About a month ago, one of my closest friends had a pretty major health scare. Being the good West Coast queer I am, one of the first things I did was call a friend and ask her to whip up a batch of her herbal Trauma Tea to tamper the side effects of his medication and make him laugh at how woo I’d become. She literally lives across the street but I rarely see her, so she slipped it through my gate when I was at work, and later I dropped cash in her mail slot. Signed, sealed, delivered.
So, when I think about queer economy, it’s about how there’s always a queer somewhere out there who knows how to do just about anything you could ever need. You just have to know who to ask. In the past few years, I’ve not only found an herbalist, but also an intuitive counsel, a psychic tarot reader, and a second tarot reader who promised me readings for life after I gave her my sperm.
If I needed someone to fix my bike/car/cellphone/necklace, I have a pretty good idea of who I could call. When I decided to buy new furniture, I borrowed a truck from one friend and had someone else came along to help with the heavy lifting. One of my friends is making me new hips. Another cuts my hair. (And as another friend pointed out, what do you do when there’s not just one queer hair dresser, but so many? Identity crisis!) I’ve traded web design for videography, and I know who I could call for tax or legal advice. I can personally give you a kombucha baby/mama—the offspring of one I got from a friend in Portland who owns her own fermenting business and dehydrates placentas on the side. Oh, and by the way, I have another friend who can hook you up with a radical abortion doula. I also know who to ask if I need sound equipment, help setting up said equipment, or to do back-up in a performance in three hours. And don’t forget: everyone in this city is a goddamned DJ, photographer, or party promoter!
Queer economy is also about how there’s almost always a queer behind a counter or answering a phone or holding a clipboard somewhere who can hook you up. The first time I ever bought a wig, the queen who runs the store gave me a performer’s discount. I got another discount a few months ago from some girl I’d never met at Goodwill because she saw I was buying lady clothes (“girl, that top’s too expensive!”). A friend of a friend always used to always mark down my pricey salad-bar lunch to a flat rate of $4. When I needed donations for an auction, voila: gift certificates to boutiques, guest list spots at parties, and a case of fancy wine all magically appeared. Last week, I got free donuts on two separate occasions, once because someone liked the way I danced at Hard
French, and once, I swear, just for being a homo because really there was no other explanation. One time I came home and my roommate had a new bike. “Where’d you get it?” I asked. “Oh, from my queer community,” he replied casually. And I bet everyone who’s reading this knows at least one person who works at Rainbow.
And if we want to get real about it, I guess, queer economy is also sometimes about hooking up. And the spit-chain and however-many-degrees-of-separation you are to me. And when I post on our Facebook wall and then I wait for you to comment on it. And knowing that I can call you up for something because you owe me one. And being at a party and playing the game of “do you know so- and-so from summer-camp/this-band/that-school/West-Philly?”
Sometimes it’s because we’re friends. Sometimes we’re friends-of-friends or aquaintances or exes or crushes. Sometimes we find people who come out of the woodwork when we need them and then disappear as quickly as they came.
Sometimes we pay for stuff, but often we don’t. Sometimes we trade. Sometimes we beg or promise to pay it back someday. Sometimes we give gifts. Sometimes we bake cookies or take you out to dinner, not as repayment, but to say thank you.
If I wanted to get deep about it and dig into my liberal arts education, I’d say that economies are about circulation, exchange, and currency. That there are economies based on money and the attempt to quantify value, but also based on gifts, ideas, culture, sex, and many other things. I could also say that there are multiplier effects when you keep cash local because it just flows between us and somehow we all feel richer.
But really I want to say that queer economy is about community. It’s cheesy, yes, but much of how we know and relate to each other is based on what we do with and for each other. And as queers we have the opportunity—good, bad, and ugly—to create how we share our time, energy, and resources with one another. Sometime’s we’ve got to play by capitalism’s rules, but often we can circumvent and recalibrate them to be more than zero-sum, to treat each other with care and fairness, and to spread the wealth among us by redefining value on our own terms. So far, I think we’re not doing such a terrible job.
Oh my goddess! Look at this crazy queer lifestyle I’ve described for you! My experiences may not be exactly the same as yours, but I’m sure that if we tried hard enough we’d find some overlap. And wow! Maybe we can even get matching tattoos about it! I know this great queer artist who does it in her room,
but is really good and does it for cheap…
Lil Miss Hot Mess’s 5 Tips for a Healthy Queer Economy
1. Pay a girl! If you’re a promoter, curator, business owner, etc. and you’re making money off me, I better be making money off me too. I will not perform at your corporate event for “a spot on the guest list and a drink ticket” (thanks, but no thanks).
2. One queer’s trash is another queer’s treasure. I mean, look at how this stuff flows. My closet is probably 50% thrifted, 30% gifted, 10% found on the street, and 10% none of the above. I once sold a dress to Buffalo only to have a friend buy it from them a week later (sorry girl!).
3. Be accountable. All cheekiness aside, mama does believe in economic justice and accountability. Especially for those of us with class, racial, and/ or other privilege, let’s be accountable to the communities we’re a part of and adjacent to.
4. Don’t be (so) suspicious of success. This could be it’s own post, but briefly: let’s try to not shoot each other down when we have a moment of success or have a few coins in our pockets. Girl, I don’t believe in making money for the sake of it, but we don’t need a race to the bottom either. In a world in which money is a necessarily evil, let’s try to be smart about our resources, not judgy.
5. TREAT YOURSELF! I started saying this years ago, mostly as a joke, but now I can’t stop. Seriously, we all deserve roses with our bread, or maybe an artisanal ice cream cone every now and then.
About Lil Miss Hot Mess – Since her debut in 2008, Lil Miss Hot Mess has been bedazzling San Francisco audiences with a unique blend of camp, choreography, and radical politics. Lil Miss’s aesthetic is rooted in thrift store couture and the tradition of camp that seeks to expose, question, and critique. She first got her feet wet as an original cast member of Hogwarts Express: The Musical!, celebrated her “Bat Mitzvah x2” with a party that that made all the Long Island princesses jealous, and has performed at events including Trannyshack, Homo A Go Go, Radar, the National Queer Arts Festival, SOME THING, and many, many more. She is proud to be the current reigning Tiara Sensation of San Francisco.
Launch of Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s
Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? –
2/14 and 2/15
Lil Miss Hot Mess’s Roller Skating Birthday Extravaganza!!!