Oh, I love trash!
Anything dirty or dingy or dusty
Anything ragged or rotten or rusty
Yes, I love trash!
—Oscar the Grouch, lyrics by Jeffrey Moss
In the 1990s, the Fresh Kills Landfill in New York City became the largest human-made structure on earth, the only such heap clearly visible from outer space, aside from the Great Wall of China.
At 2200 acres of delicious garbage, I had at last found my Holy Mecca.
But Fresh Kills was closed in 2001, reopened only temporarily to sort through World Trade Center wreckage. The City now has plans to convert it into a park and reclaimed wetlands — a pathetic substitute for beautiful trash.
There’s something you should know about me: I’m a bona fide dumpster-diver. I’ve found the unlikeliest treasures, including a Dolly Parton pin-back button, a shrink-wrapped Aerosmith greatest hits cassette, an almanac of the year I was born, a CD mix of break-up songs, and a suitcase bearing inscriptions of WWII ship travel.
Trash is revealing; it tells the part of the story that people usually leave out.
I remember the day I fell in love with it. I was seven, and a bunch of neighbourhood kids and I were slithering in a dumpster behind our apartment complex. We came across pages torn out of a porn magazine, featuring naked people with tits as big as their cocks — trans hotties in various stages of sexual reassignment, as I would later discover. Those images spun my world off its axis that day; gender diversity thwacked me upside the head — and porn and trash became forever associated in my mind.
Now, there are less porn magazines in the garbage these days, though not because folks recycle more. Honcho gave its last stubbly blowjob when the Mavety Media Group folded their line of gay porn magazines in 2009, including Inches, Mandate, Torso and Playguy, buckling to online competition. In the late 1990s, I posed nude regularly for these titles, alternating between cover model, centrefold bunny and sex-line shill.
Here’s a cross-section of Honcho’s January 2000 issue: A juicy twink and I in Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, a situational art gallery. I’m wearing a pirate’s eye patch, smoking cigarettes and feeding him foreskin. Behind us is a panorama of garbage and a graffiti tag that reads “MOMA = Museum Of My Ass”. One layer down there’s a spanking scrapbook, an interview with electroclash rockers Fischerspooner, an 80s flashback to a Seattle sex club, and a torrid story about eyebrow shaving. The lowest stratum is a Rick Castro photo spread of a punk with a spine-length crucifix tattoo.
The deeper you dig, the richer the aroma — this was trash that we could be proud of!
I mean “trash” in the best sense of the word, of course. I’m reclaiming it the same way that queers, faggots and dykes have defiantly reclaimed the nouns used against them.
Now the medium in which I did my best work, by and large, is a relic. Porn magazines are literally becoming a museum of my ass.
Printed trash has recently faced others threats, too. In 2009, we experienced the infamous Amazon.com ‘glitch’, a supposed cataloguing error that robbed 57,000 queer and erotic book titles of their sales ranking and censored them from the main search results page (obscuring my own work, as well). Within 24 hours, readers, writers and stompin’-mad civil libertarians mobilized an online revolt called #AmazonFail (named for the Twitter tag and YouTube’s infamous Fail Blog). Amid the chatter, I heard a distinct voice that made me livid.
“It’s OK to censor trash like porn, but don’t touch LGBT literature.”
Excuse me? Trash, as we know, is the best part of the story. It’s not okay to sweep it under the rug. We need to drag it into the light, inspect it, sniff it, piece it together, exhibit it and celebrate it, like they do in San Francisco, a resistance outpost in the war on trash.
I performed there recently at Army of Lovers, part of the San Francisco Sex Worker Arts Festival, and I was thrilled to meet so many others proudly garbage-baggin’ it. I think of 85-year-old author and playwright George Birimisa reading a graphic passage from his novel S&M Gym about getting a blowjob from a toothless suitor so talented, he longed to crawl into his mouth to chase down the cum. “Gum it, baby, gum it!”
Organizer of the event, author and “hooker with a heart of gold lamé” Kirk Read showed a slideshow of photos he took during an intense BDSM session with a client. “The guy was in the Bible business,” and asked to be restrained with rope, cocooned in cellophane, and buried under a mountain of crumpled pages that Read tore out of a Gideon Bible one by one. “Room service at the Fairmont Hotel was great. They brought me another Bible when I ran out of pages.”
Trash can be such a spiritual experience.
Let’s rebuild our sunken heap, one torn page at a time, until it reaches the sky once again.
I’ll understand, though, if you’d rather recycle.