E.R. Fightmaster feature photo by Chelsea Guglielmino via Getty Images
E.R. Fightmaster is 31 years old, 6’1, has a 10-foot wingspan, and is ready for Violence.
When I used to talk about E.R. Fightmaster, I hardly ever used their name. Instead I’d refer to them as The First Nonbinary Actor to be on Grey’s Anatomy, or as their Instagram handle Genderless_Gap_Ad, or as the witch who played opposite Phoebe Bridgers in Lucy Dacus’ highly anticipated “Night Shift” music video. In a pinch, I could pull out a close up of their left hand and be met with a breathy “Oh, them! Yes, I know them,” and only get a little bit jealous.
After years of admiration, gender envy, and a few am I masc for masc after all? crises, I finally got a chance to chat with the writer-musician-actor-model-comedian-producer about their newly released EP Violence. I was nervous to enter the Zoom call but immediately felt at ease when they smiled at me between dimples and told me that we have some internet friends in common because of the big queer comedy world. They reminded me that I was talking to someone who came up in the comedy space, just like me, and I later learned that it was their experience on stage as a comic that gave them their confidence today. It gave me hope.
We discussed what their transness means to them, their dreams for Violence, and being our own heroes. Now, when I talk about them, I will refer to them as Fightmaster: a name that packs a punch as big as its owner.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Motti: I’m very excited about Violence. I love it a lot. When I first put it on I was transported back to my early queerness: when I first came out in grad school and I got my first girlfriend and was introduced to actually good music. The very first line of the first song reminded me of Alt-J, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Dire Straits vibes.
Fightmaster: (gasps) That’s so funny. I was definitely listening to some Alt-J and Rainbow Kitten while I was writing this album, so that’s an honor.
Motti: I listened to it with my girlfriend, which might have been a mistake on my end.
Fightmaster: (laughing) I told somebody else that was asking who the music was for, “it’s for transmascs to listen to with their femme girlfriends.” That’s who it’s targeted to.
Motti: In “Cowboy Tumbleweed,” when you say, “I got something I think you need,” what did you mean by this?
Fightmaster: “I got something I think you need.” The person I was starting to see at that time was surrounded by a lot of negative energy and so even though I was writing this song in a state of depression, I could tell that when we were together, I was still providing her with a fun, joyful time. I think it’s because that’s how she made me feel, and so we were able to simultaneously dig each other out of these energy holes. That’s what I meant by “something I think you need.”
Motti: That’s a lot less horny than I thought it might be.
Fightmaster: What did you think it was? I have to know.
Motti: I thought maybe the lure and lust of androgyny and especially when it comes to sexual relationships. You hit the nail on the head. I do have a femme girlfriend who was previously with men so of course I know–
Fightmaster: That’s what the fun is! I think of masculinity as a positive thing. Inside of American culturalism we’ve turned masculinity into domination and control and treating others with as much derogatory energy as we can. But, for me, masculinity is the playful part, it’s the swagger. So when I talk about being fun, I was kind of talking about bringing what you’re talking about — that fun, masculine energy — to a place without a lot of the psychological heaviness and toxicity that I think she was used to.
Motti: Yeah, I’m just a little guy.
Fightmaster: I’m just a little guy! I say that all the time.
Motti: If you were to pick one song off of Violence to have featured in a queer movie, what song would it be and in what movie?
Fightmaster: I want to see “Violence” or “Bad Man” in a queer-lead James Bond. That’s what I really want. “Violence” specifically is such a soundtrack piece to me. It really has a nice length to it and a beautiful build. It’s just kind of a hot energy. “Bad Man” is so trans and so queer that I would feel happy to hear it anywhere, as something that was giving energy to a queer story. That’s so cool.
Motti: I really think you should be the next James Bond. You should do it.
Fightmaster: (gasps) I’m honored that you said that because that’s my big dream. I would really love to do that role. If I’m really honest, that’s the only reason I ever stay in shape is because someday, they might call.
Motti: And then you would get to do your own Adele “Skyfall.”
Fightmaster: Biiiiitch. That’s what I want. We’re getting somewhere.
Motti: Which song off of Violence should I not let my femme girlfriend listen to? Let’s say it together on three.
Fightmaster: Yep. Yeah. You know that’s a song that when I perform it live– you know I pride the album on having as many double entendres as it possibly could just because I’m so fucking horny but also, I want it to have that tricky listenability. And the chorus of “Hot Shame” is the most filthy part of the album. I smile when I sing it.
Motti: My girlfriend’s favorite is “Wild One.”
Fightmaster: Oh that’s fucking rad! I love hearing that because that was the only one that wasn’t released as a single or as a feature track and so it warms my heart a little bit when that one gets the attention I think it’s due.
Motti: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you did everything but play the drums for this EP?
Motti: Is that because you knew you’d be too powerful?
Fightmaster: (laughs) You know, with this album I did something that I needed to see very badly. I did not grow up seeing women or queer people being the front men of music spaces, and when they were, they were singers. All of the people I saw, you know, shredding or playing the bass or playing the drums or whatever they were all the same looking white guy and so it does subconsciously just make you feel like that’s not a possibility. Your brain isn’t wired for that. And so I’ve spent years now, truly decades, getting to the place where I can play everything on the album, and I knew that I wanted to do that so that young me could have had me. I want young me to have me, that’s what it is.
I have to give credit to co-producer Riley Geare. He is one of those guys that can play absolutely everything and I think because he’s got that great big dick confidence, he really encouraged me also, to play everything that I could, and that freed me up to let him hop on things that he heard. So we were really in a collaborative, safe environment. I wasn’t surrounded by any men that were telling me, “Have a real bassist do it.” It was a good, queer experience.
