Posts Tagged ‘kelli dunham’
Kelli Dunham was in New York City last week at the Lambda Literary Foundation‘s annual award ceremony, the Lammys, to honor the latest best in LGBT literature. Cheryl’s book My Awesome Place won the lammy in the bisexual literature category.
Kelli wrote that it was “beautiful and horrible:” “Beautiful, of course, because it was well deserved and because it was made possible by all of you, who have worked and loved the book into existence. And horrible because Cheryl wasn’t there.”
I just keep hearing Cheryl’s voice in my head, in the sentence after she told me that the odd medical things she’s been looking into were the worst that they suspected, that it was cancer. “I am getting a book deal,” were her exact next words.
Here’s what Kelli said at the award ceremony:
“My Awesome Place details Cheryl’s long and sometimes difficult search for community, the very community that brought this book to life; the forethought of her friend Sarah Schulman to prompt “tell Cheryl I’m willing to be her literary executor, to get her book out” This was a query answered with “yeah duh of course” accompanied by classic Cheryl eyeroll; the community of Cheryl’s writers’ group, Anne Elliott, Maria Luisa Tucker and Virginia Vitzthum who had worked with the manuscript for years and put together a largely completed version for Sarah to edit; community in the form of Tom Léger and the brilliant folks at Topside Press, Riley MacLeod and Zoe Holmes, who took a chance on an author they knew would not be doing anything to promote her own book, and Julie Blair whose design made My Awesome Place as beautiful as Cheryl herself; community in the form of her friends, who have blogged and posted and emailed to get the word out about the book knowing that there is an artsy freak teenager trying to escape New Jersey, a women somewhere struggling with sobriety, and a smarty pants bisexual girl living on Staten Island, all who think they are alone, and who will read My Awesome Place and know they are not. Every day when Cheryl was her sickest, I prayed to a god I no longer believe in for a miracle. Perhaps this book is the miracle, the miracle of like minded, similar souled people, who believed that her words matter and cared enough to be present through the beautiful discomfort of bringing her words to life.” —Kelli Dunham
Please do read the book if you haven’t already. There’s an easy Kindle version, if you do that kind of thing, and the hardcover is beautiful. I’m grateful to Topside Press for publishing it, and grateful to Cheryl’s writer’s group who put together the final manuscript.
“Emotional landscapes / They puzzle me / Confuse …” Bjork sings in “Joga.” This has long been one of my favorite songs.
I am in love with the western United States, the pacific northwest in particular. If you followed my column on Eden Fantasys about my love affair with New York City, Mr. Sexsmith’s Other Girlfriend, you may remember that I also wrote often about visiting Seattle or San Francisco or other cities and my ongoing draw to being out west.
There are amazing things about living in New York City, like the Public Square and the community and the lack of bullshit and the lack of people offering you sliding scale energy work when you’re crying on the subway, and in a hundred ways, New York has been the diamond I’ve cut and formed my adult self against. Not a lot of things have been hard enough for me to form against—Seattle certainly wasn’t. I wanted something more.
But the actual geographic land over here … has never quite been enough for me. I drive outside of New York City and into the Adirondacks or the Catskills—places people call mountains over here but that I tend to call “mountains” or, more accurately, hills—and into the rolling baby green hills of pastoral New England, and I can’t really separate the cliche picket fences and porches and quaint mailboxes with this puritanical moral ideal of the nuclear family, sexual shame, and policed gender roles.
The west, though … the Rockies … I have such a different relationship with the earth when I’m over there, when I’m looking at towering peaks on my morning commute, when I see the canyons and the deep green forests, the earth cut by water and carved out by glaciers. I feel so much more at home, so much more connected.
It’s in part because that is closer to my landscape of origin, that is closer to the drama of Southeast Alaska where I was literally created, birthed, and grew up.
But it’s partly something else, too. I think it’s partly because the grandeur, the sublimity of the west looks a lot more like my inner emotional landscape than the pastoral, serene east.
