Queer. Is. Such. A. Loaded. And. Annoying. Word.
When I first used the word queer it was to align myself more fully with the freaks and the radical politics of anti-racism, anti-capitalism, feminism, etc. When I moved to San Francisco I found that as a cisgndered, white faggot I was easily seen as a woman hating, sex crazed, shallow piece of shit dude, who just wanted to assimilate get my right to get married, get married and move to the suburbs where I’d happily fist into my older age and carry on a long term monogamous relationship with my faggot partner. Queer was a dirty word, a gross out that offended older gay folks; it showed youthfulness a separation in politics and priorities. It noted that I didn’t want the normal life of a straight person with the simple difference of sexual partner/action/attraction, I wanted a fully queer life, outside the mainstream, where sex is tied to politics and attraction builds community and family, and fucking is never just fucking…it’s MEANINGFUL.
So what is queer now? If it’s an ultra-inclusive term that indicates anyone outside the “norm”, where do we center our norm? Where is the mainstream and where is the other? Is the straight dude that gets fucked by his straight girlfriend with a strap on queer because their sex act does not fit into the heteronormative cannon of sex acts (which is a questionable assumption anyway)? Is the lady drag queen queer? Is bicuriousness in all its quiet timid forms queer? Does queer stick? Once you have it on you are you queer forever? Queer as an IDENTITY is too loose, watered down, and positional. QUEER as a tactic indicates some goal and some obstacle blocking the goal so that one may utilize queer as the tactic to subvert/battle/defeat/overcome the obstacle to reach the goal. Too vague. Too broad.
Now queer is the salt you put on your potatoes, its what you marinate your meat in, it’s that touch of secret scent you dab behind your ears and on your wrists and the backs of your knees. It’s not a building, or a gun, not anymore, now it’s a suggestion. It’s not what you say it’s how you say it. You can’t text queer, or email queer you have to say it; it’s about the inflection.
Queer seems to be one of few identities that is arguable. If you are gay you are gay, no one can argue it, it’s “provable.” It’s a fact. I am GAY. I am WHITE. I am cisgendered. But when I identify as Queer my identity is a little less specific and potentially more nuanced.
Queer then is a question. It leads to closer observation and interrogation. For all its vagueness it can lead to more clarity.
My conclusion then: Queer is a word once previously used to dominate and shame homos. Then it expanded to be a signifier of one outside the norm or in direct opposition to the powers of privilege. Now it’s a question, the beginning of an interrogation, the indication of a need for clarification and specific labeling/positioning/defining, thusly it is also an opportunity for continued communication and community building.
Performance. In. San Francisco. Right. Now.
In performance Queer acts as simply another descriptor, meaning “unusual”, with the “usual” being the gaystream (mainstream+gay=gay stream). For example if you said to me “Let’s go to a queer performance show tonight” I would think “It’s going to be mixed (many genders, racially mixed, probably mixed in age as well” Then I would think “I hope this show doesn’t lack rigor/training/entertainment value” Then I would think “I wonder how long this is going to take” then I would think “I hope there’s a good drag number up in there.”
I find as an audience member that generally whenever a sexual identity is tacked onto the beginning of a bill (“Gay Ballet” “Gay Wrestling” “Queer Open Mic” “Dyke Comedy Hour”) there is a drop in appreciable expertise. Like seriously. It’s as if there’s an assumption that just being gay or queer or lesbian or fag or bi or trans or whatever makes one good enough to present work publicly for viewing and consumption. I’m all about everyone making work and taking pride in what they are doing and being big beautiful and queer, but I’ve been worn down by identity-based work. I’m not opposed to identity influenced or identity integrated, or identity acknowledged performance. But when identity alone (“I AM GAY”) is the main thrust of a performance I most usually am bored, and I can expect a lower level of expertise of the medium. (Gosh now I’m creating hierarchies of expertise!) (While the environment and community of just doing, making because you want to despite limited resources, education and skill is powerful and meaningful, I think aesthetic standards are important. We should not pat each other on the back just for showing up. While showing up may be harder for queer folks, may take a bigger dose of bravery than it does for the straights it does not entitle one to all the applause afforded to someone who shows up but also kicks ass.) (My friend just read section this section and totally disagreed with me. He said a whenever he goes to a queer bill he is impressed by the work. He compared the queer performance here with scenes in Dublin and London where it’s anemic, according to him. Context is important.).
