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This iconic hardcore band once helped a trans friend pay for her surgery

This iconic hardcore band once helped a trans friend pay for her surgery

Beastie Boys
Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

Renewed attention is being drawn to Donna Lee Parsons' story online.

rachelkiley

A sweet story about how Beastie Boys helped an influential figure in hardcore music history transition in her final days is gaining renewed attention thanks to a popular zine-turned-substack.

Norman Brannon’s Anti-Matter recently conducted an interview with Laura Jane Grace, the lead singer of Against Me! who became one of the most high profile punk musicians to come out as trans back in 2012.

Laying the groundwork for the interview, Brannon decided to take a look back at the influence of Donna Lee Parsons, who opened a store called Rat Cage Records in New York City in the 1980s. Rat Cage soon turned into a label that was most notably home to Beastie Boys before they signed to Def Jam in 1984.

At the time, Parsons still identified as male, although Brannon compiled several recollections from people in and around the local hardcore scene in that era who recalled her casually wearing dresses whenever she felt like it — something she wrote of herself on her blog in the aughts.

She didn’t come out until trans until 2002, even saying she hadn’t heard of the term before then. Shortly after she did, she was diagnosed with colon cancer, leading to her premature death in September 2003.

But some of the people she had an impact on wanted to make sure she got to live out that last year of her life on her own terms.

“My understanding was that she was pretty much dying, and that she wanted to live out the rest of the little time she had left in the body of her choosing,” Adam Horovitz said in Beastie Boys Book. “So [Adam] Yauch took care of it. He organized it so we gave her the money for the [gender-affirming] operation, but it was under the guise of reimbursement and unpaid back royalties for the Polly Wog Stew record from 1982.”

“Donna got the operation, and then within a year passed away,” he added.

Although the small kindness of these musicians might be the hook to their fans, Brannon is clearly reviving Parsons’s story to remind everyone that LGBTQ+ people—and specifically trans people—have always been around shaping society in key ways, even if that isn’t the way history books tell the stories.

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Rachel Kiley

Rachel Kiley is presumably a writer and definitely not a terminator. She can usually be found crying over queerbaiting in the Pitch Perfect franchise or on Twitter, if not both.

Rachel Kiley is presumably a writer and definitely not a terminator. She can usually be found crying over queerbaiting in the Pitch Perfect franchise or on Twitter, if not both.