Hannah Diviney in conversation with Vixen, Halsey’s lead guitarist

by Hannah Diviney
Thursday 14 September 2023

Vixen Selfie #1

Close your eyes and imagine what it might be like to stand in front of crowds of thousands of screaming fans every night, pyrotechnics going around off you as you shred out a funky riff next to one of the biggest pop stars in the world. 

For the musician known as Vixen’s Diary, she doesn’t have to imagine. This is her real life; working with musical powerhouse Halsey and being a badass guitarist which in practical terms, looks like loads of rehearsal, travel, and then playing really amazing shows. She’s back from a string of dates in Europe, “the typical full show, big and rocky, full of pyrotechnics” and more acoustic stripped-back shows in the US where they shared the stage with a string ensemble, where Vixen might’ve shed a few tears. 

But there’s more to every night Vixen is on stage than being incredible at her job. She’s also inadvertently a beacon of representation and visibility for audiences as a proud trans woman.  

She says representation is “super important because there’s gonna be people out there like me, that feel seen, and feel inspired, and be like, oh, if she can do it, I can do it too, you know? And they might be trans, they might be a person of colour, there might be someone that's not a man, maybe they want to pursue a career in performance, or they're on a stage in some way. I just know from experience that like having people to look up to, helps people not feel so isolated.”

She credits Halsey and other musicians she’s worked with, for being inclusive and giving her this opportunity in an industry still so dominated by white men. But it’s important for both Vixen’s sense of self and for the public to know that her position on that stage isn’t the result of some box-ticking quota-filling tokenistic gesture, but rather because Vixen is brilliant as a guitarist. She can play the hell out of those songs and has the raw talent to be a force on stage no matter who she’s standing next to. 

Vixen on Stage
Vixen Selfie #4

... I feel more secure in my sense of self than I've ever been.

- Vixen

Vixen never really had people like her to look up to, something anyone who’s read even a sentence of my prior writing will know leaves an emotional crater behind. Not identifying as trans until she was 27, Vixen knows the road to uncovering the truest version of herself would’ve been made easier if she’d had a way to put all the puzzle pieces and clues that have been there since childhood together in vibrant technicolour. 

Instead, she found flashes of similarity in the odd metal band with Asian members or in the emo music scene, where boys could wear makeup and norms were looser. Thinking she identified as ‘just emo’, it’s been a revelation for Vixen to discover that so many of the spaces she found comfort in as a young person, especially those artists' fanbases were and are sometimes (at least these days) brilliantly queer.

When I ask her what she thinks it means that young trans people the world over can see someone like her so vibrantly, where she once saw very little, she calls it “deep and amazing”. She says her Instagram DMs are occasionally full of messages from people saying that seeing her on stage was the best night of their lives and the first time they’ve ever "seen" themselves represented.

Music has been a consistent part of Vixen's life since she was 12. Her guitar is a bedroom mainstay, but it could just as easily have been a surfboard. However, following surfing was more weather dependent, so “guitar kind of took over because it’s just more of something that you could really rely on and you can express yourself through it.”

Vixen on Stage 2

For the moment, Vixen’s own songwriting and musical pieces, anything from acoustic folk to rock or metal are small bursts of TikTok content but she does have ambitions to branch out into longer stuff, eventually keen on building a fanbase through streaming platforms like Spotify. But before she gets there, Vixen has a little more work she wants to do on herself. As cats leisurely stroll across her Zoom screen, stopping for the occasional scratch under the chin, we circle back to her experience of coming to identify as a trans woman, first the confusion, and then the euphoria of puzzle pieces finally snapping into place. She describes it as another finding of her place, the kind most people experience across their twenties, as they settle into their skin and work out who they are. 

Since moving to Los Angeles a year and a half ago, Vixen has found it easier to be trans. Her favourite thing about living in LA? The fact trans people are just visibly living their lives, anywhere you look, without it being a big deal. But considering travelling is a huge part of her job, there can sometimes be a big difference between the comfort of LA, and the alienation of life on the road. 

Like any marginalised person, Vixen never goes looking for bigotry but it still finds its way to her eventually, as does the constant political news about her community. But while she’s hyper-aware of how other people react to her AND the fact that your experience as a member of the trans community can be vastly dependent on where you live and whether you even have any rights at all, that doesn’t mean she’s particularly keen on the extreme visibility and attention of advocacy. 

And you know what? That’s OK. From my own experience as a fiercely public and visible disability advocate, I am constantly telling people that advocacy is a choice and a job, it takes work, and that if all you can do is keep your own head above water, that is more than enough. 

Vixen Selfie #2

Vixen’s relief when I make sure she hears that too is palpable, “I don't have the energy to argue with someone about my existence. I've already done that with myself for so many years. I literally tried not being trans and it didn't work. I struggle to watch the news (about trans issues) because it’s just too raw.”

Instead, Vixen lives her own life on her own terms, finding spaces that feel comfortable and building a community where she doesn't even have to explain her experiences. She can just be. 

“As trans people we go through so much trauma in our own heads and at the hands of other people, I work really hard to be kind to myself.” 

And as for what that looks like, it’s playing music and doing what she loves. 

But does she have a message for her younger self?

“You’re trans! Spoiler alert!”, she laughs before her face gets more reflective, “In time you can really work out a lot of stuff. Like, I'm in my thirties now and I feel more secure in my sense of self than I’ve ever been. Keep doing what you're doing, like keep following what feels good, you can kind of hash out the rest.

There's so much information out there, so many conversations you're going to have, it's going to open your mind up in different ways. You don't have to have all the answers right now, it's okay to be confused. Just have faith that you can kind of figure it out. Really, I'm still being patient. I'm still waiting for lots of things in my life to figure out, but, I kind of know that like, at least I'm going in the right direction.”