Justin Vivian Bond’s Pride Show “For The Children”

Justin Vivian Bond showed what Pride truly means amidst the Trump Presidency

From the moment I first saw Justin Vivian Bond perform live, I’ve taken up the mantle of being v’s groupie, and thankfully v hasn’t shooed me away. Needless to say, when Mx. Bond performed twice at (le) Poisson Rouge during Pride weekend I was in attendance for both shows.

The Poster for v’s 2018 Pride Show

Justin Vivian Bond’s work is always inexorably political, for instance a central topic in v’s last Christmas show was the condemnation of rape culture, thus utilizing the platform to shine light on pertinent social issues. Mx. Bond continued this tradition by highlighting radical empathy. V asserted the imperative that queer people must do everything in their power to support other marginalized groups that the Trump administration is dead set on dehumanizing, particularly immigrants, refugees, people of color, and sex-workers.

V began the show with an invocation to those we have to thank for our existence in the here and now, both calling out to trancestors who paved the way for us as Queer people, and the indigenous people and people of color who were brutalized and died in order for “America” to exist. As the band began to play Nocturn by Kate Bush v took out v’s phone and read The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Photo by Jill H Casid

V then devoted much of the show to sex work in solidarity to those affected by SESTA/FOSTA legislation. The first song v sang was Viking Dan, sweet wholesome song about queer love between sex workers written by the brilliant transgender songwriter Bambi Lake. The song begins, “Viking Dan was occasionally arrested for soliciting on market street” thus setting up the danger inherent in the profession due to inane criminalization laws that put people at risk. Viking Dan continues with the speaker of the song extolling her love for the titular character and her own transition. If this world were fair, not only would sex work be safe and legal, but Bambi Lake would be recognized as one of the most skillful lyricists ever, but thankfully v recognizes her as a national treasure and works to amplify her voice and broaden her audience.

Photo by Kristina Feliciano

During the second show, v told the story of an interaction v had with a transphobe at the supermarket. This person kept sizing v up and down, ostensibly attempting to decipher v’s anatomy, and then purposely left his cart in the checkout line blockading v and the other grocery-store patrons. Mx. Bond’s response was to forcibly make eye contact with the transphobe and slam v’s cart into the one he left, clearing the way for other customers while making a point to the transphobe that v is a force to be reckoned with. To me, that incident is indicative of Justin Vivian Bond’s method of activism; brazen and confrontational to those who attempt to oppress, while using v’s power to metaphorically clean up after others and make things better for everyone. The same aggressive bravado was present in v’s portrayal of the American Music Club song Patriot’s Heart, which has been in v’s repertoire for over a decade.

The song about a nihilistic stripper is dark and melancholy, written about the Reagan administration amidst the AIDS epidemic, thus to feel this song resonate so thoroughly in our current political climate is far from comforting. V leaned in to this collective cultural anxiety that queer people have due to echoes of Reagan’s presidency seen in Trump’s behavior. V got in the audience’s face, snarling and seducing all within the same breath, “give me all your money but don’t tell me what you’re thinking / I’m the past you wasted, I’m the future you’re obliterating / Oh, c’mon grandpa, remind me what you’re celebrating / That your heart finally dried up, or that it finally stopped working?” V casts the audience (often a cis white man) as the politicians deserving of scorn and strikes with tenacity and fervor until the last note of the song.

In v’s own words, the show was meant to celebrate “the outsider children [Judy Garland’s] legacy has come to represent- immigrants, sex workers, witches, and queers.” V spoke of how mythologizing the Stonewall Riot as a result of Judy Garland’s death erases the trans people of color who were instrumental in the uprising at Stonewall. Nevertheless, v embraced Judy Garland as a symbol to speak about the desire for belonging that binds marginalized peoples.

A running concept throughout the show was dedicating songs to the children: those who had been separated from their families, subjugated, locked in cages, and conveniently misplaced by the US government. V spoke of these children and their families striving for a better place where they can be free. Justin Vivian Bond drew parallels to LGBTQ+ people migrating from unsafe living situations to cities and communities where they can strive towards a life they want to live, made up of people who love them. After v illustrated the similarities, v spoke of The Wizard of Oz and how the crux of Somewhere Over The Rainbow applies to immigrants and refugees as much as it applies to the LGBTQ+ community, v sang the legendary song with the utmost sincerity dedicated to the children who deserve so much better.

Photo by Kristina Feliciano

The final, most poignant song of the show was v’s cover of the David Bowie song Rock n Roll Suicide. V admitted that this song was v’s outlet to work through v’s own sadness and anger and it showed. V imbued it with both desperation and empowerment, crying out for connection, fearlessly and shamelessly crying onstage as v pleaded to the audience with arms outstretched, “Give me your hands”.