Motti: I’m so glad you had that experience.
Fightmaster: Thank you. I’m learning the drums.
Motti: (hangs their head in defeat)
Fightmaster: I’m learning them because I know when the front woman of Haim hops on the drums, I have a spiritual experience and I’m ready to provide my audience with that same feeling.
Motti: So you would say that you’re pretty thirst motivated?
Fightmaster: Bitch, so thirst motivated. I’m trying to give a horny, thirsty experience. I also think that we, as transmasc people, grew up in a culture where we were seeing men get the praise from women that we wanted. I’m trying to kind of recreate that world, like rewire my own brain where I don’t have to be this guy from some fucking Abercrombie & Fitch ad. I’m actually becoming a better version of the guy that I saw, just to be honest.
Motti: And you are and say that.
Fightmaster: And you are. And you are and say that.
Motti: (blushes and laughs) So being transmasc, I’m sure that you’ve dealt with this because you’re wickedly talented but you’re also devilishly handsome. Do you feel the negativity of the sexualization of transmascs or are you kind of like, bring it on?
Fightmaster: Bring it on! I love women! I love femmes. I love little girly boys, I love all the feminine energy I can get, and I think that women throwing thirst a transmacs way means that there are less women throwing thirst to cis men, and as much as they think we have an agenda, our agenda is actually so much more sinister than they realize.
Motti: Have you ever seen that movie with Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell… he’s teaching this guy how to dress cool, act cool, talk to girls, get laid. Would you ever, you know, consider giving that service to young transmascs folks?
Fightmaster: (laughing cynically) I think the thing that’s hot about transmasc people is there’s no encouragement to be transmasc. In order to have our identity, we have to be as in touch with our real selves as possible. To the outside world that comes off as you know, a hyper confidence or a thirsty swagger, but that’s because people who don’t care what other people think, and people that had to overcome violence to be who they are, those people are fucking hot. They don’t need it, they’re absolutely hot the way they are. I’ll just give them some music to fuck to.
Motti: And thank you for that.
Bella Ramsey recently was quoted saying that their nonbinary-ness is one of the least interesting things about them–
Fightmaster: I disagree. I literally think it’s the most interesting thing about a lot of people. I think that the way that we politicize things, and we talk about identity politics, that can be boring. But when you’re talking about people that are choosing their own humanity over gender rules so thickly engraved in our skin that they might as well be tattoos… I actually think that’s the most interesting thing about a lot of us. Because it’s about a mindset and that mindset is fascinating and it bleeds into everything that we do.
Motti: I agree. I respect their perspective of course–
Motti: They have their lived experience but I really appreciate that alternative way to look at it because sometimes I think as transmasc people and trans people in general, you’re kind of saying, “Am I talking about this too much?”
Fightmaster: But they want you to feel that way! What I actually think is that transness is euphoria and that’s why we talk so much about trans dysphoria because actually, to be trans is a euphoric state of being. You have to understand how much more important your relationship with self is than an entire society that’s trying to separate you from that self. I think when I’m around people and I make them very comfortable, they start to feel a transness in themselves and that’s because I’m celebrating all the aspects of their identity instead of coming to them to fulfill a role.
Fightmaster: And so then they experience comfort and euphoria, and they attach that feeling to me, but I’m not the comfort in euphoria, it’s the transness that we should all be working towards. I don’t know your name before you tell me, so why would I know your pronoun before you told me? It’s actually a hyperfixation with genitals and they are projecting when they call us the perverts. To have to know what someone’s genitals look like so that you may treat them with respect or disrespect, that’s perverted.
Motti: I also wanted to give you the floor if there’s anything you want to say about Violence, not the practice of, but the EP. Unless you want to speak on violence.
Fightmaster: I think that queer people have been indoctrinated with the belief that violence is inherently bad and I think that is a tool to make us bystanders to our own experience of domination. I encourage all queer people to rethink what violence means to them. Does that mean nobody fucks with my friends, nobody fucks with my partners, nobody fucks with my community? ‘Cause that’s what it means to me. It does not mean that I go out in the world trying to dominate others, but it does mean that if anyone tries to dominate the people I love, I’m gonna give them a ride of a lifetime. So that’s violence and that also feels hot.
Motti: And that is hot. It’s received hot. Is that a position you’ve always had since you were young or was it after expressing yourself the way that you currently are with gender expression?
Fightmaster: I don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg. I grew up with the name Fightmaster and so that is quite a given identity immediately. But my dad is also the best guy on the planet, and was such a firm believer that no one fucks with women and children and no one fucks with his friends. He was the least dominating person I’ve ever met, but I knew he could be violent, and that to me, was the ultimate form of masculinity. I always felt safe around him, but I never felt a weird insecurity where he needed to dominate the men around him. In fact, he was like the funny charmer, and so, I think that I did have a really good role model in that way for seeing what it meant to be masculine and violent without being toxic and abusive.
Motti: That’s brilliant. I feel similarly about like my big Italian dad with a heart of gold. It’s almost the beauty of knowing that they have it, but are choosing to reserve it for when it’s needed.
Fightmaster: Yes! I joke about men but I have a lot of men in my life that I care about. All of the men in my life are big dick sweeties that are working on themselves, and the way they attract women, and the way they are able to surround themselves with queer friendships is because they are practicing a form of masculinity that’s not insecure. I think that is so sexy to people because masculinity plus insecurity is what we’re talking about when we’re talking about that toxicity. But masculinity plus joy, masculinity plus calm, masculinity plus acceptance and community, that’s a really beautiful version of our gender.