How Making Music Has Helped Me To Accept Both My Body And My Sexuality

"I want to sing songs about women and about loving myself for thousands of people and have them walk away feeling like they’re amazing and they have allies in me and each other."
11/07/2017 04:33 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2017
Dylan Mondshein

My first week at music school I met two women who became the closest friends I’ve ever had. At the time, they were two strangers who kind of dressed like me, seemed cool, and wrote songs. Anxious and terrified, I retreated to my grandparents house an hour away from USC one night before receiving a bold text message: “Hey! Where are you? Want to come to a music hang with us?” I had been spending all of my time with frat boys from my high school, so God knows I needed friends. I jumped on the opportunity and met them by Leavey Library on campus. (As I just had to google the spelling of said library, it’s safe to say this did not go on to be our spot, and we were not the most studious individuals USC had ever seen.) We wandered around campus with pretzel M&Ms, made our way to the book store steps, and began discussing our new classmates, when someone said “Oh, her? She looks exactly like Alice from The L Word! So hot.” The chill girl shell I had put on immediately vanished and here I was, a big queer, finally meeting my people.

Growing up, I knew that I was interested in both men and women; it was something I couldn’t miss past the age of ten or eleven. I repressed and repressed, telling myself it was just OCD, until one night when the image of me kissing a girl came into my dream. From that point on, I could admit it to myself — I’m either gay or bisexual. I got very comfortable with my sexuality in my mind, but when it came to talking to anyone else about it, a bowling ball immediately sunk into my gut. I could sit in my bathtub, thinking about girls, comfortable with my own thoughts, but when it came to telling my family, I got sick to my stomach.

In eleventh grade, I started taking Adderall to study for exams and to lose weight. This period of time marked the start of my eating disorder, and my coming out as bi. One Saturday morning, I had taken a pill and went out to breakfast with my older sister. That night there was going to be a house party at my friend Natalie’s and there was a girl going who I’d developed a big fat crush on. I think the way I came out to my sister was, “So I want to hook up with someone. Her name is Jessica,” over an almond milk cappuccino. In all honesty, she was not surprised whatsoever. The first time I smoked pot I was in tenth grade and told her I had big news. Her response was “you’re gay?” Looking back on it now, I can see that keeping my identity a secret was eating away at my insides. At the time, however, I remember simply thinking, “well, she’ll probably find out if I make out with some girl from school, so I may as well tell her now.” In this moment at breakfast, she just smiled and acted like I hadn’t said anything out of the norm. For a long time, she remained the only one in my family who knew I was bi. It wasn’t until I wrote a song called “Marley” about - you guessed it - a girl named Marley, that I told the rest of my family.

Music was one of the biggest ways that I made the transition from being unable to say the word “bisexual” to strutting around campus with my queerest of queer friends, being authentically ourselves. It was sort of a fake-it-till-you-make-it situation with my self acceptance. I wrote tons of songs about women and forced myself to perform them. This got my foot in the door. The big push came from my best friends. Talking to them was immediately like being around family, so we didn’t hold anything back. It may sound cheesy but we supported each other in every aspect of life and music from the moment we met. Living with one another, accepting one another launched us to a new level of self comfort.

When I got to college, my sexuality was not the only major hurdle I needed to clear. I was just over a hundred pounds and not getting my period, because I had stopped eating. Like nearly every woman I’ve ever met, I had it programmed in my head from a young age that I needed to look rail thin to be attractive. In a new environment, moving from New York to LA, I clung to my “regimented eating” (anorexia) in order to feel safe. I consider my life to have been saved by my friends and by music. My friends that I made at SC had their own body image issues, but were the most empowering women I had ever been around and could cope. They introduced me to the body positivity movement, and they lived it everyday. I had a therapist to work through my disorder, but having a support system at home with my two friends was what put the nail in the coffin. It sounds like a fairytale story, partially because I am leaving out occasional bickering and the fact that we all suffer from extreme anxiety, but truly because of them I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people in the whole world.

Music fits into my life as a magical way to communicate with other people and tell stories. I see it as gift that comes with responsibility. Being able to sing is the gift that I have gotten and it feels like flying to me; writing songs which empower people is the responsibility. For the rest of my life, I will aim to write songs that empower people to feel happy with who they are. Knowing that there are going to be young people who listen to my music, I want to have the same effect on them that my friends had on me. I want to exemplify total and utter self acceptance of both my body and my sexuality. I want to sing songs about women and about loving myself for thousands of people and have them walk away feeling like they’re amazing and they have allies in me and each other.

BAUM is an LA based musician whose sound pays homage to her affinity for old school rock music, with her gritty-soulful howl falling in the legacy of retro icons like Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks, to modern day counterparts like MUNA and HAIM. Hailing from a family of five siblings, BAUM strives to set an example for her two sisters through her music and lyrics, aiming to encapsulate her experiences as a young, queer woman in the most honest way possible.

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