This conclusion mirrors how the show began and synthesizes what Pride means in this tumultuous political storm, calling to the suffering and subjugated and welcoming them in as our family.

“I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain- You’re not alone!”

Putting Queer POC Voices First: Pre-Cut

Let’s be honest, when was the last time you heard from queer poc within the arts on a massive scale?

I’ll wait.

You haven’t and that’s a problem. But if you have, it’s probably because you sought it out and not because it was readily available to you/us.

As we begin to become more connected through the interwebs, social media, blogs, etc., I hope that we can also become more connected through our common narratives as Queer People of Color. Or at the very least become aware of the multitude of narratives there are. Therefore, (lol, I sound so formal) I am starting a “cut” where I cut to artists and/or queer poc within the theatre who are creating.

As a starting place, I have laid out some projects I have learned about and a few artists I will be in interviews. These features are only the starting point for finding a place where queer poc can find a place to belong because, if we’re being honest…our queer spaces can be dominated by white narratives. And yes, those are equally as important, sometimes, but we need more. We have more! So let’s talk about them and listen to them.

http://www.theeachotherproject.com/mdbg
http://www.candorarts.com/news/2017/5/21/announcing-falling-is-the-one-thing-i-by-korde-arrington-tuttle
(Play) Q2: An online community of LGBTQIA+ youth from around the country are connected through an online platform called Q2. When a new member enters the platform with questions, the group begins to reveal themselves to the real world as a way of proclaiming their solidarity. Slammed up against the pressures of tradition & classification, the group decides to incite a revolution. For more information: https://www.newyorkstageandfilm.org/in-residence
Up next: “Putting Queer POC Voices First Cut #1: Wenxuan Xue”

PUTTING QUEER POC VOICES FIRST PRE-CUT: A Poem for Us
Swaying beneath the words of resistance, love, unity, and freedom
I wonder if my desires will come to fruition
Is my imagination my reality
Or the truth of my dreams?
Who do I want to become, who am I and what do I represent?
It’s a constant black and forth, brown and forth of knowing and not knowing
Because we continue to grow like we have never grown before

Laying in the sun, bathing in the breath I am given
Red, Purple, Blue, Yellow flowers being sprouting from my soul
They are un contained — un aligned
Forming a ball around
-My heart

Grabbing at the veins inside my forearms ripping them open
leaving room for brown and black roots that are longing to stretch down to my hands
Porque esos manos son mi vida
They are la escénica de mi sonrisa
Porque ellos are the roots that keep my spin up
Ripping a whole down my core

Is the answer to my longing for more–
black and forth…?
brown and forth…?

Sam’s Guide to Gay Media #3: 5 Awesome LGBTQ Writers You Should Follow on Twitter

Besides reading really, really good writing, nothing is quite as beneficial to a budding writer’s evolving skills as following really, really good writers. Below, I’ve compiled a list of five of my favorite LGBTQ writers and editors on Twitter. I’ll link to a few of their best pieces of advice, funniest or most insightful tweets, or most exceptional written/edited pieces.

Follow these lovely folks, some of whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with personally, for queer AF humor, awesome links to pieces they’ve written or edited, and nuggets of writerly wisdom. Enjoy, and happy reading! Let me know who your favorite LGBTQ writer or editor is in the comments below.

What is Me?

When I looked in the mirror and saw this distant formless mess
I couldnt believe that it was me because I was told that he was me,
And day after day I dig and tunnel through this face and try to find
What the world was seeing that I was missing.
I stare in silence, change the shape, grow the bangs shave the sides
Looking for the mirror to show the spirit I knew was inside
Is this what my brother felt? Is it fair to compare the feeling?
He is so sure that he is he and why doesnt that fit me?
Why am I so formless? What even is me?
Why cant I find….
A word.
The language I speak fails to find a word that fits me
like he or she
Has it been the words that have betrayed me as I shape and mold the clay
Into some socially unrecognizable form
That even though Ive found the words im still told that I must fit
Into a mold I was not made from.
A mold I was not designed for.
I am not he, I am not she
But still I force a shape as close as I can get,
And what gets made does not have smooth edges or rounded corners
It is a mass of dents and imperfections and could-bes and should-bes
And the harder I try the messier it gets because no one taught me how to sculpt
And I have unsteady hands and a scattered mind
And I just want to be me
But all Ive been given is he

RoyalTea: Andramada & Show Ponii

Welcome back to Queeries, the only interview segment guaranteed to give any reader severe second hand embarassment.  Strap in and strap on folx, we’ve got a doosy for you!  Two bodies, one kindred alien spirit here to lay glitter eggs in your chest, only for them to burst forth five to seven business days later.  Today, we burrow deep into the minds of Show Ponii and Andramada, find out what makes them tick.  Besides the alarm clock Show Ponii swallowed in pursuit of a certain pirate captain-

   Andro-  Andramo- Miss “I actually can not spell my name” Andramada is a Hudson Valley-based drag queen whose performances dazzle and amaze, all while encourage body positivity and representation.

