Come on out, Ohio for the CAUSE Conference, hosted by Equality Ohio and the Columbus College of Art and Design! And, for a bonus, Columbus’ queer youth even, Fusion Friday is jumping on board to throw a party! And at that party, I’m producing a drag show! Then come to the conference tomorrow for lots of cool workshops, including two by me on all kinds of cool transy topics. Lots going on here, lots of layers. Be there!
Come watch history unfold when one of the oldest drag troupes in the country, my dear, dear friends The Royal Renegades, celebrate their 10 year anniversary! If you’re in Ohio come on out! If you’re not, try to get here because I’m going to be wearing my multiple new pairs of hot pants in several numbers. Incentive enough? I thought so.
Tonight! 5th Annual Ginger’s Birthday Mystery Box will steam up Wall Street Nightclub in downtown Columbus. Pre-sale tickets are only $5, and proceeds will benefit the Equality Ohio Education Fund, a non-profit, state-wide organization focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy and education.
Check out new Midwest GenderQueer spoken word, dance, and drag videos!
Visit the YouTube page for more new spoken word, dance, and drag videos!
And now all MWGQ videos have a subtitled option, which I am very excited about. I have been working to find ways to make my online presence as accessible as possible, and the subtitling is a super addition to that. So, woot! I can’t speak any other languages fluently because I’m an ignorant American BUT Spanish subtitling will hopefully be coming at some point if I can find some way to coax some of my bilingual friends to do stuff for me via cooking and sewing favors.
If you have videos of your own, you should go to Universal Subtitles and add subtitles to your work. Its very easy to do, and doesn’t take as much time as you would think. Plus, making accessible work is always worth the extra time.
This weekend was The International Drag King Community Extravaganza (IDKE). This was IDKE’s 12th year, hosted by Baltimore’s Gender Justice Coalition – a group of amazing activists, performers, and community members who did a fantastic job with this immense event. The theme this year was “Gender Justice,” which seemed fitting considering the tumultuous times we are living in. We were joined by amazing performers and activists like Tristan Taormino and my dear friends Johnny Blazes, Miss Tamale, and Kate Bornstein. IDKE’s mood held its usual empowered electricity, but underneath the excitement of the attendees and the efforts of the organizers there was something more: the fear of extinction.
IDKE’s community of drag kings, transformers, genderfuckers, burlesque dancers, and drag queens is diverse, complex, and spread out. The dwindling economy, personal life changes, and community politics have been chipping away at IDKE’s structure leaving us to question what IDKE is, who its for, and if it can or should continue. On the outside it may seem like its a simple issue of attendance or varying politics, but after this (my first) year on the IDKE Steering Committee it is clear that our struggles are the same as every other oppressed group. We are bullied, we are broke, we are bullshitters, and we are burnt out. But what is at risk here is more than just a conference and the best drag shows you’ll ever see. It is something more intangible, but much more important.
When I first attended IDKE it had already existed for nine years. The decade celebration brought it home to its founding place, Columbus, Ohio and in arms reach of me. I drove up to help my drag mentor, Luster De La Virgion, drag pioneer and co-founder of IDKE. I was excited but terrified – expecting a long weekend of wrong pronouns and isolation, the usual drill of being mistaken for a lesbian drag king. But when I got there I found something different, something that changed my life.
I stood shyly quiet, waiting for my spot at the tech rehearsal for the big Showcase. I saw someone across the theater and I could tell he was a transguy. I disparagingly wondered if he could recognize me… there was nothing tell-tale about my appearance and my pink hair didn’t help. My lonely desperation made me feel awkward and pathetic. I gave up on the idea of talking to him. Then, by chance I ran into him, quite literally, when we were going through the same door. We started to talk. “I’m not a drag king,” he said, “I’m trans so for me its not “drag”, but a gender performance. I’m a trans performer, a transformer…” As he spoke I was strangely overcome, like in a movie. I had never heard those words before, or I should say, I had never heard them from anyone other than me. It was like listening to myself talk, except with more eloquence, power, and confidence than I had ever thought I could embody. I will never forget that feeling, standing there in that dark, chaotic parking lot… the feeling of recognition through the ground-breaking realization that I was not alone, that it wasn’t just me. Three years later I had grown into my own as a trans performer and was doing genderfuck drag at IDKE. Afterward a stranger came up to me. “I have to tell you,” they said shyly, “You are the first person I ever met who does what I do. You made me feel like it was ok to be me and that I wasn’t a freak.” I was so moved all I could do was say thank you, pulling back tears. I had unknowingly become the beacon that I was looking for not so long ago. I told the story to my friend who was my ‘beacon’ and as we frantically drove to manage the next event our brains slowed down, remembering. “I never feel like I could be that to anyone,” I told him. He smiled and said, “That’s what I thought when you said it to me.” Years ago, before I said it to him, he had found his own beacon person. And I am sure that any day now, the person who said it to me will hear it said back to them. They’ll be that beacon for someone searching, wanting to know they are not alone.
To me, “Gender Justice” is about responsibility. We are responsible for creating a community that is visible, socially and politically conscious, and intersectionally equal. We are responsible for making our voices heard so we may inspire others find their own. We are responsible for maintaining our own space, our own community for future generations. Over the past year as IDKE dealings began to look more and more bleak, I started to think that maybe IDKE just wasn’t meeting the communities’ needs anymore, and if that was the case, we have no choice but to let it go. But I know I still needed IDKE. I look around at the small pocket of people working to keep this important community event afloat… I just can’t believe that we are the only ones who need this space. It can’t be just us. Watching attendees at the conference, it was clear to me that people where happy, but how many volunteered to work? How many answered calls for help over this past year? Organizers work to help our community, but is the community working to help organizers? We have to do more than take. We all have something we can give, we all must do what we can. Can we really promote “Gender Justice” if we are not actively taking part every day, each in our own way, to better our communities? The first step to accomplishing anything is having so much love and passion that we can put faith in what seems impossible -something seemingly abound in our community. But faith and passion are not enough, we have to act. We must work to turn that faith into proof that we exist. Drag is more than a show. Drag is an artistic craft; it is a creation of our community used to carve out a visible space for ourselves, a space in which we live. As Tristan Taormino said in her keynote this weekend, now more than ever we need drag to be that visible proof that it is ok to be ourselves. I say we must take culture into our own hands and mold it into something that speaks to us, that lets us we know we are not alone. That it is not just us.
If you’re in the Baltimore area come out for the many shows, workshops, and fabulousnesses of The International Drag King Extravaganza XXII, Gender Justice! If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the blur of pink and sparkles running around doing four shows, three workshops, and a ton of organizing stuff. Its gonna be a super hardcore blast and you should come!
Come out if you’re in the Columbus/Ohio/8 hour drive area for the show!
If you’re in the Oakland Area, come out TONIGHT for a fantastic Femme Show!
And come see me and other awesome femmes doing cool stuff all weekend at Femme 2010!
I tried working out some intro about my experiences as a performer to go along with this post, but I feel the performance speaks for itself. It is a commentary on my own experience fighting the Gender Identity Disorder system and trying to access autonomous transitional care through both medical and governmental systems. Unfortunately the video is a little bleached out, but there is another one coming soon hopefully!
One thing I didn’t expect from this number is the emotional toll it takes. I knew I was going to have to spew my emotional guts out on stage but what I didn’t think about was how I was going to get those guts out or how I was gonna push them back in when I was done. In order to get myself where I needed to be I had to think about all the things I have pushed down over the years in order to deal with life as a genderqueer trans person. All the things that we as a community have to ignore in order to function: oppression, isolation, pathologization, powerlessness, marginalization… The memories of screaming nights, crying loneliness and frustration on what I couldn’t change but wanted to – my identity, and wanted to change but couldn’t – my body… doctors telling me how I wasn’t normal, how I was wrong… Pain that I have dulled so much with work and righteousness that when I brought it up to the surface again it was like I had forgotten what my life felt like. And then still recognizing that things really aren’t much different now, I have just learned to cope better.
When the show was over I was a little in shock. All and all, the dressing room is a good a place as any for breakdowns and build ups, and with that I want to give a special shout out to my fellow troupe members in The Black Mondays for being so amazing and supportive. Amazingly enough, putting my self out on stage like that was not as terrifying as I thought it would be. I think the fabulous outfits helped, plus oh my god, my shoes, did you see the shoes?? So fucking fabulous.