I hadn’t heard of the concept before, until a friend came by before a graffiti mission. We prepared a picnic of pastries filled with nuts and mushrooms, with apples and coconut, and she suggested that instead of the usual dark hooded sweatshirts, that since this was intended to be a gay graffiti mission, we should get decked out in glamouflage. Wearing make-up, putting on lamé and sequins changed the way that we carried ourselves that night, and surely influenced the messages that we sprayed on alley walls.
I thought that we were incredibly original that night but thankfully I’ve learned that there are many others in the world who are shifting and breaking the way we look at and think about queer activism, some of them in our own backyard.
The Anti-Capitalist Ass Pirates in Montreal throw crazy parties and fight injustice in their queer community and beyond. In Calgary there was a Gay Militia formed to combat the Concerned Christian Coalition where they stormed the CCC’s event (a fundraising dinner and prayer circle for a member charged with hate speech against our community) in pink bandanas and saris and feathers — and challenged the speaker, held placards and staged a mini kiss-in before the police were called in to disassemble the action.
In San Francisco, the lovely Gay Shame folk organized the KKKutest Of The Kastro, which was an invitation for people who wanted to show off their not-gym-built bodies. It was staged as a direct criticism of the gym-clone mentality promoted by the Cutest Of The Castro beauty contest in SF’s gay village. Gay Shame’s history is of acting as a watchdog organization in a city known for its mainstream queer acceptance — looking for corruption and oppression within queer services and organizations. They work hard on making sure that the queer community is an inclusive place for people who haven’t felt welcomed before.
And they look damn fine doing it.
Is there a connection that can be made with radical queer style and radical queer political action?
We only need to think of the late Marsha P Johnson, the drag queen and trans activist who reputedly threw the first brick at the Stonewall Riots, and of the controversy surrounding her alleged suicide, to remember that it is often the members of our queer community who live outside of the margins, either through behaviour or through appearance, who make more space for mainstream gays and lesbians to live the kind of lives that they want to.
Those trying to take up the space that is needed to live a radical life give other people, who might not have needed that much space, a lot more room to live their own lives.
A friend of mine commented in passing about how he thought that a homosexual identity used to imply a sense of cleverness, of creativity and how now any schlep can be queer.
Initially I agreed. Talking strictly about a person’s ability to name themselves as queer or not — the people who decided to be, or couldn’t help but to be, publicly queer were the people who made the space for all of us schleps to feel comfortable being as out as we want to now. Those who were most often publicly queer and managed not to get killed for it were often creative and clever people. Still, I’m sure that there were other people who didn’t have the connections or cash to live out their public queerness and end up in our History. Those drag queens and leathermen that some people complain about being the face of the community also did a lot of work allowing us to show our faces in the community in the first place.
I believe everyone is an artist and everyone is queer; it’s just about how much of those things we feel allowed to present or participate in. How often do we allow ourselves to think about something we do as beautiful, or even just something to reflect on? Similarly, how often do we think about our opinions as politics or our decisions as activism? But they are and we should take time in our lives to think about what that means to us and to the commun-ities we exist within.
This is A Call To Feathers for my community now. Let’s consider the ways that we shut down the outward expressions of our queerness — and take action to change that. Let’s think about what is important to us as individuals and what is important to other individuals in our community — and take action on that. Even if, for today, you just listen to someone who has led a different life than you.
I, for one, am going to wear a big, floppy, coral-coloured scarf and snort poppers on the dancefloor.
Emma Goldman said it best: If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution.
May I have this dance?
And hand me the bottle when you’re done with it, okay?