Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are you in fashion?

In New York there were always people, but it was harder to find the people who would mean something; you needed to know someone in order to know someone. I knew Ananda, who I met through Andee, and she invited me to join this group loosely called the Fuck the Mayor Collective although we never necessarily agreed on that, the name kept changing and it was a small group of queers who made stickers connecting Giuliani’s quality-of-life campaign to the dismantling of social services, the ethnic cleansing of New York City streets, and the removal of any hint of sexual culture from the public realm. I got involved right before this group, but not quite this group, was planning a big event called Gay Shame to create a radical alternative for queers to create our own culture and share strategies for resistance instead of swallowing the corporate “pride” agenda.

Most of the people in the Fuck the Mayor Collective were shy intellectual types and no one wanted to be the emcee. I was more flamboyant, comfortable addressing crowds and so I volunteered to host the event, which really was successful at creating a cultural space for queer trouble-making for a certain group of queers who weren’t actually a group because most of us didn’t know one another. We were mostly young, and mostly white, but dedicated to a queer analysis that foregrounded race and class and Dumba kind of became a place where we could find something, or someone, or sometimes it was nothing because mostly it was a space for punk bands, at least for a while, and we already know how I felt about punk bands, but a least this was nothing that wasn’t the same nothing that surrounded us on the billboards inside people’s hearts.

So I guess I met people at Dumba -- this is helpful, I’m trying to think about where to meet people now. Anyway, the good thing about meeting Johanna was that we were both intellectual and driven but not driven like most of New York, Prada shoes and a penthouse, I was driven by radical queer direct action, trying to figure out a way to confront the violence of the Giuliani regime and sex to escape and connect and writing to connect and escape, and Johanna was a painter and zine-maker and then she started making music, with Kathleen, although they’d made music together before too. We both did drugs, but didn’t really want to do drugs, except when we were doing them, or maybe Johanna did, but I didn’t. We didn’t really go out together, because Johanna mostly went to straight hipster parties and I mostly hung out at East Village gay bars, so instead when we got together we talked a lot, about sex work and how it changed us, although Johanna wasn’t really doing sex work anymore, and we talked about New York and all of its layers of violence and then the West Coast since that was where Johanna was from and I felt like I was from the West Coast too, even though I grew up in DC I really grew up in San Francisco.

I never bought into that whole West Coast-East Coast thing until I moved to New York and there was no flamboyance except money. Whatever the trend of the moment, pretty much everyone in New York was working it, if they couldn’t get Prada shoes than they would get the ones that looked like Prada shoes. If you met someone at a bar, the first question they would ask was: what do you do? Or, they would decide ahead of time, and say: are you a stylist? Or: are you in fashion? I mean that’s what they would decide for me. If you were there, they might’ve asked you different questions.

4 comments:

kayti said...

Are you a model?

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Flawless Fibromyalgia Fierceness for Fall 2009...

Love --
mattilda

Chris said...

I am reading pages and pages of your blog tonight, can't stop.

I was a babygay hanger-on at Dumba and Queeruption and anywhere else I could find radical queer culture in New York (while still figuring out what that meant to me), and it's so fascinating to read your reflections all these years later on those places and how they happened. They didn't just happen, you made them happen. I didn't really appreciate that as it was happening...

Reginald introduced us a few times (we had dinner at Veselka once, now that I think about it), but you never paid me much attention -- was I just an awkward kid? Or probably I had said something that annoyed you lol. At the time I was so dazzled by you in that really silly way kids from Connecticut who just moved to New York get dazzled by their particular idea of glamor (for me, that glamor was always already part of and informing and informed by social justice movements). I'm still dazzled by your work, for different reasons. Well, maybe I'm being condescending to teenage me. He was on to something.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Chris, how sweet of you! This message is making my eyes tear in that way that means I'm feeling something important, thank you. And, so glad you liked this particular writing -- it's all part of my memoirish thing, The End of San Francisco, which will be out in the relatively near future I hope -- the publishing industry can be so slow!

Feel free to write to me anytime, about anything at all, it would be lovely to hear from you...

Love --
mattilda