Sunday, June 17, 2007

The show, yes the show: Why Are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots?

Okay, now I can write about the show. I can't say that I'm rested, but I did sleep. Okay, back to yesterday...

The funny thing is that I'm actually running on time, I keep checking the clock to see if maybe it's actually an hour later, I even compare it to the computer to make sure that I'm right. Then I get to the theater over an hour early, in spite of the incredibly long bus ride down Mission Street where the bus is so crowded that people are getting in arguments about whether anyone else can fit.

I've never been in the front room at Jon Sims, but it's actually really spacious. The only problem is that there aren't any lights, just fluorescents on the ceiling and a few clip-ons. Luckily it's the time of year when it's still light out, and there are these huge windows that face Mission Street, we open the curtains and it actually looks kind of glamorous with the light streaming in. It's just me and Calvin, the sweet tech person, since everyone else who was supposed to get there early hasn't yet arrived, and then when everyone does arrive it's kind of frantic figuring out details -- I hate that frantic part, especially when I'm exhausted, but then it gets worked out and the room is packed from front to back and that's always exciting.

My intro is very short, but I can already tell that this is an incredible audience because everyone's so excited! Then I read the piece I wrote after one of my recent trips to Blow Buddies, I was planning to play the role of discreet hostess so we could get to the discussion as quickly as possible, but after that trip I can't help sharing -- it's under five minutes, anyway, so I figure maybe it will keep everyone else on time too. It's especially fun to read the part about Hillary Clinton, where I can tell the audience is thinking what, where are we going now? Then Nico Dacumos performs, I like the way he uses the mirror when he mentions looking in a mirror in his piece -- oh, I didn't mention that the wall facing the windows is a mirrored wall, and the mirror reflects the sun as it starts to go down. Nico's performance is very precise -- I like that precision, he's talking about standards of masculinity and who has the ability to pass or not pass, all within his own family history and his places in the world. I especially like the part where he's talking about studying the ways that different male bodies hang, comparing them to his own transgressive and transmasculine postures and endeavors.

At some point during Nico’s performance, one row of fluorescents comes on, so when I introduce the next performers I mention that this show may not be called Why Are Faggots so Afraid of Fluorescents?, but I will be right back to do something about that, and I walked slowly to the door, out to turn off the light switch, and then I'm back.

Then Kirk Read and Logan Knight deliver the results of a social experiment of sorts, they went to the Eagle and engaged the regulars in conversation, complete with drumming and background music at points -- they are both such great storytellers, and it's fun to see how they interact onstage. I especially like the part where they're talking about different adjectives they do and do not like to describe body parts or sexual acts. Logan, who is trans, likes cunt but not pussy, cunt has power he says and Kirk says you're right, that's a word my mother does not allow. Kirk doesn't mind pussy for his own sex life, and he likes pretty but not dude, but did I mention that both Kirk and Logan are from the South and this plays a hilarious role in most of their conversations, both onstage and at the Eagle.

Wickie Stamps reads from her novel-in-progress, and the moment for immediate audience reaction definitely occurs when she mentions the narrator videotaping the goings-on in a confession booth -- we are all waiting for the rest! Thandiwe Thomas starts with a tongue-twister, and then a story about a boygirl who likes to put on his mother's makeup, and the violent consequences -- Thandiwe performs the preacher father and grandmother's voices in an especially evocative way. And the final performance of the evening is Seth Eisen, who comes out in gorgeous flamboyant attire as Faygele, a Jewish faggot who gives an amazing invocation/rant on faggotry in all forms, and especially his own issues with body image and masculine performance/requirements -- the performance ends with a ritual to banish all the trauma, but not without a certain audience discomfort as Faygele asks everyone in the audience to put their hand on a part of themselves that they hate, then a part of the person next to them that they hate. I don't notice anyone in my row (the front row) doing the latter, but everyone does chant for Faygele during her ritual.

Then we have a break, and I decide quickly to ask people to move the chairs in a circle for the discussion. Most people leave beforehand, but we still have a great circle of about 30 people, and one of the first people to speak says he wasn't sure before the show whether it would feel like a welcoming space, but it does feel that way and I'm excited about that because that's certainly what I'm trying to do. Unfortunately, we only have a half hour for discussion because we have to be out of the room by 10 p.m., but there is a lot of excitement in the room, this is my favorite part. One person mentions that this space feels much more diverse than the events ze usually attends, and looking around the room I realize that's true -- lots of trans and non-trans fags, a mixture of ages and races and body types. People talk about the potentials of inhabiting the category of the other, particularly about the possibilities and the ways in which gay men have gone from outsider status to insider clout and the lack of possibility for inspiration or challenge through that trajectory. Also, about sexual and sexualized longing for this certain kind of masculinity while also resenting its power. And the ways in which a certain kind of masculinity is prioritized in so many spaces, how it allows and furthers this male/female-masculine/feminine hierarchy -- whether heteronormative straight masculinity or gay masculinity or transmasculinity or butch dyke masculinity.

People talk about the possibilities of inclusive spaces instead of exclusive, niche-marketed identity categories where everything becomes smaller and smaller instead of expansive. The question of who exactly we/you are in community with, especially in San Francisco where there are so many queer and gay spaces, but so many of them feel so limited and limiting. Perhaps the community part comes through doing, through shared actions and values and not necessarily identity, or perhaps identity as starting point not endpoint (that's something I always say, anyway). There's an invocation of past radical faggot moments, such as the White Night Riots after Harvey Milk was assassinated, there seems to be a general consensus that more windows need to get smashed.

The discussion ends just when we’re getting started, I can tell people are excited by the possibilities -- this is something I've sensed all night, and certainly what I want to invoke with my new anthology -- there must be a way to invoke the radical potential of faggotry to create new possibilities instead of the dead-end of consumerist gay culture.

After the show, people are talking about where they're going next and all I can think about is that I need to get home right away and rest, afterwards I'm demolished and drained and disastrous but today I'm back to feeling the potential -- it's hard to inhabit both of these spaces, one so deeply marked by the limits of my body, the other a space of what my mind can invoke. I'm hoping for a place or space or time where it's not always such a battle between hope and hopelessness, inspiration and exhaustion but I'm not there yet.

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