When it comes to people making changes for the betterment of the community Susan Surftone comes to mind. Surftone stands among the female daredevils in the LGBTQ community who have considerably changed the game for queer women.
She achieved power through her remarkable ability to take a chance, shake off-stereotypes, fight adversity and break the glass ceiling in her professional fields.
From her FBI years to the time she spent as an Attorney for the NYPD assigned to the Tactical Narcotics Team in Harlem, to her prolific career as a surf guitarist, and now a political commentator, the out artist defied the odds at a time where mentalities where not as open-minded and accepting as they are today. She was able to bring a culture of “inclusion” in both the FBI and the music industry by just remaining authentic to herself.
She epitomizes the definition of “doing it on your own terms” and stands as a great example of an “older” queer woman who defied the odds at a time where mentalities where not as open-minded and accepting as they are today.
Now under the Trump Administration, ironically, with Russian espionage, FBI scrutiny, and Supreme Court, anti- immigration and anti-LGBTQ issues in the news lately, Susan’s found herself reflecting back on her FBI days with unexpected frequency penning more than a few editorials about the political news of the moment, which were published in HuffPost, The Advocate and Curve, among others.
Susan’s endured more than her fair share of misogyny, discrimination, even physical assault; but throughout it, she’s stuck steadfast to her goals and refused to be intimidated.
She went from a career working in an government agency that is reputed to be very macho, to another profession known to be heavily male-dominated, namely “surf” music as a guitarist. Yet while the gender ratio wasn’t in her favor, she thrived in both fields.
In the early ’80s, SurfTone was an FBI agent in New York, chosen to monitor KGB agents assigned to UN headquarters. The Soviets weren’t allowed to travel more than 25 miles outside New York City, so she would run surveillance and occasionally go undercover to sniff out their motives and next moves.
Fancy job, but she became worried about her future within the bureau. For a lesbian, upward mobility was not going to come easily. Plenty of Hoover men were still in place at the FBI, and “don’t ask, don’t tell” was the prevailing attitude. It grew increasingly more difficult to make excuses for not dating, and she knew the rumors eventually would prevent a promotion, anyway.
But something other than the challenge of hiding her sexual orientation ultimately led to her resignation from the FBI. Leaving the FBI pushed SurfTone to form bands of her own: Susan and the Surftones. She went on to record more than 10 albums, became a breakout star in Europe. MTV also used two original songs of hers in their “Real World” series.
Through the years she has always been a strong advocate of encouraging girls to play guitar and start bands. Surftone is using a lifetime of lessons and musical talent to encourage other queer young women to sing out loud and strong.
She continues now to be a social activist for women empowerment and LGBTQ rights.
Whether engaging in espionage or breaking into music, this queer musician has always been fearless and lives out loud.
Her own personal journey through life is one that is beyond inspiring, admirable, not to mention impressive – and certainly one that should be told!