I liked a girl, but did not know!

I woke up that morning and I was ready. Kindergarten here I come! Finally, I was a big girl. The trip to school was almost too long to remember so I don’t remember it. All I remember is getting to those big brick red doors. Smiling a bit too much, turning around ready to say goodbye, and catching the glimmer of my mother’s tears at the edge of her eyes. Her sad smile broke me and so I went to her. Hugged her and she laughed. “¿No deberías estar llorando tú?” (Aren’t you supposed to be crying?) she asked as she wiped away her tears. I had seen her smile so I knew she was just sad cause she’d miss me, and I’d be back so… I ran for the red brick doors once again. I looked up as the doors started to open and saw the endless beige hallways. I walked in and stared in awe.

I had never been inside this building so everything was a new experience. From the sound of my shoes tap tapping along the floor to the many new voices of students throughout the hall, still I was ready. Walking towards what I later discovered was my room, I saw a pair of sapphire eyes. They caught my attention but my excitement overpowered and I continued. I roamed around for a little, exploring. After sometime I found my teacher and with her a whole bunch of what I hoped would be my friends.

We all introduced ourselves and played games. I had so much fun. While waiting for lunch I saw her. Straight dark chocolate hair and a smile that was … sooo pretty. I wasn’t going to say anything, what would I say ? I had no clue. So I decided I wouldn’t, but right before I made that decision she looked at me. There they were. Those sapphire eyes again.

I do not recall this encounter in anyway sexual.

You see, my first attraction to a female, was way beyond my knowledge about sexuality. I remember a world in which gay and lesbian were the only other sexual orientations I knew existed. A time when the only other way to possibly describe why another girl was “sooooo pretty,” and I mean “Soooooooooo pretty,” was because I was just admiring. I was admiring. I really was actually. The world I remember was not necessarily cruel, but it was

The first encounter was X. I don’t remember her name but I do know it started with an X and she was absolutely “sooooooo pretty.” I was in kindergarten and she was in my class. Long and thick straight black hair, piercing blue eyes, and a smile that I remember wanting to capture. I took her picture at the end of the school year. Wanted to “remember her” even though I definitely had more than 25 others kids in my class. Although back then I would not have classified as a crush, I definitely see what it always was. I liked a girl, but did not know!

 

Queer Visibility Through Art: Now & Then

The indifference and aversion to being gay is something that is embedded in our culture. Queer people have fought for their rights, their battle finally coming into light after the Stonewall Riots of 1969.  The LGBTQ+ community has made many accomplishments such as the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, a ban on open transgender people serving in the military, and the passing of the Marriage Equality Act. However, our fight is far from over. Violence against queer people is magnified by intensity of our current political climate. On March 23, 2018, the White House made the announcement that “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.” As a queer person, I have become fearful of what’s next, as if the progress made is being stifled by an oppressive regime.

Recently, the argument has been made that queerness is something that’s erupted in the past few years. The notion that being gay is trendy has recently come into the light. Janelle Harris, a mother and blogger, wrote about this subject in an article titled, “Are Straight Teens Being Influenced by LGBTQ Trendiness?” She explores this question primarily through personal experience after a preteen makes a comment about Harris’ child being gay for applying to an all girls high school. She also writes that, “I do know, however, that I’ve seen a plethora of young kids — even 12 and under — exploring same-sex lovin’. And that would be OK if I believed that they were actually gay and not just emulating folks in the streets or what they see on TV. Society’s slow-but-steady acceptance of gay and lesbian culture has made it hip to wave a rainbow flag.” On the grounds that children are more exposed to queerness in the media and in public, she is correct. Children nowadays are seeing gay people being accepted and even embraced by society, possibly being the first American generation to experience this. But does acceptance really constitute it as being trendy?

The biggest flaw in Harris’ argument is that she fails to back her claim up with anything but a single experience. She becomes very defensive when her child is perceived to be gay by another child. She simply believes she knows what is true because mother knows best. It’s natural for a mother to become defensive when untrue statements are made about her daughter. But does a mother truly know? Harris’ child is reaching the dawn of adolescence. It is rare that a 14 year old will be knowledgeable and confident in her own sexuality at only 14, let alone her mother knowing. It’s natural for people at this age to explore their sexual orientation and figure out their identity. Harris’ rejection of this curiosity stifles her daughter’s journey to self exploration, something that many queer teens experience firsthand. Bi-curiosity has a bad reputation but is, in fact, a healthy phase of adolescence.

Harris also fails to differentiate between social acceptance and what is trendy. The visibility of queer people seems to make her uncomfortable, as it does for many others. I believe this stems from homophobia so deeply ingrained into society that many often don’t even notice it. It was only three years ago that the Marriage Equality Act was passed. Queer acceptance is still a fairly new concept in America. While Harris makes the claim that being gay is “trendy”, queer teens are 120% more likely to be homeless.

    The Stonewall riots triggered a surge in the fight against homophobia and transphobia since 1969. Queer people have demanded to be seen and heard. This country has become a much safer place for some queer people. When queer people are becoming visible for the first time and yet there are still many with an outdated, prejudiced mindset, some may still view queer people as a lower status of society, something they don’t want to be associated with. These people view LGBTQ+ visibility as a phase of society because they don’t understand the difference between being seen and what is trendy. Harris feels as if too many adolescents are coming out as gay or bisexual, making the argument that this stems from a trend in society. But as she sees more and more queer people becoming visible, she is blind to the fact that the emergence of more queer people coming out stems from the shift in society’s values on queer people. As a result, she comes to the conclusion that being queer is a trend of the future because she hasn’t seen it in the past.

Despite the fact that Harris and many others view being gay as trendy, queer people have been fighting for visibility for years but have been left in the dark. However, queer people have possessed many high power positions and made wonderful contributions to culture. Art has reflected same-sex unions and gender-nonconformity for centuries. Art has served as a platform for expression of queerness throughout history. The notion that being gay is trendy, however, seems to be a new idea.

