by Angeliska on June 4, 2010
Can I tell you a little story? It’s one I’ve told a few times recently, but never written down –
until tonight. I’ve been thinking about transitional moments a lot recently. I think that in those
in-between spaces is where the magic in our lives happens. The step betwixt this and that,
the place where you levitate above the line that’s been drawn in the sand, bat-like. Gloaming.
Right, so – I’m 13 or 14 years old, and it’s summer in Butt-fuck Egypt, where I live with my family.
My mode at that time involved these tall aluminum tumblers of iced coffee, the kind that come in
jewel colors and give you Alzheimer’s, right? My dad would make a big pot in the morning and
leave it on the stove. I’d wander in at some point in the afternoon, having embarked on a possibly
life-long nocturnal mission to find peace and quiet in which to write (hey, like right now – at 4:30am).
It’s just me and the dogs breathing, frogs chirping. Remembering something. Walking through those
rooms in my mind brings it back. The sun’s turning gold and getting ready to slide down the side
of the house like an egg, and I’m just waking up with my coffee laced with cinnamon and a pop-tart
and the best channel on television: Austin Community Access! Oh man – at that time, you could see
so much weirdness on that channel. Usually super late at night, but the afternoon shows could be gems
as well. Anyone could have a television show, basically – from the Zendiks with their creepy bearded
hippie patriarch, to the punk kids who played Pain Teens and Skatenigs videos, or the granny with
her exercise show that she did mainly sitting while in a chair. On this particular afternoon, I happened
across the best thing I had ever seen, up until that point in my relatively brief life – incredible footage
from the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco. It was glorious! I was electrified by the sight of queens,
leather-boys and dykes all prancing and dancing in the streets, undulating with boas on fabulous
floats and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence making a scene in nun’s habits and giant schlongs!
Never had I felt such a burning desire to be instantly transported through a television set, and into
another reality. I had found my people, and my kind of action. Something very intense happens when
humans take what’s normally private or taboo and take it joyfully into the streets. It’s a very ancient
practice, and one that I feel is necessary to our society. Saturnalia, Bacchanalia, Carnival, Purim.
It’s all the same, and so very sacred to me. This was different though, and I figured out why fairly
quickly. The camera panned away from these bright and decadent visions and to a dreary studio
with ugly chairs, fake plants and a couple of beige-faced, tight-laced dudes in suits droning on and on
about “abominations” and “crimes against nature”. I was fucking incensed. How dare they? How could
they watch this same footage and see something evil? How could they not see the beauty, the power
in it? Or I suppose they did, and that’s exactly what they were condemning. My stepmom came home
from work and found me throwing pop-tarts and cursing at those geezers on TV. I was so mad, I was
spitting and ranting to her about what I had seen. Her response was to level a long gaze at me, and
ask if I was experiencing any “homosexual tendencies”. The line in the sand. I buried my head in it, shut
down, and backed off. Discussing my sexual proclivities with any adult, much less my parents was the
very last thing I wanted to do. Besides, if I did, they’d probably stop letting me having my best friend over
for sleep-overs, and I already wasn’t allowed to stay at her house (her folks were a little quicker.)
I can remember feeling that liking girls was the most dangerous thing I could ever admit about myself.
I honestly feared that I would be stoned to death at school, if ever any credence was given to the constant
taunts of “lezzie” and “witch”. I’d wake from hot dreams of white curves and black velvet, if you please
in a cold sweat. Surely people in the halls could read my naughty thoughts on my face, surely they could
smell it on me. Shame. I don’t remember anyone ever specifically telling me it was wrong, but instinctively
I knew that it wouldn’t be accepted. At some point, though – not long after the day I saw my first pride parade,
I stopped caring what they thought. I took a feather from my San Franciscan sisters’ headdresses and figured
out that if you can’t join ‘em, you can’t fool ‘em, and you can’t beat ‘em, then you might as well dazzle them into
astonishment with glittery false eyelashes and sequins glued on my face. I was a miniature Cockette and drag devotee,
and it was the best armor I could have ever worn. Insanely flamboyant drag was how I discovered my version of femininity,
and how I made the transition from gangly, hyper-awkward sexless nerd to another kind of creature altogether.
