Mica Sigourney – Queer. Is. Such. A. Loaded. And. Annoying. Word.

on Jun 08 in Blog Salon by
Mica Sigourney – Queer. Is. Such. A. Loaded. And. Annoying. Word.
Note to the reader: This is an extreme work in progress. I’m not apologizing for it in advance, I’m just saying that if you don’t like it it’s because it’s unfinished and if you do like it know that you will like it so much more later on, and that this is just the tip of the iceberg..

 

Queer. Is. Such. A. Loaded. And. Annoying. Word.

1.
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.

2.
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.

3.
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.

4.
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.

5.
Queer then is a question. It leads to closer observation and interrogation. For all its vagueness it can lead to more clarity.

6.
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.

1.
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.”

2.
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.).

3.
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

4.
Ten favorite queer per formative moments of this past year for me in SF in no particular order….

1. Ben Mccoy (period)
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
Strong Behavior)
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.

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6 Comments

  • Kev!n says:

    You make far too many points to agree or disagree with, so I’ll simply add my thoughts.

    My partner and I went to a QUEER performance in NYC a couple weeks ago. The show was three women performing a dance piece about boobs (which was beautiful), two big women each performing inspiring albeit slightly sloppy burlesque acts, and a hairy man dressed as Sarah Palin who was hosting the evening. After the show, Sarah told me how it was groundbreaking in that it crossed the dance, burlesque, and drag worlds and how that simply wasn’t done in NYC (and that’s why no one came).

    SF has been making art that cuts across genders, mediums, races, classes, gender identities, accessibility/disability statuses, religious beliefs, blah, blah, blah for a long ass time. Because we band together to create queer or dyke or fag or chub or femme programming, everyone involved grows and takes their art to a higher level. Think about this in comparison to the first ever multi-disciplinary QUEER show in NYC (which I’m sure it wasn’t) where artists create work by themselves or only with people of their own medium.

    SF is about the COMMUNITY, not the industry, not the individual.

    Even though QUEER is a strange, amorphous ball of questions, it’s CELEBRATED in SF. Look at The Magic, a nationally recognized theatre, investing in the aforementioned crazy 5-hour QUEERstravaganza The Lily’s Revenge. Look at the calendar for the Queer Arts Festival! MY DEAR LORD, it’s staggering! Look at Yerba Buena Center for the Art’s Big Idea Nights…I can’t begin to expand on the amount of QUEER artists they’ve paid to create work but it does lead me to one of my top moments of the past year.

    Drag performers Vivianne Forevermore and Mona G. Hawd lip syncing their hearts out in an elevator at YBCA for hours while waves of drunken art goers unexpectedly stumble upon their genius. I think I took that elevator at least 15 times that night.

  • Addendum to the above article.

    I went to Austin Texas this past weekend for an event called Queerbomb.
    ( It’s a community based political ralley and procession/parade that a loose collective of radical folks threw in response to Austin Pride. The Queerbomb camp alleged that Austin Pride (as an organization and an event) was economically corrupt and essentially classist and super capitalistic, and had betrayed it’s origins/roots in the gay liberation movement (see Stonewall and Compton Cafeteria riots) and skewed too far from and ideals of community, celebration and liberation of our queer forebearers. )

    What I saw at Queerbomb was a huge and wildly diverse group of folks coming together to celebrate their individualities and commonalities. They came together to resist heteronormativity, and rampant assimilation in the gay community, but also to advance and proclaim their freakness, their weirdness and their queerness. This (while devised as an act of rebellion) was reaction, it was pro-action. It was a taking up of rightfully deserved space. There was no moment of meandering as to what Queer was. This was queer, this 3,000 person parade of “normal” gays, and drag queens, and transfolks, and families. This was queer, it was seperate but unified, it stood against but also for, and it was open and inclusive, that is where it’s power lay. There was decidedly some romantic or maudlin moment, some tear jerking speeches, some broadley sentimental statements, but overall the evening was full of sincerity. Speakers talked about the beginnings of “our” revolution, they talked about elders and youth in “our” community, they talked about “our” ongoing struggles, yet they didn’t ask “our.” There wasn’t an inquiry into who we were. We knew who we were because we were standing there at Queerbomb as Queers, resisting and uniting, struggling in solidarity and amongst ourselves.
    I don’t have a solution or a simple answer as to what this means relative to my earlier words. I think in San Francisco I am so comfortable because it is SO gay, and fairly easy to be Gay here that I get comfortable and I get lazy. My sexual and social identities and freedoms are easy to take for granted. I am surrounded SURROUNDED by folks I consider to be Queer to the point that I don’t even recognize us as special or different from the Gaystream. My queerness has become a part of the Gay Spectrum instead of a sepearte identity. I float easily into Castro Gay Bars secure in the knowledge that there are plenty of alternatives, and I no longer have to struggle to make my own. So what is queer art? What does Queer mean?
    It’s definitely not the gaystream, and it’s not the het world, and it’s seemingly unfixed, but I think at least I know it when I see it.

  • Philip says:

    Totally agree. Identity-based work is retarded.

    -Philip

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