Gender-nonconformity is often interpreted as a new concept that emerged in the newer generation. However, the fluidity of gender has been reflected in art as early as the 1600’s. Ermafradito (1652) by Matteo Bonuccelli portrays Aphrodite’s and Hermes’ child, who once joined with a nymph to emerge as one being but with both genders. This interpretation of mythology indicates a curiosity in the bending of gender roles for a long period of time. Gender-nonconformity has been prevalent among many groups of people, such as the Greeks and Spanish, throughout the world and is hardly something that is new. While many make the claim that the queerness is something that emerged from the younger generation, it has been expressed through art for centuries.

Another example of gender-nonconformity found in art and culture is a piece by Gauguin titled Marquesan Man in the Red Cape. Gauguin traveled from France to the Polynesian islands, believing that the natives would be free of European influence. What he found was a culture whose gender roles were vastly different than those of Europe. In this piece, Gauguin portrays a native whose gender would now be referred to as nonbinary. This individual was Mahu from Hiva Oa that identified as a third gender. They took on both male and female roles and ways of presenting themselves. Mahu natives of the third gender often had an elevated position in Mahu spirituality. They were often considered healers. Jade Snow, a writer for Yes! Magazine, interviewed a Mahu teacher named Hina who states that, ““A mahu is an individual that straddles somewhere in the middle of the male and female binary. It does not define their sexual preference or gender expression because gender roles, gender expressions, and sexual relationships have all been severely influenced by the changing times. It is dynamic. It is like life.” Colonization and the arrival of European missionaries resulted in the enforcement of Christian values on the Hawaiian people, imposing their strict views on gender and sexuality. While gender-nonconforming individuals have existed in Hawaiian culture for centuries, the influx of Western culture repressed their fluid ideas of gender.

While the oppressiveness of Western culture forced gender and sexuality into strict roles of what should and shouldn’t be, some defied social standards and persisted in proving who they were. Frida Kahlo, a highly regarded Mexican artist of the 1920’s and 30’s, identified as a bisexual women who had sexual and romantic relations with both men and women. She explored her sexuality through her artwork. One piece, titled Two Nudes in the Forest, also known as The Earth itself, portrayed Kahlo’s affection for Dolores Del Rio, a Mexican actress of the 1920s. In this piece, Kahlo is holding Dolores Del Rio, appearing to comfort her. In the background, a monkey sits, watching. Monkeys are a traditional symbol of sin and mischief. This juxtaposition of love and sin mirrors the duality of Kahlo’s sexuality and her refusal to conform to traditional standards of love and sexuality.

Art serves as both an expression of the artist and as a piece of history. Queer art has always embraced the ambiguity of gender and sexuality. It seems as if queer people have always existed and that colonization and oppressive Christian ideals are what is fairly new. Homophobia evolved from the stifling gender binary. Queer people existed, despite this, but became invisible to society. In the recent decades, the LGBTQ+ community has demanded recognition, and for the first time in American history, are receiving it. Those who argue that being queer is something of the newer generation simply seem to be unable to adapt to the shift in social standards.

Presenting Queer: A coming out story

“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” – Frida Kahlo

This is for anyone who is still trying to understand what it means to be them. Even the best of us don’t even fully know.

We all present a certain self because that is what is most comfortable for us. Our presentations inform how we walk through this world and how others perceive us. Yet, as individuals, we all have the power to change the narrative of our stories, especially as artists. When I produce art as an artist, I find it a critical part of my process to seek out the truth. I strive to seek the truth in my daily life as well. However, more recently, the truth has become a blurred line because of this new identity I have embraced, “Queer.”

What Does Being Queer Really Mean?

Like many people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, coming into one’s identity can be a challenge. There are many questions and confusing ideas that come up about who you are and what that means. You can be judged by your own peers within the community because you’re not “gay enough,” or there is this general feeling that you must present yourself a certain way in order to “fit in.” For myself, my confusion, questions and trying to “fit in,” has led me to be problematic at times and not fully understand the PC (politically correct) way of saying things. Yet, I continue to strive towards the truth anyway. That being said, as I explore what Queer means, I am fully aware that it does not mean the same thing to the next Queer person.

The truth behind my Queer identity manifested itself on November 8th, 2016 (for those of you familiar with that date, it was a huge deal). Long story short, I’m Queer. Always have been, always will be. Unfortunately, I have only been able to express this identity through my art. Through this blog. I have yet to come out to my family and some friends because of fear of being shunned by the other communities I am part of. My lines that were so perfectly straight and clear have become these mishmash of curves and colors. Which, for many of you, you can relate. I no longer can see what I saw before. I no longer think how I thought before. And I believe that is a positive thing.

These positive blurred lines have shown me we all experience our truth differently. For Frida, she experienced her truth through her pain(tings). The rawness of her truth brought her closer to herself and to her husband. She was loved. Yet tormented. She was caged, literally and mentally, yet, she flew. If I could express my truth in any way it be like Frida— I would fly away without my feet. As an artist, as an “OUT” Queer Artist of Color, flying makes sense considering these blurred mishmashed colors that surround me.

Now, as I paint the picture in my head of how I should or should not present myself, I believe we all have the capacity to Present however the hell we want to. Therefore, if you could express your truth, how would it look? Comment below. I will add your comments, and/or anything else you want to add, to some of my next blogs. I will give some of the caged birds a place to fly.


https://www.fridakahlo.org

Below are some resources I hope everyone takes advantage of. This short post serves as a resource for those who are coming into the community, who have been here for a while, or for those with friends or family members on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Comment below & ask questions!

10 tips on how to come out as LGBT to family and friends

10 Ways to Be an Ally & a Friend
1. Be a listener.
2. Be open-minded.
3. Be willing to talk.
4. Be inclusive and invite LGBT friends to hang out with your friends and family.
5. Don’t assume that all your friends and co-workers are straight. Someone close to you could be looking for support in their coming-out process. Not making assumptions will give them the space they need.
6. Anti-LGBT comments and jokes are harmful. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that you find them offensive.
7. Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
8. Defend your LGBT friends against discrimination.
9. Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.
10. If you see LGBT people being misrepresented in the media contact us at glaad.org.

This is for me (but it’s not mine)

This is for me
I was built for this
But it’s not mine

The darkness fades
But only for a moment
This wasn’t made for you

I wake up every day, ready for the world
Smile on my face and the strength to begin
But something isn’t right

This is what I love
I chose this for a reason
But is that my choice to make?

This doesn’t belong to me
I don’t deserve this
So why does it feel so good?

I built this from the ground up
I earned everything I have
But maybe I worked for selfish reasons

If I keep going I’ll feel better
When I watch the numbers climb I’ll smile
But maybe today is when the numbers shrink

Others do it so much better
And even more deserve the piece im taking
Yet here I am, hoarding what I can

I love what I do
And I love those who do it too
But that doesn’t matter when I can’t love me.

Sam’s Guide to Gay Media #1: An Introduction

“I want to write professionally, but I don’t know where to start.”

I hear this line, or some variation of it, from friends, family, or followers on my social media almost every day. My hunch is that people think I have a tip they haven’t heard of, or a surefire “secret sauce” that leads to success. Boy, do I wish I did: I’m a 22-year-old recent college graduate with a day job at Logo’s NewNowNext, an LGBTQIA news and pop culture site. I handle daily administrative tasks on an amazing team of other queer writers, and I write for the site regularly, covering style and beauty features, hard news, and transgender issues

I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to do what I do every day, but the truth is, I got where I am with a 60/40 combo of working my ass off, and being in the right place at the right time. These results aren’t able to be replicated, at least, not easily. And I’d be remiss to not acknowledge the privilege I have as a white, cis, able-bodied, straight-passing person in a cutthroat industry like media.

What I can offer you, however, is some anecdotal advice. I want to help others learn how to write for LGBTQIA media, especially QTPOC, disabled and differently abled folks, and other marginalized people whose voices aren’t being heard. If you want to write professionally, I can help you build a brand identity as a writer by sharing how I did. I can help you hone your pitching skills by sharing techniques that have worked for me and people whose work I admire. I can offer you contacts and suggestions for where to pitch your stories or essays. And myself and other media professionals can give you general tips to be the best writer you can be.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

So that’s what I’m here to do. Sam’s Guide to Gay Media, as I’ve dubbed it, will be just that: a rough guide, drawing from the successes, failures, and experiences of myself and other writers I’ve had the privilege to work with, to writing and editing for LGBTQIA media.

It will be a free online resource through Queeries, A.K.A. this wonderful space, and it will grow and shift as my experiences do in tandem. I’ll be coming on here twice monthly to relay some of the advice I’ve picked up, or interview other folks in the industry who have a few tips and tricks up their sleeves. Though gay media has a diversity problem, I’ll do my best to combat that by including and actively seeking the voices of QTPOC in the industry for my interviews. And, at the end of every post, I’ll select five recent stories from LGBTQIA news outlets that you should definitely read.

I’m honored and excited to be here, and I hope you’ll stick around to learn with me. In the meantime, leave a comment with your favorite LGBTQIA writer, editor, or media outlet below!

Today’s recommended reading:

  1. Gaby Dunn: On YouTube, Queerness, and Premiering at Frameline (NewNowNext)
  2. How Queer Muslims Are Working to End Stigma This Ramadan (Them)
  3. Wildfang CEO Emma McIlroy Is Queering Fashion and Changing Lives (NewNowNext)
  4. No Filter: Is Hayley Kiyoko a Big Spoon or a Little Spoon? (Autostraddle)
  5. 6 Homeless LGBTQ Youths Share Their Stories (HuffPo Queer Voices)

ορνιθοπανίδα

Trigger warning: descriptions of gore, graphic violence, death, and hate crimes. 

ορνιθοπανίδα | ornithopanída | avifauna;

  1. the birds of a particular region, habitat, or geological period.
  2. hence, the eternality of wings, and of flight, as the hurricane of time rages on.

 

i.

 

It begins when the world is made of stone, and her lips are the warmest thing you’ve ever felt.

Your fingers guide one another. You have no words, but you do not need them: you need only her just-more-than-black eyes, her broad lips, her rough nails, her stringy hair. Together, you kindle fires, and the young ones gather around you, watch the sparks fly with parted mouths.

When you move together in the night, it is almost like language. Her throat and yours convulse, your lungs launch forth desperate questions and proclamations, whispered into her hips, the sandy-rough base of her throat, the scratchy-soft warmth between her legs. You crest with pleasure the color of sunrise, and you wonder, within a mind that craves only sensation, how to tell her that you love her.

 

ii.

 

The men, for men you now may call them, give and take: they are to push and pull and move through musculature’s unjust scrawls, lips crushing lips like grapes for wine. But you take her, her ochre skin and black hair’s waterfall, and you invent a shrine of delicacy: together you lie, she that fain would fly and you eternally rooted, in the cotton-folds of that mist which wreathes the isles of the poetess. It is now, with salt from the sea breathing across the marble floor, that you may speak.

And speak you do, to watch her smile, watch her head tilt fast as a bird’s: upside-down laughter. You cup her soft breasts in your hands, and she murmurs that your fingers are long, perfect for the lyre; you coo back that you are, after all, more Artemis than Apollo, and she scarcely mouths a teasing golden word about chastity before you’re on the ground again, her wordless gasp a memory of broad rock caves. The glassware glimmers in the languishing dollops of endless-afternoon sunlight, stained amaranthine where you carried indulgence to her begging lips.

You trail your tongue and paint verse down her collarbone while her sweet gasps harmonize beneath your hands’ insistence. You are giver and receiver alike; together, you are the unspoken instrument of the moon’s goddess, her bowstring, her star-headed arrows. Eternity sprawls before and behind you, and you hold onto her swan-bone wrists, the beginning and end of the universe.

 

iii.

 

It is a time that will come to be called the Dark Ages, but the aeneous brocade of her skirt against the cold stone floors is light enough to imbue your memory with nothing but sun.