I let Ernesto read all the above and he sent this back
“In all truth too, i was hoping to get a bit more on how queer is slipping into the already queerified Drag/night life community – is Drag “queer” just by being Drag? Can Drag be queer-er? Are there those whose work are constantly queer-fying Drag?
Queer exists in the nightlife and drag community. I’m going to be damn honest here; drag queens are typically (TYPICALLY not EXCLUSIVELY) queens of the fag nightlife. Meaning they rule over the nightlife of the gay men. Usually a queen is also a man in drag. So while gender boundaries are pushed, or sometimes enforced (binariness of “you are a man” or “you are a queen”) it’s pushed or enforced by the privileged set of the normatively sexed/gendered, men. (oh…..my wrist sure is sore from this old can opener I’ve been using on this can of worms). What I’m getting at is while I believe traditional drag (drag is a gay folk art, with strong traditions and familial lines) is inherently queer (it’s dude’s in ladies clothes and it’s feminine men celebrating femininity and it’s simply BRAVE) it could be a lot queerer, or rather, if the gay world was the center then the drag scene is not that queer. It has a lot of queering to go. But if you drop a drag queen down somewhere outside of her normal environment, somewhere opposite her normal environment I’d have to call her extremely queer. POSITIONING, again with the POSITIONING.
Simply put drag can get queerer, faux queens (cisgendered women performing as queens) queer drag, bearded queens queer drag, faux kings (cisgendered men performing as kings) queer drag, swamp drag
(super messed up ugly) queers drag.
(this wishy washyness, this “context is everything” attitude while diplomatic and empathetic, and seemingly considerate is bugging me and I’m the one saying it. Here’s something a bit more cut and dry: Nightlife in SF is pretty segregated most of the time with dykes in one spot and fags in another, we have some crossover but it’s rare, and refreshing. I think the nightlife of this city (and generally) could deal with a whole lot more mixing. There are some alliances and community opportunities being missed or passed up in the nightlife and it’s sad. I heard on the radio today that it’s better to offer a solution then just a negative comment (thanks npr) so I suggest cross booking within the nightlife. Put a queen at a dyke party put a lady dj up in a fag party, without j.r.r. tolkeinizing but as steps toward building ongoing relationships (some folks are doing this already…..big ups to you).)
Other things that can get queerer that are already queer: Butt Sex, Cunnilingus, Golden Girls
Ten favorite queer per formative moments of this past year for me in SF in no particular order….
2. Stanley Frank Sensation wooing an onion (SOME THING)
3. Anna Glendon Conda Hyde run for District 6 Supervisor
5. That sex scene in Tell Them That You Saw Me (Jesse Hewitt and
6. Justin Bond record release at the Castro Theater
7. Drag queen ice-skating.
8. Fat go go dancers at Blow Pony
9. Veronica Klaus singing at the Razz Room
10. Lily’s Revenge at the Magic Theater
Mica Sigourney As a student of theater and performance for 25 years, Sigourney has specialized in physical theater, improvisation and site specific performance. 6 years ago he fled the proscenium stage and traditional venues and refocused his energies on go-go performance installations and the populace stages of the nightlife. 2 years ago he created drag persona VivvyAnne ForeverMORE! and since has performed on stages and festivals in San Francisco, L.A. New York, and London, and in the deYoung, the New Museum (nyc) and Yerba Buena Center for the arts.
Sigourney produces the WORK MORE! series, a twice a year drag production featuring nightlife performers presented in a “real” theater context, where their processes are exposed, and their boundaries pushed. As a writer his work has been featured as part of the Radar Reading series alongside San Francisco’s Poet Laureate.