Show Ponii hits hard and fast, like a punch to the gut.  He has a lot to say and has too much to do to let heteronormative drag representation get in his way.

Cameron Esposito’s “Rape Jokes” and the Importance of Diversity in Comedy

Trigger Warning: post contains sexual assault mention

 

Cameron Esposito starts her new one-hour set with an honest, and, yes, funny, discussion of sexual assault: “What can I do at work if I can’t talk about your sweater?” she asks in mock confusion. Her fitting and layered response: “Work.” This is what Esposito implores for all of us in her new stand-up special Rape Jokes, which has already accomplished much of what it set out to do. Offered for free on-demand viewing through her website, its viral status has earned it glowing reviews on major media outlets, and among her fans: from devoted followers of her career, to the new recruits to her brutally honest, timely, loveable, and funny comedic style. And most importantly, the special has brought on the tough conversations that we need to have in the #MeToo era. This is not to mention the over $30,000 which it has raised––through modest donations for a download of the entire set––for RAINN, the largest non-profit in the United States dedicated to ending rape and sexual violence.

 

Esposito’s central idea behind Rape Jokes is the reclamation of rape jokes by survivors of sexual assault––including Esposito herself. She uses a fluid, story-based comedy style that weaves witty insights about her personal life with important questions about a society built around patriarchal rape culture. From growing up “very, very Catholic” with a lack of proper sex education, to being shamed into the closet during college, to her sexual assault by a friend and classmate, Esposito shows how the shame and lack of education surrounding sex in our culture works to both promote sexual violence, and to hide it from view. Esposito shows that jokes about sexual assault can be funny from the proper perspective. She urges us to understand that when rape is used for its shock value, we are only further desensitized to sexual violence, and taught that it is something to uncomfortably laugh off.

 

Cass

Pain
That is what I caused
As I sliced your heart with my sharp words
The incisions I created were not intentional
I promise
I lost control of the exacto knife while tracing the outline of your heart 


I had punctured an artery and the bleeding wouldn’t stop 

Believe me 

I know first hand the pain that follows a broken heart
And I promised myself I would not tear someone else’s apart

If you think I tripped you over
Made you fall for me and then didn’t catch you

That’s a lie

I caught you time after time

 

We don’t talk.

Keep seeing 9:23 on the clock

A time that I have solidified with your existence

A number that transports me back to that existent 

Memories

Where all I did was make you smile

 

I hope you forgive me someday

Till then,

I wish you blessings beyond descriptions

Yours truly Noah the shrimp

Borders

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“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”

“I will build a great wall and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

–Donald Trump, June 16, 2015, New York, New York
[Cited from “Being a Latinx adolescent under a trump presidency: Analysis of Latinx youths reactions to immigration politics” by Laura Wray-Lake, Rachel Wells, Lauren Alvis, Sandra Delgado, Amy K. Syvertsen, Aaron Metzger.]

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november 8Th, 2016. a poem is wriTTen. noT This poem. a differenT one. july 18Th, 2018. This poem is wriTTen. noT like The poem from before. however, from ThaT day unTil Today, iT has been days of mourning. so we musT mourn, remember and honor The fallen.

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        as i look beyond The horizon,
        i fear The only Thing i will see
        are dark brown heaps piled up,
        lying There like sTill rocks.
        sTill breaThing.

        as i see That.
        as i mark That.
        as ‘iT’ crosses my borders.
        as ‘iT’ doesn’T cross my borders.
        i Think to myself–‘i wanT “iT” to cross.’
        i wanT There To be no cross.
        jesús crossed.
        yeT, This counTry ain’T crossing off iTs T’s like ThaT
        They ain’T coming over here guiding The way
        because To Them, people are jusT “iTs”
        They mark The cross in order To back up Their words
        yeT, i only hear fauc-eTs–
        draining down The shiT i see piled up laying There–
        sTill breaThing.

        as i look beyond The horizon,
        i fear The only Thing i will see
        are The T’s ThaT drag Their way Through
        The dusT and heaT.
        like sTill rocks.
        sTill breaThing.

        as They fall, or become one wiTh The law,
        we musT remember To pray.
        yeT, praying ‘under god’ can’T happen when
        he ain’T crossin’ off his T’s like ThaT.

        Today is The day of mourning.
        yesTerday was The day of mourning.
        Tomorrow will be The day of mourning.
        so we must mourn like piled dark brown heaps
        that lie There sTill as rocks.
        sTill breaThing.