You know each other, this time, through dinner alliances. Long oaken tables groaning like the backs of aging peasants beneath dish and dish and dish of venison, quail, sauce-drenched asparagus: silver platters garnished in sweet red berries and cuttings of pink boars’ flesh thin as parchment. The first time that her father, honored guest, holds his broad silver knife and breaks the flaking crust of one of your pies, she claps with delight, and her eyes sparkle the color of the blackbirds’ feathers as they erupt, flooding the dining hall, earning a cheer of delight all down the long table.

It’s the first of many feasts. Duchess, you christen each other, and smile: her teeth are golden. The dogs whine at your feet. She is her father’s favorite, and she wears only the finest garments, sewn with petals and fleur-de-lis of bronze and silver thread. Her hair is spun straw, something that you forget each time until you see her. Because of her, you at last understand the mournful tunes of the bards. The longest laments and odes, through whose wandering notes you used to doze, now paralyze something just below your breastbone, trapping your breath beneath your throat like the birds beneath the pie crust.

Some misted night, when you are both brushing the age of fifteen and know the names of your husbands, a supper passes in a hurl of light and then you’re both in a corridor near the armory, and both of you are touching the freezing wall and she says, with honey mead falling in clouds from her lips, that she’s cold; you remind her that the fireplace purrs in the banquet hall where your families await, and she half-screams that she seeks no crude flame.

When you look over, pearl tears adorn her powdered cheeks.

You think that this must be the time to tell her that, though you’ve lived in this valley all your life, you can smell the seaside in your dreams; before you whisper three words, she flashes around the corner, and you’ll still be hearing her sobs on your wedding day, when the crown is placed atop your head.

 

iv.

 

You wake next on a new side of the world. She now relishes the outdoors, free from the stone bindings of your swift-fading memories, and spends all of her time striving for softness. She finds the sweetest glens, far from the bustle and clamor of the bright red-and-gold marketplaces, and stretches out on her stomach, chin settled in the moss, eyes cast to the golden ginkgos above.

She proclaims in this new voice—a voice of silver brooks, as silky as the gold-touched inkspill of hair around her slender shoulders—that she loves the birds, and that they remind her of something, though she cannot quite say what. Green shadows dance across her lips and cheekbones; her fingers trail in the pond, bloated by last night’s rain.

Legs crossed, some feet away, you take down what she describes. You do not know how to write, but you need no training for your brush to echo what she claims to see: the velocity of their wing-tips traced in broad arcs of black on cream, careful layers for each feather. They spin through miniature infinities, a flock of them: some large as dragons, some small as the fireflies that soon light upon your hidden grove. They part the air like water or time, invisible trails unfolding from where they’ve glided, and her voice—no longer for your ears—murmurs of how she imagines them to never quite know when it is that they’ve flown through the same cloud: to them, she insists in her star-vast way, there is no language, no constant thought, only that familiarity that lies somewhere between scent and taste and heartache.

When you show her your half-dry paper, she laughs, and at first you expect her to tease you that you haven’t, after all, painted birds. Instead, she kisses you on the lips, both of your eager mouths sharing the same scarlet paint, and declares that she has never seen anyone’s brush and ink capture motion the way yours do.

 

v.

 

The first time that the two of you are allowed to be right in your entirety, through nights and years while the stars track the clouds across the endless sky, it is good enough to feel like fantasy—even as you know, with morning-dew clarity, that this is the surest reality you’ve ever lived.

You are named for a sparrow and she for a fox, and she reminds you, with her sharp little teeth in your throat, of all the old fables. You’re trapped; you’re helpless; your wings are broken, and you weep with relief. You’ve never before seen her this fiery: red edges to her black braids, darting fingertips through still-smoldering ash for the very burn it delivers, following the men out to hunt with her voice raised to the amber autumn sky. She is the favorite of them all, but they know she’s yours alone. You will never have children, but you are nonetheless celebrated, and you twine yourselves together all the same, still fraught with the thick imbuement of smoke as the night’s final sparks glitter up to greet the gods.

She warns you to never fly away, little sparrow. You shoot back that you would hardly be sorry to find yourself between her silken jaws, and that surprises a laugh out of her.

Silver threads your hair, and the two of you watch the world change, and you tell each other stories. She speaks of cold caves and ocean crests; you, of the bats and the gulls. Eventually, even recollection recedes to mist, as you learn that you need nothing but each other and the blue constellations above, the wind’s whisper as the grass drinks up the last heat of the day.

 

vi.

 

Lightning bursts from between your hands and erupts across the battlefield. Red falls in streaks like scarves across thirsty grass, and you can never tell whether the men who fall are your own doing. You’re a different creature out here, not the girl whom your father raised you to be: sweat and starched fabric and hard gray powder tracing the seams of your skin. Heat hazes, casting God’s playful slow-motion, and you clench your teeth and fight harder, shoulders quaking and bucking with every shot, your breasts aching and bruising beneath their hard bandages, neck prickling under the curious sun, come out to watch its subjects play.

A punch in the side. That’s all it takes.

You open someone else’s eyes to see a girl with star-colored hair bent over you, her slim fingers busy at work in the gap that has grown between your ribs. She says, without looking up, that it’s a wonder it took a shot to fell you, with those wrappings around your chest. When you struggle, she smacks the flat of her hand hard into your wrist, paralyzing you with the sting. She tips brandy between your lips, forces up your chin when you try to look down. She has brown eyes. Strange on such a pale girl.

You warn her that if she tells a soul, you’ll kill her. You know how to.

She retorts that your life is in her hands right now, not the other way around, and if she thought you had no value in the battlefield, she wouldn’t be bothering to save it.

When you groan from the pain, she kills it with her mouth on yours. You’re motionless from shock and brandy and her doe-bright eyes. She adds, quite carelessly as she sits back knit your skin back together, that you make a very handsome soldier.