These are my roots, and how I came to be who I am: a queer lady who loves regardless of gender, who doesn’t
buy into binary systems, or rules about who we can love, or how we can express ourselves. Who and how I love
is mine to enjoy. To be able to have that freedom, to be able to take it into the streets and dance wildly or walk proudly
in the full expression of that is not a gift: it is something that is always there, but must be claimed. I plan on claiming it,
and proclaiming it loudly with a huge congregation of fabulous freaks today. You know what else?
It will be my first Pride Parade! I just realized that. In the years since I first saw that first flickering footage,
there’s been nothing that came close to lighting the fire in my idea of what a Pride Parade ought to be.
There are parades practically every week in New Orleans, and I know how to do it up right from my years living there.
I love sharing the street with everybody on Mardi Gras morning more than anything in the world, but this will be different.
You see, it’s not that there hasn’t been a Gay Pride Parade going on every year in Austin since I moved here –
it’s just that I don’t feel that it’s a parade for me, or that I’m for it. It’s a procession built on corporate sponsorship,
greed, banality and the fear of allowing gay people to represent as anything other than clean, safe, khaki-wearing
upstanding, family-friendly, hetero-normative contributing to the rat-race members of society. I’m not interested in doing that.
Tomorrow, we have other plans. This coming Friday marks the kickoff of a historic occasion for my town, and for my community.
We have all been working hard for the past little while to carve a new path for ourselves, and claim a social ritual and celebration
that should be powerful and joyful rather than bland and lame.
It’s high time for this town to get hit right in the la-la with a big, ripe, juicy QUEERBOMB!
Austin has such an incredibly diverse, creative and all-around bad-ass population of queers,
and I cannot wait to shimmy and shout with them for the next three days and nights!
There’s a buttload of amazing stuff happening, but #1 is the big parade and after-party at The Independent!
Be there for it! There’s tons of info, so if you don’t already know – get it to it, and join us!
Saturday and Sunday there are super-fun Queerbomb parties at Cheer Up Charlie’s! Come find me there!
I’m also thrilled about all the great thought, dialogue and writing that all this action has inspired.
There are so many kick-ass pieces in The Chronicle this week, holy moly – please do, if you have
a minute, go read them. My friend Kate wrote three of my favorites, linked below – but wow, there’s so much!
Sinister Wisdom by Leah DeVun
Coco the Sasquatch, Rebecca Havemeyer and Silky Shoemaker in Trivia Travesty!
There’s a fantastic piece on one of my heroes:
★ Pride Piper
Silky Shoemaker brings a heapin’ helpin’ of DIY to the Pride table by Cindy Widmer
“In that moment, the slight, androgynous Shoemaker is both the spunky girl
who grew up doing musical theatre in Amish country and a wicked-sly,
multilayered performance artist, sending up cornball theatricality –
performing camp, if you will – with a kind of manic weirdness
that is one part homage and two parts subversion.”
I particularly like her definition of what it is to be queer:
“‘I think of queer as being about nonheterosexuality,’ she explains. ‘I think sexuality is really important –
claiming sexual perversity and excitement and desire. I want there to be sexuality involved in homosexuality.
It’s also about being feminist and having an understanding of expanded gender categories.
I think of it as challenging a capitalist model of society and community.’”
Speakin’ of heroes! Paul Soileau (aka. Rebecca Havemeyer, aka. Christeene)
just really continues to blow me away. Wow, wow, wow. This amazing creature
has done so much work, and pulled so hard to make all this happen – by
encouraging, and organizing and speaking so powerfully and eloquently.
I have so much admiration and love for this man! Glory be!
There are some really fantastic posts by some of my fellow Austin bloggers
that I highly suggest you read! From Miss Tolly:
It’s Ok To Be Me (Even if I’m a Drag Queen)! – QueerBomb
and from Chris Apollo at Republic of Austin:
Will a Queer Bomb destroy Austin in 2010?
P.S. – If you are unfamiliar with the amazing phenomenon of community access television may I scar you
permanently with this exceptional example? I don’t think Austin can claim this one, but it’s pretty close: