Do you remember my post from September where I added a song called “Don’t Give Up” to “Allison’s Jukebox”? You know the one where Peter Gabriel sings of deep lament and Kate Bush tries to steer him toward the positive? Yeah, I bummed you out with that one, didn’t I?
Well, let’s see if I can brighten up your spirits a little bit with another addition to my jukebox that just happens to have the same title, “Don’t Give Up,” yet has a background that nicely dovetails with the week we’re in right now, Transgender Awareness Week. Please have a look & listen to the Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter/YouTube personality Maggie Szabo:
You’ll notice there’s only one thing… well, two things this song, which was released in the fall of 2017, shares with the track Peter and Kate laid down in the 1980s: The title (of course) and an angelic female voice offering inspiration. Maggie’s “Don’t Give Up” has none of the lament or despair of that earlier song. But by virtue of Maggie’s voice and lyrics, oh, does it have a whole lot of anthemic positivity about, well, not giving up on love and accepting support from those who respect and care for you, even with “your back against the wall.”
Oh, and did you notice the visuals in the “Don’t Give Up” video? There’s a boy and his date, the latter standing very awkward in the prom dress, makeup, and feminine identity their parents prefer them in; yeah, they’re conservative, as if the religious iconography in their home didn’t make that obvious. But the boy and his date leave for prom, almost immediately ditch their plans for prom, and have a little private get together in some neon-lit warehouse somewhere. That’s where the boy has waiting for his date a little dinner, some candlelight, music… and some freshly laid out menswear, which will allow his date to shed that dress and makeup that they can’t wait to swap out.
The combining of inspiring lyrics with pro-trans imagery is not the result of some video director wanting to make a statement video. Maggie Szabo is a clear ally of the trans community. As she told Billboard when the song’s video was released, she wrote “Don’t Give Up” as a letter of support to trans youth. The video’s theme was Maggie’s idea as well; it serves to not only highlight the struggles trans youth go through, but also emphasizes the idea that love is love, and that people should be free to be who they are and how they identify.
Maggie Szabo really walked the walk with “Don’t Give Up.” She donated some of her profits from the song to the Ali Forney Center, A New York City organization that specializes in providing shelter and support to shunned LGBT+ youth. And as if to add a great big exclamation point, last spring she performed a live version of the song with the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles. It was a powerfully stripped down version to boot: Just Maggie, a grand piano in front of her, and TCLA alongside her providing accompanying vocals.
Please give some love “Don’t Give Up,” whichever version you prefer. But give a lot of love for Maggie Szabo. She put her songwriting pen and voice toward the need to stand up for and with the trans community. I will let her have the last word:
“I can’t stand by and watch millions of transgender youth live in fear for their safety, outcast from their homes and marginalized by society simply because they are struggling to understand their gender identity. I want to stand with them.”