You write home that night that you’re going to fall in love with a nurse—that you haven’t yet, but she saved your life and kissed your lips, and you wonder what a woman is if she’s also a sodomite. You add a note in the margin: the birds, first driven off by cannonfire, are landing around the field again. Surely they can smell the blood, but they don’t seem to mind. Perhaps they’ll come and go through every skirmish, until the war is over and your lives are over and even the dry grass forgets it was once brown with blood.

You burn the letter in the campfire, like all of the others.

 

vii.

 

There’s a clear difference between you and the men who sit around the smoke-opaque cafes, draining whiskey after whiskey after wine, but it’s Paris, the economy is soaring, the nights are endless, and none of them care. They leave you alone, perhaps because they know that they could never have you; you, with your scattering of freckles, tufty hair under that battered green cap, slim suspenders over gray pinstriped button-up—you only have eyes for one, and she is a dancer.

She spins in feather-fledged surrealism, painting new colors with her mahogany fingertips, bedecked in false diamonds from the ankles to the smooth throat. She glints beneath the candles and gaslights, she whirls with the ease of poetry, and once a night, near when the clock strikes one, her eyes find yours—black on black on black—and she tilts that smirk, that smirk that drives you wild and hot in your too-stiff bed at night, floods your dreams with dark rich chills, brings you back to the club each evening with more precious francs and a craving for that music, those cheers, that one o’ clock smirk of erythrean lips on pearl-white teeth.

You write about her, madly, feverishly, running out of pens again and again. Language is a wonder and a gift, the only one you have. Men buy you drinks because they love to laugh with you, and they’ve long since learned to stop complaining when you peel away and find yourself back in your rented attic room, under the sloping ceiling, watching the star-stained rooftops outside as you scrawl frantic verbs, verbs, always verbs—adjectives aren’t enough for her, and a sufficient noun hasn’t been invented, but the verbs carry it all: sway, sigh, tease, swirl, glitter, glint. You don’t know her name, and she doesn’t know yours, but you write verses for her, then lean out your window and let them float away on the post-war wind like handfuls of doves, rippling into the endless smoky sky, carried on your heavy breath and the strains of jazz leaking out of the windows below, new and vivacious and yet somehow salted with the midnight blue prickling of a chest ache you call la nostalgie.

 

viii.

 

After tonight, and after tomorrow, history books will dryly chronicle this evening’s story. Black text on white paper, stamped clean, with notes scrawled in the margins. You don’t know that now, not up against the wall with the man’s snarling face in yours; not when the cold cuffs snap onto your wrists, not when the lights spin from something more than just a couple of drinks.

The word sanctuary rings in your mind, as false as anything in your life. The speed at which your life, lives, life is spinning by is enough for bitterness to flood your mouth and vomit to splatter the pavement in front of you—a slap across your cheek and your spine is shoved back against the bricks as your unfocused eyes seek something in the onslaught of voice and light and chaos, and your heart batters and pecks your chest, and you are looking at the blue shoulders of the men who were never meant to protect people like you, and you are afraid.

Somehow, within all this, your eyes find her, and hers were already on yours, and she smiles, and she’s wearing broad glittering red lipstick tonight, scarlet and vivid, you taste blood in your own mouth, her wig is askew, you know she would hate to be seen like this, you want to touch her again, you want to make promises, you want to get away, you don’t want to fight, not tonight, you want to be with her, you want to be alone.

Sanctuary. You never imagined you were safe, even behind stone walls, and yet you are sick with shock, and the bellows and shrieks inflame your eardrums. You—

She mouths something at you. Red shines on her ivory teeth, flashed with hard blue light.

Shush, little finch.

You want to make promises, but your lips are as mute as your mind.

Her long lashes flash.

 

ix.

 

You watch her break apart into blood and bullet holes, serenaded by screams and machine gun staccato.

You feel death breathing down your neck, and it tastes like metal, and this is what your final thoughts look like, before you are only a name on a list posted to the website of a police division:

You never wanted this. You craved the past; you read the poetry of Sappho and you could smell the salty waves. You thought of the American Revolution, and how you wouldn’t care to find yourself on the wrong end of a rifle if it only meant that you could taste history in the making.

And now you are here, and you are tied up and trapped by whatever sticky substance  those Moirai or Norns are weaving around you, until you can’t breathe.

Love should not be revolution. Love should not be legend. Love should be as simple as the times before you had a word for the fire that grew between your twining bodies.

The bullets take flight. You do not.

 

Written for the 49 eternities cut short by the Orlando nightclub shooting of June 12, 2016.

 

‘FAGGOT’ BY LESTER MAYERS

Man, I’ll tell you…

Gay people get called “Faggot, Battymon, Fish /Blade/ Bulldozer and Dike .

Every- fucking- day!

They say: walk like a man /talk like a man/act like a man/put some base in yo voice!

Well damn! I got to do all that?

So you motherfuckers can walk around feeling like you all lat!?

 Y’all shame us for walking in our truth! And what do we get?

Swagga Jackd by straight boys wearing skinny jeans and rompers.

Ain’t that a bitch!
You see we “fags” until yo ass needs the updated fabs and thats when respect seems to come relevant.  But the fact that y’all some ignorant mother fuckers is irrelevant- it’s clear that most of y’all dumb asses don’t even know that gays are the CEOs to the companies of the latest trends y’all following.

Why is it that “gays” are the ones crazy or confused When it ain’t us with the homophobic issues.
I mean no disrespect or harm.

But um,

I do marvel at how  when the Gay thing comes along people who break commandments like bread become so PRO religious~and biblical with everything being said!

It intrigues me that lying, cheating, stealing, murdering, dead beats is put beneath this sin Reduced to a simpler sentence, misdemeanors by comparison.

How you gonna tell me that it’s wrong to be gay.

When you sitting at home getting drunk off yo ass every day.

‘Fucking lying/robbing and stealing just to get it, telling me I ain’t shit and its best to mind my business..

All jokes aside…

I’m really being sincere when I say I’d love to hear with it really is that you fear?

