It’s a safe bet to say that there’s never been a band like Schmekel (Yiddish for small penis). Guitarist Lucian Kahn, keyboardist Ricky Riot, bassist Nogga Schwartz and drummer Simcha Halpert-Hanson are all dudes, they’re all Jewish, and they were all born as girls. Their music is a bastardized combo of punk-rock, Klezmer (Jewish jazz), polka and comedy (Frank Zappa meets Henny Youngman) but much more profane. Influenced as much by early gay punk band Pansy Division as topical folksinger Tom Lehrer, they’ve been together for two years performing at colleges, benefits and local clubs in their Manhattan and Brooklyn hometowns. Queers On Rye is the self-released debut (TransJews.com).
Keyboardist Riot wears a yarmulke 24/7 and is serious about his Judaism. He may have been born in Israel and raised Orthodox in Fair Lawn, NJ, but that doesn’t stop him from writing lyrics like…
“I wore my leather chaps to the Eagle.
The Bouncer said, `queen, you aren’t legal.’
So I said, `no really, I’m 29.
And if you let me in, I can do you from behind.’”—“You’re Not The Only Bear I Fisted.”
Guitarist Kahn has a Master’s Degree in Religious History so naturally he’s an Atheist. He writes lines like…
“You are a tranny chaser and you want to fuck us all.
Because we’re so fem or masculine so hairy or so small.
Or you think I have a pussy or you think I have no cock.
Or you think it makes you radical or you think we’re so punk rock.”—“Tranny Chaser”
The key is humor. “Jews respond to trauma with humor,” explains Kahn. “I grew up watching Mel Brooks make fun of Nazis and dressing up in ridiculous Purim costumes to celebrate narrowly escaping genocide. I fell in love with my boyfriend because he was raised on funeral jokes. It’s taken me about 10 years of floating around different Queer communities to really wrap my head around the fact that my irreverent response to abuse, sickness, danger, pain, oppression and death is distinctly Jewish.”
Khan describes himself as “a nerd, a gay man, a Jew, a musician, an American, a comedian, a teacher, and a New Yorker. I’m also trans.”
So let’s get this straight, shall we? Born a girl, now a man, he likes men. Did that make him a lesbian when he was female? “Nope,” he answers. “Before I started bi-weekly testosterone injections, I lived as a bi-sexual for 15 years, dating men and women. After starting testosterone, I pretty much lost my sexual attraction to women, so now I consider myself a gay man.”
What happened to your boobs?
Lucian Khan: I had chest reconstruction surgery to get a flat chest.
Do you have a penis?
Yes, do you want to see it?
No thanks, but I appreciate the offer. Where’d you get it?
When I started testosterone, it grew out of the clit I had before.
Yes way. As you may remember from biology class, the human male penis is actually a large clitoris. That’s where penises come from. Ain’t science great?
Can you get an erection?
And you pee through it?
Yes, I expel urine from my urethra just like you do.
“Tranny chaser tranny chaser,
Why are you so easy?
Tranny chaser tranny chaser,
Please don’t be so sleazy!
If you are a man, then wanting me makes you a homo.
Some of us have boyish faces, tiny hands and noses
But we are men, not girls in drag or women with psychosis
And some of us have giant beards and killer abs and bear coats
So if you want to suck my dick, my `dick’ is not in `scare quotes.’”