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Don’t go mourning alone: https://crimethinc.com/books/no-wall-they-can-build

In Memoriam: Dick Leitsch

On June 22, 2018, the eve of NYC Pride, we lost an LGBTQ+ rights pioneer, Dick Leitsch, who led the 1966 ‘Sip-In’. Before homosexuality was decriminalized in the US, homosexuals were banned from entering bars, refused service, and often arrested during raids such as the one which took place at Stonewall sparking the riot. Inspired by the lunch-counter sit-ins, where black activists went to segregated restaurants and refused to leave until they were served, Dick and his friends did the same at Julius Bar, stating “We are homosexuals.” The Mattachine society took the case to court and won. Julius Bar has since become a gay bar and was Dick Leitsch’s most beloved hangout.

(Photo of the historic Sip-In at Julius by Fred McDarrah)

I was lucky enough to know Dick through Julius Bar’s monthly Mattachine Parties. I always visited him at his usual table, where he held court with his mentees, to say hello and give him my love! In my time knowing Dick, I was privileged to introduce many friends to the legendary activist who was always eager to meet new people and interact with my generation of queer people! Even as his health declined, his spunky sense of humor never faltered, for instance when I gave him a birthday card he immediately asked “is it obscene?”, I told him “no”, “Then I don’t want it!” he laughed, and playfully tossed it across the table, only to graciously take it back and read it in spite of its egregious lack of filth!

(Dick at Julius Bar with Ricardo Guadarrama and Paul Havern)

The last interaction I had with him held such weight- it was at April’s Mattachine celebration. I was informed of Dick’s worsening condition in March but hadn’t heard any updates, so when my friend Ricardo informed me that Dick was present I got verklempt and rushed over to his table to be certain to give him my love as usual. He said “Hello you!” and when I told him I wanted to be sure to talk to him, he responded “I’m so glad you did” and then kissed my hand, saying I looked “very glamorous”, a phrase he repeated no less than five times about an outfit I’d never describe as such, yet it felt like truth coming from him. I didn’t know Dick as well as many of my Mattachine friends did, but the encounters I had with him mean a great deal to me and I feel truly honored that I was able to befriend him to the extent I did.

(A selfie I took with Dick the first time I met him)

Dick Leitsch was a forefather of the LGBTQ+ rights movement and a vital figure in queer history who deserves to be remembered. I’ll miss him and will forevermore toast to him at every Mattachine.

“If you’ve had a drink in a bar in New York City without fear of being refused service for being gay, or of being arrested or caught up in a raid, raise a glass to to Dick Leitsch. And remember where we came from.”- Matthew Riemer

(Memorial Shrine set up at Julius Bar)

how to pretend to be straight for her, vol. 2

  1. You have a toothbrush in her bathroom. You have a toothbrush in her bathroom and a hairbrush in her drawer and her mom knows you don’t like rice so she always makes noodles instead when you’re over. You talk in the dark and her soft breath on your collarbone makes you want to cry. Don’t.
  2. She always falls asleep before the movie’s finished so you pause it before the climax. You let her sleep for 20 minutes before poking her in the ribs. She giggles awake and pushes you off the couch. Laugh, but don’t look. Seeing the wrinkles next to her eyes will make it too hard to sleep.
  3. She’s on your bed sighing every 45 seconds about algebra and you’re on your computer scrolling through the Wikipedia article for Henry VIII. She goes down the stairs without a word and comes back with two cups of chocolate milk, your favorite. Thank her, turn back around and close your eyes. Try as hard as you can to imagine not kissing her. Fail.
  4. You’re at a party where everyone from school is that she dragged you to. She spent the first hour and a half-glued to your side, but she got distracted and hasn’t come back to where you’re stitched into the apolstry of the couch playing a game on your phone. She eventually finds you and wordlessly pulls you away, a manic smile smeared across her lips. She yanks you into the woods where no one can hear you and you can’t see her. She tells you how she made out with a guy on the soccer team. He’s an idiot and everything you’ve both disliked for as long as you’ve been friends and she deserves better. She says it was amazing, describes it in voracious, intimate detail. Your ears ring and your eyes burn. Be glad she can’t see you. Look up at the stars all bleary-eyed, chest split wide open, and curse every god you can name for giving this girl to you. You deserved better, too.
  5. Forgive her.
  6. When she sits next to you at lunch, give her your applesauce. She always forgets how much she loves it and it will make her smile and kiss your cheek. Take that kiss and press it deep into your bloodied heart so you can pull it back out when the monsters come to play at night. They’ll tell you she’ll never love you. Show them the kiss and tell them she already does.