I’m Not trying to push the gay agendas

I’m just tryna  to mend the

Mind of those whos still living in the darkness living their life in closets

Boxes that were made for clothes

But believe me be this poem will never get old

The secret livers will continue to scold those who are bold

So

Don’t ever change who you are for what someone is not

Or will except

Or better yet

Never live in a way that you’ll ever regret

You are no ones secret!

 Believe this!

 And surpass  the myth that gay love doesn’t really exist…

THIS IS YO LIFE! OWN THAT SHIT!

A Long Way Yet To Go

The Town Hall’s Promotional Poster

On May 10th 2018 The Town Hall hosted a showing of the 1968 film The Queen to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the pre-Stonewall “Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant” hosted by widely beloved transcestor Mother Flawless Sabrina (AKA Jack Doroshow) as a celebration of her life and legacy. This triumphant gathering of community centered Queer history while encouraging future generations to go forth reveling in their queerness. In her introduction Zackary Drucker commended Mother Flawless Sabrina for her fearlessness and work towards queer visibility while speaking truthfully about how the LGBTQ+ community still “has a long way yet to go”.

My introduction to Mother Flawless Sabrina was not that of the grand dame impresario portrayed in the film, but as a patron saint of the ridiculous, so to see her depicted, as Drucker commented, as a “no-nonsense businessman” painted a fuller portrait of the person whose legacy I personally celebrated by repping her iconic sharpied-on poinsettia red lips. In this way The Queen illustrated the sort of relativism one of Mother Flawless Sabrina’s proteges Taylor Mac often highlights in judy’s work.

The Queen 1968 film poster

Much of Mother Flawless Sabrina’s presence in the film portrays her as micromanaging, her mothering less soft and nurturing and more strict and assertive. One scene shows Doroshow militantly commanding the ensemble by shouting choreography above the blaring patriotic red-white-and-blue fanfare.

Although Flawless Sabrina, then only 24 years old, is surely a formidable figure, the main focus of the film is on the pageant contestants and the lead up to the announcement of the winner.

Audiences laughed and applauded the events on screen that occurred on the stage before us while seated where the likes of Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol sat. Yet unfortunately included in these intergenerational echoes were still-pervasive issues of racism, colorism, and body-shaming.

One contestant, a plus size-queen with commendable musical theatre chops is given screen-time shown rehearsing their brilliant rendition of the song ‘Honey Bun’ from South Pacific, yet when revealed that they’re uncomfortable competing in the swimsuit portion of the competition it’s framed as if they never stood a chance against the others in spite of their talent.

That moment goes by quickly and doesn’t take much to miss, but the scene that went down in infamy and represents a more brazen form injustice is the way in which Crystal Labeija’s objection to the pageant winner is portrayed.

The aforementioned “long way yet to go” was addressed directly by the words and performance of The House of Labeija. They objected to the racism seen in how Crystal was dismissed and framed as overly dramatic and confrontational for confronting discrimination, while the crowned winning queen, Harlow, a blonde bambi-eyed ingenue spent much of the film crying and framed as a victim to Crystal’s alleged aggression.

The House Of Lebeija Reenacting Crystal’s Rant (Photo by Tracy Ketcher)

Crystal Labeija spent her life under scrutiny of white gaze, often facing unforgivable racism from pageant judges, yet her tirade, although framed as mean-spirited and bitter in the film, actively acknowledges that Harlow is merely a product of a system of beauty standards that prioritizes whiteness and is not inherently cruel herself, albeit unequivocally undeserving.

Crystal Lebeija Responding To Harlow

As the performers of The House of Labeija spoke up about how they agreed that Mother Flawless Sabrina rigged the pageant, I could hear murmurs from people around me, uncomfortable that anyone would speak ill of the dead, as if snidely laughing at Crystal’s anger wasn’t equally disrespectful to groundbreaking queer ancestor deserving of honor.

There is still a long way yet to go.  

RoyalTea: Maxxx Pleasure

Photo Credit: Reverse Images

 

Howdy, friends!  Welcome to the first installment of RoyalTea, an op-ed where we get in touch with the drag performers you want to be following.  Performers who work for the community, whether it be through gathering and hosting, delivering important political messages, or just really making ya smile; these are people who not only know how to rock an audience, but roll your hearts.

Not roll, like actually- more like rock n’ roll because this month, he’s a rock star- You know, two time winner of the Market Market PansySlam (2016+2017)?  First Runner Up of the Miss/Mr. Berkshire Drag Pageant 2018?

 

Photo Credit: Tommy Venus

 

Well, this month, I had the pleasure of getting to chat with Brooklyn-based drag king, Maxxx Pleasure!  Recently crowned Brooklyn Nightlife Award’s Drag King of the Year 2018, Maxxx took a few moments to sit down with Queeries this week to talk about his breakthrough into the drag scene and how he got to where he is now, hosting his own show and appearing on nationally recognized stages.

 

Queeries: So, would you call what you do drag* at all?  There are so many titles out there now, I just wanna make sure we’re speakin’ the same language!

Maxxx Pleasure: Yes; what I do is definitely drag. I also call myself “a nightlife performer” when I want to sound impressive and “a performance artist” when I gotta be vague! [laughs]

 

Q: Tell us a bit about your origin story; how did Maxxx Pleasure come to be? Did you have any awareness of drag kings before you started performing?

MP: I started doing drag when I was in college at SUNY Purchase. That was the spring of 2014 so it’s been a while! [laughs]

I was f*cking awful when I first performed – I didn’t have a vision and I had yet to peek outside of the box of toxic masculinity. It took time for me to step back and be like “Wait, this is not the man I want to be,” and to start asking myself who that man was.

I was only exposed to the other kings at my college and, although they are all very talented and good at what they do, I didn’t see the kind of persona I wanted to be in them. It was a very inward/soul searching process from there.

I decided to try drag at school as a way to feel more involved with the queer community there – it wasn’t until I did it, that I was like “Wait- I actually love doing drag, I need to do this!”

 

Q: How do you describe your drag style?

