self-love like Montreal or Pride, it feels like I’m booking distractions from my “real life”. His response was this: “Maybe you’re not booking distractions from life, maybe you’re just living.”
Delilah - Yes! Sometimes it does feel indulgent, but you're making all of these connections, sometimes with people in other countries, and it’s so important. And when you do make it back home you realize that they’re a part of your family now, even if they're living in Mexico or Berlin or in some other far off country. How is it any different than straight people traveling to the Super Bowl? Like, I feel like what we're doing is much less violent and has way better outfits.
Kevin - I totally agree. And it's also about integrating those experiences into your daily life as a queer person. A lot of us, myself included, split ourselves into pieces. I’m one persona with work and family (a more heteronormative context) and then another persona with my queer community. They’re widely different and I think there's always going to be that divide.
We met at a party, and now we’re doing this philanthropic collection together to raise money for a cause that we both care about, to try and make things better for other people. Being able to find those relationships in queer spaces and then bringing them outside of the party and into your daily life, into your workspaces, into your family home and into larger conversations is how queerness gets normalized.
This is a good segue to talk about our next song.
Song 4: ‘It Feels So Good’ by Sonique
“It's that self love and the love of community that really keeps us alive.”
Kevin - “It Feels So Good” by British singer Sonique is a song that can be about meeting somebody that loves you in such a way that makes you feel so good, but I actually interpret it as an anthem to self-love. There's something only we can give ourselves by loving ourselves. It’s a really special message.
Delilah - There's a lyric in the song where she says “your lovin’ keeps me alive”. But it's not possible for the love of one romantic partner to keep a person alive. It's that self-love and the love of community that really keeps us alive.
Kevin - I feel like we could keep talking forever, but maybe now is a good time to plug our full playlist?
Delilah - Yes! Thank you so much for inviting me. It's been a really fun project to work on.
Kevin - I just want to say thank you, I enjoyed this so much. I really enjoy talking to you about things we both care about. It's special.
Delilah - Look at all the ground we covered. We made a playlist full of hot tracks, talked about our love for music, and talked about important issues all in one go, that does not happen every day.
Kevin - I know! We should make it happen every day.