As radical queers we refuse to be pacified, and we’re taking it into our own hands to create alternatives that work for us.
—From the Q10 Collective Zine
Queeruption is a radical, free, queer, DIY (do-it-yourself) event —an anti-hierarchical, anti-capitalist, anarchistic gender mosh pit, open to all ages, abilities, sizes and sexualities.
Hosted by a different international city every year since 1998, Queeruption challenges all forms of social oppression, including the wallet-waving culture of mainstream gay. Queeruptors share information, swap skills, perform, fuck, organize and participate in direct actions designed to agitate complacent homo-gentrified communities everywhere.
This year, rather than squatting in some rat-infested city warehouse, the organizing cell found low-rent land on the Sunshine Coast, from Aug 1 to Aug 7. They hoped that by encountering nature, participants would make more significant connections between “radical queer struggles and ecological ones.”
The property is beautiful, surrounded by healthy, oxygen-producing trees. Campers tent out in the woods. The fruit-heavy orchard has been set aside for those who identify as mobility challenged.
The stench of makeshift shitters and Port-o-Potties spreads across the camp.
An outdoor kitchen contains a metre-wide wood cook stove. For weeks leading up to the event, dumpster divers collected food from back alley bins. Others have either stolen or donated food.
Still, meals regularly run out before the last 100 people get to the front of the meal line. A second cooking shift prods the smoking fire, calling for more volunteers to collect fallen branches.
Activists arrive from Ireland, Israel, Germany, Finland and France. Young queers ride the rails from across America just to be here. By the weekend, the camp hemorrhages, numbering over 350, well beyond the land’s capacity to sustain us.
Hygiene becomes a critical issue. Mossy glades reek like an after-hour nightclub urinal. At the next morning’s all-camp meeting, we discuss the growing menace of dog shit.
One Seattle dyke walks onto the land and instantly gets overwhelmed. She becomes overwrought as others attempt to calm her. She drags her reluctant gay boyfriend back to the cement and crush of Vancouver’s Pride parade.
Hanging out in this Punk Park is a disorienting rush. Naked, tattooed, multigendered bodies roam everywhere.
The highest percentage of gender-fluid folk I’ve ever seen at a mixed event, our trans kin are core to this 10th Queeruption. Here, we’re living the new norm.
A tall bio-boi and a red-haired bio-girl stand knee high in the ice-cold pond. Fag and dyke rubbing their bodies together, laugh and hug for warmth before taking the plunge.
I sit quietly on the edge of a workshop called “Re-Wilding the Human Spirit.” I’m caught in the crossroads of so much intersecting creativity and culture.
Sage and sweet-grass burn in the centre of this circle, while the people eat freshly harvested salal berries. A sun-roasted baby boy named Stella breastfeeds while his mother talks passionately about wanting a safe, natural space to raise her child.
We’re like a mob of counterculture carnies taking a break from the gypsy tour.
Smokers huddle around a small campfire. A banjo and a washbasin bass play nearby. Two womyn scrub dirt off each other’s bodies.
One young man from NYC, kicked out of his parents’ home, shares how the queer party scene saved his life. Someone else is angry at Disney for spending $2 billion to ‘clean up’ Coney Island. He’s determined to be one of the last participants in the Mermaid Parade, the annual event where all the freaks march down the roads to the applause of the normies.
Another is doing his graduate studies, soaking up appreciative stares. He’s reading a book titled Group Sex. Scrawled across his T-shirt: Plays well with self.
Later that afternoon, a wild-eyed local calls out to us. She tries not to shake.
Scab foresters have flown in and are cutting down old-growth trees illegally, threatening the local community’s water supply.
Fifty Queeruptors join her caravan into town, swelling the local crowd of protesters to 200. We demand the regional district immediately stop the logging of its own watershed.
Energy siphons away from Vancouver and Sunday’s march. Asked how she feels about not protesting the corporate-sponsored parade, one of the organizers shrugs. “We’re learning so much from each other here. We’re building a community that is long-term and sustainable, more so than any short-term action.”
Most people agree that, at this moment, 1,000-year-old trees are more important than an over-commercialized Pride.
Back on site, four Queeruptors party through the night, dance to alternative punk rock, take a quick nap, then wake up at 3 am. They hike three hours into the woods, initiating a cat-and-mouse game with the loggers. Everyone’s efforts bring success: a weeklong moratorium gives biologists time to assess the damage.
The next day, two First Nation women charge the overworked organizers with not following proper protocol.
They say Sechelt elders should have been invited to perform rituals to welcome us to this stolen land. The whole community throws itself into a dusty, dry-mouthed, all-day discussion of dense politics.
Through a lengthy process, this transient community absolves the organizers of any wrongdoing. The group determines how to make reparations and vows to build more connections with the Sechelt Nation as a people.
Uri is from Tel Aviv. He understands the politics of land and ownership. Here he discovers that nature is a strong antidote for cynicism.
This eco-retreat nourishes both his activist soul and his belief that the personal is always political —”I don’t believe in the separation of private and public.”
He’s off to talk with Rosie, a Lebanese-Canadian who feels ostracized from the Jewish group here. Together, they intend to “break down the apartheid wall” between them.
Last night, Michael, a middle-aged anarchist from Berlin, performed an expressionistic theatre piece about land barons and squatters’ rights. While he appreciates the natural setting, he finds this Northwest Coast crowd much younger than he’s used to in Europe. He reminds me that even in our own chosen communities we can feel alienated and marginalized.
Others express less patience in their assessment of Q10. Zach, a Feral Fruit, runs an 11-acre farm with five other people. They offer fresh produce for fags and their friends. He loves to feed his sisters, he says.
“We’re all feral fruits. We’re the part of the tribe that wants to be in the woods. We’re the ones actively seeking the end of the leash.”
But he’s restless, too. “This gathering is under-fun, under-sexed and under-intimate. Faeries cuddle and host make-out circles. So I did. Others freaked out. I don’t care. In this tribe, I’m one of the woo-woo girlz. I am, however, enjoying the butchness of the boys. I’m a butch queen. I came here to give blow jobs.”
He and a group of 25 others also defy the vegan-only order and fry up some fresh road-kill venison. “Who cares what others think? I’m emulating the life [of aboriginal peoples] not academically discussing the issues of stolen land. I’m here to bring [that way of life] back over.”
For Kate Huh this marks her seventh Queeruption. Since organizing the ’99 event in NYC, she’s seen a lot of erupting queer actions.
“Each gathering gets bigger,” she says. “Each host country defines the party by whatever situation that’s happening. This one, we’re in the woods. It’s about the environment because the local community asked for our help.”
New York confronted homophobic police brutality. Jerusalem was all about protesting the occupation. In San Fran, they hosted an anti-Afghanistan war demo. In Amsterdam, they counter-protested anti-immigration, neo-Nazi homophobes. The police ignored the homophobes and arrested all 300 Queeruptors.
“We’re anti-oppression in all forms. We’re anti-consumerists. We are a radical DIY community. Radical starts in the mind and heart. We are out in the world creating our own culture.”