MP: I love a good two to three minute lipsync with some rock n’ roll flair!  I’ve also been getting more into the idea of telling personal stories through my drag… my Duran Duran “Save a Prayer” number was the first act that I did that felt really cathartic to do.  Stay tuned for more of that-!

 

Q: Maxxx Pleasure is a kick ass name.  How’d you come up with it?

MP: An ex-boyfriend came up with it! He just thought it sounded cool and I was like “Alright, word! I’ll go with that one-.” [laughs]

 

Q: What is Maxxx’s defining characteristic?

MP: I often get told by other performers and audience members that they love my rock n’ roll charm. (And how I look like Russell Brand!)

 

Q: What’s your dream gig?

MP: I’d love to do Sasha Velour’s Nightgowns again! She’s such a pleasure to watch perform and the House of Velour curates such a wonderful variety of drag performers for each show – it feels so special and I would love to be a part of that again.

 

Photo Credit: AJ Jordan Photography


Q: If Maxxx could travel to any other decade, past or future, what would it be? How about yourself?

MP: Listen… he loves his 60’s rock n’ roll but he’s definitely gonna have to say to the future! [laughs] I’m holding a little bit of hope for a future that’s more accepting for all types of gender identities and sexualities. Fingers crossed.

 

Q: You currently produce your own monthly* show, Guilty Pleasures.  Could you tell us a bit about running that and how that all came to be?

MP: I came up with the concept of doing a show based on the idea of ‘guilty pleasures’ back in the winter of 2017 but didn’t have the guts to start putting it on until months later.

Once I decided that it was a good time to finally make the leap, I had to reach out to the venue (Gold Sounds Bar in Bushwick), find a host (Angelica Frankenstein – the hostess who’s the most stressed), find a dj (TenYards – also a talented clothing designer), and reach out to another producer with a show with a similar concept to check in and get her blessing (because that’s the etiquette – I highly encourage you to see Fancy Feast’s Maim That Tune when it happens again!)

And then after all that was done it was time to pull together a cast! Which is my favorite and also the most stressful part.

Doing Guilty Pleasures is such a rewarding experience – I’m really happy that I made the leap into producing and didn’t let the fear hold me back.

 

Q: Drag stories being told right now tend to put the spotlight on queens.  Why do you think it’s been different for drag king representation?

MP: I actually think that kings are starting to get a little more representation and a little less flack lately, which is so exciting to see!

Kings have been kind of in the shadows for so long because people are so dismissive and really not receptive of the idea of female/AFAB people performing “as a man”.  I could go on forever about the idea that performing “as a woman” is so easy for audiences to accept because femininity is taught to us by society as this inherently performative thing, while masculinity is not inherently performative so it’s harder for people’s brains to like comprehend the concept of a drag king, etc. so all I’m gonna say is- is that it really comes down to misogyny.

 

Q: Are there any misconceptions you’d like to clear up about performing in drag, as a king or just in general?

MP: You don’t have to adhere to the gender binary when performing drag.  It’s actually more fun and interesting when you play out of it!

 

Q: Has drag changed your life and if so, in what way?

MP: Drag has changed my life in so many ways! Doing drag has led me to question and adjust the way I perform my gender in daily life. I’ve met so many wonderful and inspiring artists through the drag scene. I don’t know what I’d be doing with my life if I wasn’t doing this.

 

Q: Any parting thoughts?

MP:  Nope!

 

Photo Credit: Eric Sager Photography


Short and to the point!  Not one for flowery language, you’d be better simply seeing what Maxxx Pleasure’s all about in person.  He’s got a few up gigs, always looking for new faces in the audience: Hot Face at Bizarre- Bushwick (6/15), Switch n’ Play at the Branded Saloon- Brooklyn (6/23), and back at Bizarre for Full Moons (6/23)!  If that show is anything like what I’m hoping, given the name ‘Full Moons’, you can bet your bottom it’ll be an audience full of werewolves-!

You can also follow him on Instagram at mr.mpleasure for more information on upcoming performances, behind-the-scenes extras, and never-ending style (I mean, damn just always lookin’ sharp-)!

Photo Credit: Travis Magee Photography

 

If you have an artist you feel should be profiled or are one yourself, feel free to reach out to me, @madsleighfaire (all held social media platforms).  Remember, when life’s a drag, we’ve always got drag-! Until next time, this has been RoyalTea with Mads Leigh-Faire, interviewing Maxxx Pleasure for Queeries blog; you make sure to have a great day, yeah?

 

“We Are All Becoming A Gamble” – Remembering Pulse & the Queer History of Mourning

Two years ago, the Pulse Orlando shooting took 49 and wounded 53 of my community. Today, I still barely have the words to talk about it, but I do know the LGBTQIA+ community has always known mourning.

There are so many days of my life I’m thankful I journal.

There are days, however, that I wish I could forget. I wish I could tear the pages out and burn them. I wish when I burned them, the memory would burn with them and when the fire is put out I could dump the ashes and let them wisp away into non-existence.

I have tried to write about the June 12th, 2016 Pulse Orlando Night Club shooting for two years. Every year I have fallen short. I have tried to incorporate the tragedy into the plays I write, but it feels exploitive so I stop. I try to write poetry for my 49 killed, 53 wounded brothers and sisters, but I don’t know how to speak to them so I stop. I try to post tributes on the anniversaries of the events, but I don’t know what to say when the world is still as unsafe as it was that day so I backspace, backspace, backspace, until eventually I am silent for another year.

I recently stumbled upon the journal entry I wrote on the day of Orlando, and then another one in a diner a day or so after – scrawled after pages of inconsequential To-Do lists, appointment reminders, and doodles as if to concrete how impossible such a mass tragedy seemed.

The only way for me to jump into writing about that day is to start by transcribing my own words from those journals – to remember that, as a writer, there are always words and perhaps those words have power:

June 12th, 2016
The day of the Orlando shooting.

I don’t know what to say. I have no clue how to write or respond to what has happened in my lifetime.

I know it could beans of us. I knoww that at any time any of us could be lost.

I vow to give up on petty infighting and love the people in my life – from all walks. 

We have all done wrong, but we must hold tight to each other and fight another day.

There’s something incredible about public spaces that are split down the middle. I’m in a diner N.J.  Right now Fox News is playing Trump talking to Bill O’Reilly. Someone who is eating in here supports Trump. I can tell by the sticker on their car outside . I feel unsafe – and because of that I’m forced to hold my head high and look forward. In my diners at home – I can do whatever the glittery hell I want. But you never know. 

You can never know if a bar will be safe or not. You can never tell if a diner, a store, someone’s parents will be safe. 

Public life is a necessary gamble. 

Social media has become part of this public web of unsafety-safety.

We are all becoming a gamble.

The day of the shooting, I was at work. Bustling hard around my little cafe, I had no connection to the outside world and my mostly conserative clientele gave me no clue during my 7 hour shift. It was the day of the Tony Awards – I was dreaming about what snacks I would make for the viewing party for me and my friends. The minute I got out of work, it all flooded in. I sat in my car in disbelief – drove home in disbelief – sat on my couch in silence in disbelief – showered and sobbed.

Kingston, NY Pulse candlelight vigil

I learned that a vigil would be held in a small local park. I flip-flopped between going or not at first – I was afraid to be surrounded by so much sadness – but I eventually cancelled on my Tony viewing and headed down. My then long-distance partner, now the fiancé who I live with, drove nearly three hours to attend with me.

I don’t remember exactly how many people attended, but there were over 100 that came and went and at least 50 or 60  people at the sight at all times. People had created a heart out of tea lights around a small printed paper that read a memorandum for the victims. Flowers were laid around the site and people stood huddled together in the wind, holding their candles and their loved ones close. I knew almost everyone. I remember at one point looking up and counting 49 heads at random – those were the amount of friends I would have lost. The number felt impossible.

 

Picture taken by Raine Grayson
Kingston, NY Pulse candlelight vigil

The night was silent except for crying and howling wind. The air was too heavy and when people tried to smile or crack a joke to help cut the darkness, no one could bring themselves to find the joy. I hugged people I hadn’t spoken to in years. I hugged everybody that showed up. Every once and awhile, someone would burst out in tears and the masses would swoop in to comfort them. I was greeting someone who had just arrived and saw out of the corner of my eye my partner crumple, then disappear in a mass of support. We were literally holding each other up. In times of crisis, I try to put myself on the frontline and do everything I could do help. There was nothing to do – I kept searching and searching to help hand out candles, get people safely to their cars, offer emotional support – but we all were just one mass of people who didn’t know what to do but stand together as a community and keep the candles lit.

 

Randy Wicker, laying flowers at Marsha P. Johnson’s “people’s memorial”. Screenshot taken from Randy Wicker’s film “MARSHA P. JOHNSON – PEOPLE’S MEMORIAL”.

When I look back on the night of the vigil, I feel connections between that moment and the queer history of mourning. I think about Marsha P. Johnson’s vigil – everyone who had known her marking where her body had been dragged out of the Hudson River with empty liquor bottles and candles, filling the inside with flowers and branches of evergreen over a handmade memorandum poster much like the one used during our vigil. Randy Wicker, videotaping as street youth remembered Marsha with stories in a way we were unable to at our vigil – because there were too many people it felt so hard to focus on any one life.

When I look back on the night of the vigil, I think about ACT UP’s Ashes Action in 1992 during the AIDS crisis.  How the ashes of those who were neglected by the government and died of AIDs have fertilized the white house lawn because people couldn’t handle candles and vigils anymore.I think about the immensity of the AIDS quilt. How my community tried to make beauty in memorandum and also tried to make change, with tears in their eyes and loss in their hearts.

 

When I look back at the night of the vigil, I think about the seven burned during Upstairs Lounge fire that police refused to call arson, the five dead after a bomb was detonated in the lesbian nightclub Other Side Lounge, how someone poured gasoline into a stairwell of Capital Hill Night Club in order to set ablaze everyone inside during a New Years party. I think about all the queer that have been gunned down and beaten to death by police.

When I look back at the night of the vigil, I think about how many shooting have happened since. I think about the threatening letters left at the houses of my local trans sisters in a town that is known for being liberal. I think about how I am afraid to apply for jobs in my new hometown because there is a confederate flag hanging on a house down the street from me and someone in the neighborhood mows his lawn with a handgun in his holster and if I have suffered so many atrocious assaults for my transgender body and soul in the liberal town I just moved from – how much worse would it be here? I think about how badly I do not want to get shot and how badly I do not want the ones I love to get shot, but I know it is only a matter of time and until then I am just one of the lucky ones. I think about how I do not want to be in public because being in public at all means I am open for attack. I think about how I’ve come to terms with being afraid every time I am celebrating or proud.  I think about how the average life expectancy of a trans woman of color is 35 years.

I think about how to be queer is to be in a constant state of mourning and to never get too comfortable because soon there will be another wave of death. To be queer is to constantly be on the outskirts or the in the middle of an epidemic of death. To be queer is to know death personally.

Visit The Coalition To Stop Gun Violence.

Know you your representatives are and know where they stand on gun violence. Then, do something about it. 

If you have, give –  to the onePULSE Foundation, to The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, to the Hetrick-Martin Institute – to your local LGBTQ center or any LGBTQIA+ NPO you are passionate about.

To the victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting,
rest in peace and rest in power.
They should not have been, but your spirits will always be with me.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Amanda L. Alvear, 25 years old

Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26 years old

Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33 years old

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Angel Candelario-Padro, 28 years old

Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández, 31 years old

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old

Frank Hernandez, 27 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge Reyes, 40 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Brenda Marquez McCool, 49 years old

Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Kimberly Jean Morris, 37 years old

Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20 years old

Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez, 25 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez, 27 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado, 35 years old

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, 24 years old

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24 years old

Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez, 37 years old

Luis Sergio Vielma, 22 years old

Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez, 50 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

List From: http://www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/