I talk about my “inner emotional world” or “emotional landscape” frequently. Lately, I’ve been talking about how many earthquakes it has endured, how much instability is in there now. Sometimes it helps to visualize the earth cracking apart, splitting, the magma of the earth spewing forth to destroy whatever structures I’ve put into place, like in that Joga video.
I like to talk about my emotional world in geographic metaphors. I’ve been deeply shaken this year. I’m still trying to clear the rubble and rebuild. A friend of mine recently said that she thinks the apocalypse—the impending end of the Mayan calendar, uh, tomorrow—actually is “all the hard stuff all at once” for everybody. It’s certainly true for me: the power dynamics in my life have dramatically shifted, my relationships have shifted, I woke up after a couple of months of being unconscious to find myself buried under a mountain of shit out of which I’m still trying to dig myself.
The sublime nature of the western United States matches my inner emotional landscape so much more than the east.
And if you’ll forgive the comparison, being out in the east feels incongruous almost in a transgender type of way—that my inner self does not match the outer surroundings, and I feel a serious disconnect. When the outer landscape matches my inner landscape, I feel integrated and whole in a much more comforting way.
Perhaps I should be aiming for more inner peace, inner calmness, such that the pastoral landscape surrounding me could be a goal, rather than a reflection. I don’t know about that. I’m a student of buddhism and tantra, and those lineages say that it’s not so much that I think our inner selves are peaceful, but that we separate our divine nature Self from the monkey mind self that is often chatter chatter chattering.
I don’t think a dramatic, sublime inner emotional landscape is bad. I think it’s real. I love being deeply in touch with emotions, experiences, divinity, the universe, energy, god, myself—whatever you want to label that. Lately, I have been incredibly reactive, moreso than I usually am, since my inner world has been such a disaster, but I usually have much more space between my reaction and my response, I usually have more control over my ability to respond, my response-aiblity if you will, and I am using all of my tools to lengthen the space between my reactions and my responses. (Meditation helps with that practice immensely.)
I’m getting better. Slowly waking up. Bringing myself back into alignment with these paths, my callings, my desires, following my goals, containing my time and energy and emotional landscapes. But I miss the west. I miss the mountains and valleys and deep lakes and rainforest. Sometimes I wish I was a better visual artist, that I could actually draw out an inner emotional landscape map, full of trails and paths and adventures, with maybe even a big X right over my heart to mark the treasure.
If you’ve been lurking around Sugarbutch for a while, you know who Syd London is.
Syd has taken many of the most significant photos of me and my events in the last few years. She is an incredible photographer, hard-working and frequently nearly invisible at events, sneaking in to get just the right shots without interrupting the performers or the vibe of what’s going on (which is not true of all event photographers, just sayin’).
The first shoot that Syd and I did was a solo shoot of me, in slightly industrial Brooklyn, so early in the morning that I look kind of tired in some of the shots. But you probably recognize at least this one:
… because that’s the shot I used as a headshot for a few years. More from that photo shoot are on Syd’s flickr stream … I especially like this one.
Then Syd shot me and Cheryl the night that we started Sideshow.
You’ve seen many of these shots, too, because I used them as promo images for the series while it ran for a year and a half. There are many, many more shots of us from that night, together and separately, and the colors are amazing, and Cheryl looks so serious and dark and her usual self, and then sometimes one of us made her laugh and we got this rare shot of her smile. I’m so glad we have some photos of us together. Syd took hundreds of shots that night, and made us both look incredible.
She also snapped a few quick shots of me and Kristen, including this one, which is one of my favorite photographs of us together that we yet have:
And just, wow. I love that photograph.
Syd went on to photograph Sideshow for Time Out New York a couple different times throughout the series. How else would I have these amazing shots, capturing what it was like to be there for the first time? I was so nervous. Cheryl was buzzing around but kept a completely cool head, as she did. Kristen was beautiful and welcoming and warm, as she is.
And Syd captured it all.
Syd went on to photograph the Butch Voices NYC Regional Conference, for which I was on the steering committee, and snapped more shots of me, the conference in general, and Kristen and Cheryl as part of the volunteer committee that baked for the butches.
Syd also got shots of the Sideshow/Queer Memoir Butch Voices Mashup and the Speed Friending/Speed Dating opening night social. I’m on the Butch Voices national board now, have I mentioned that yet? I should make a formal announcement about that, I (we, the board) haven’t yet.
… And then Cheryl was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Syd took the photos of Cheryl’s old fashioned lesbian head shaving ritual, and one of the photos made it into the New York Times “Lives They Lived” series and was featured in the NYT Magazine.
Kelli & Cheryl had their own shoot before we did the head shaving, so these are some of the last shots of Cheryl with all of her hair.
I love the love in these photographs. They were so good together, and loved each other so well.
Syd went on to photograph Nerd Love, the Valentine’s show that Kelli and Cheryl did together with some friends, as well as Fuck Your Health and Butch Burlesque and Butch It Up and dozens more community events.
And then Cheryl died. And Syd photographed the last Sideshow, just like she’d photographed the first one, except without Cheryl. And Kristen and I tried not to cry all night, and I put Sideshow on hold.
And a month or so later, Syd photographed Cheryl’s memorial.
… and I don’t even know what to say about that. It was a beautiful, important night, and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
So basically, Syd London’s photography tells many the stories of my life for the past two years, from formal headshot photoshoots to community events to private rituals to memories that I am so blessed to cherish in images. I didn’t really realize that I’d be doing an overview of my successes and lows and family, but well, that’s what I’m doing.
The point is, Syd London needs a camera.
She’s been doing all this work borrowing camera equipment, and needs her own in order to continue capturing the community events that she’s been doing for many years, not just the last few that I’ve been working with her. She’s touched many, many lives of artists and activists in this community.
Here’s the video version of this request:
And here’s what Syd has to say about this campaign:
My name is Syd London; I’m a Brooklyn based, self taught, professional photographer and photojournalist. Until photography I struggled since the age of 9 with my soul question; how can I use my life as a tool? Baring witness, documenting and story telling through my photography while working to get those stories out there have become my answer. However, the professional grade tools which enable me to do this work are extremely expensive. I haven’t had my own digital camera since August 2010, when my camera was broken beyond repair. Since then I’ve been working on borrowed and rented equipment. Skyrocketing rental costs make it extremely difficult to continue and impossible to save for the needed equipment. I don’t want to wear my welcome out from relying on the incredible generosity of friends for camera loans. I never know what I’m going to work with or how/if I’m going to get a camera for the next gig. I’m especially concerned about the continuity of my work dedicated to social justice; licenses to these photos are frequently donated to organizations doing social justice work at a grass roots level such as Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Audre Lorde Project and Queers for Economic Justice. A professional grade camera rig of my own would enable me to continue my ongoing documentary about the LGBT community in NYC “Taking Back the Streets” (started in 2007), to continue to donate to magnificent organizations and artists as well as enable me push my work to the next level, something I’m starved for.
If you’ve got any extra money and you’re capable of giving a donation to her campaign, I urge you to do so. For selfish reasons, I want to keep working with Syd, and I want her photographs to keep being amazing. And for more community reasons, I know Syd’s work makes a huge difference, and I know how important it is to have not only a record of our communities, but a way to show us off in the mainstream that is accessible, beautiful, and moving.
Thank you, Syd, for all the incredible work you’ve done. I hope it’ll continue for a long time.
Yes, I’m still on retreat. But there are a few important announcements that I have to tell you, events that are worth attending and projects worth helping.
1. Don’t forget about Sideshow! Next week, 1/11/11 in New York City. You know the drill.
Ring in the New Year with a blank slate as the performers, storytellers, and writers of Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival tell you all about Tabula Rasa.
Featured in January are Regie Cabico, Casey Plett, Shawn Stewart Ruff, and Najva Sol.
Hosted by Cheryl B. & Sinclair Sexsmith
Tuesday, January 11th @ The Phoenix
447 East 13th Street @ Avenue A
Doors, 7:30pm. Reading, 8pm
Free! (We’ll pass the hat for the readers)
2. Butch It Up For QEJ! Party, Fundraiser, and Butch Clothing Drive for Queers for Economic Justice. January 16 at Ginger’s Bar in Brooklyn, from 4 pm onward, with performances starting at 6:30 pm
Dykes on Bike-Cycles (DOBC) is getting it in gear in the New Year, and our first event of 2011 is a party-fundraiser in support of Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ). Ginger’s Bar in Park Slope will host this very special fundraiser, featuring an amazing lineup of poets, comics, and musicians. We’ll have the BBQ going out back, with hamburgers, hot dogs, and veggie options, as well as other foods for sale, baked and cooked by Shane, Ginger’s bartender. So come out and help us support QEJ and the great work they are doing for the LGBTQ community in the shelters in our city.
As part of this event, DOBC will be sponsoring a Butch Clothing Drive, so start sorting through you closet for those old ties you never wear or that pair of trousers or collared shirt that don’t really fit you anymore, and donate them to a butch sister in need. Any clothing donations are welcome, but warm coats, sweaters, and anything fitting the “masculine of center” category are especially appreciated.
Performers include: Arianne Benford, Sassafras Lowrey, Kay Ulanday Barrett, Kelli Dunham and Cheryl B., Melissa Li and the Barely Theirs, Andrea Alton performing as Molly “Equality” Dykeman. The raffle will include prizes from Babeland, a $20 bar tab at Ginger’s, DOBC t-shirts, and much more! No cover charge, but donations are always welcome.
3. Pariah (pariahthemovie.com) is a new film trying to make their way to Sundance. Described as “a Brooklyn teenager juggles conflicting identities and risks friendship, heartbreak, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression,” here’s the full synopsis:
At the club, the music thumps, go-go dancers twirl, shorties gyrate on the dance floor while studs play it cool, and adorably naive 17-year-old Alike takes in the scene with her jaw dropped in amazement. Meanwhile, her buddy Laura, in between macking the ladies and flexing her butch bravado, is trying to help Alike get her cherry popped. This is Alike’s first world. Her second world is calling on her cell to remind her of her curfew. On the bus ride home to Brooklyn, Alike sheds her baseball cap and polo shirt, puts her earrings back in, and tries to look like the feminine, obedient girl her conservative family expects. With a spectacular sense of atmosphere and authenticity, Pariah takes us deep and strong into the world of an intelligent butch teenager trying to find her way into her own. Debut director Dee Rees leads a splendid cast and crafts a pitch-perfect portrait that stands unparalleled in American cinema.
4. Juxtaposition is a new project by Jessica Halem & Kelli Dunham: a show that brings those communities together…laughing. Future shows will juxtapose… A gay nerd & a lesbian separatist; A vegan massage therapist & a pflag mom; A queer academic & a bisexual jock. Monday, January 10th at 6.30 PM at Stonewall Inn 53 Christopher Street, 5-10 BUCKS SLIDING SCALE. PLEASE BE ON TIME, THIS IS A TIGHT 90 MINUTE SHOW! More information on Juxtaposition.
"I don't have to fix cars or even be tough. I'm not tough, I cry at dog food commercials, I cry on the subway. I like that part of myself, and I'm glad as I've gotten older that I've been able to move away from needing to pretend to be the strong and silent type (which I ain't) in order to be butch."Read More
Two brunch events coming up! Perhaps I’ll see you there?
Cafe Orlin, 41 St Mark’s Place in the East Village of New York, NY
Saturday, October 16 · 11:00am – 12:30pm
Please make sure to RSVP on Facebook (or email me) so I know how many to tell the Cafe to expect
Join us for an informal hang-out and socializing following the Butch Voices NYC Regional Conference.
Who can come? Anybody! It’s intended to be a space for butch-identified folks of various identities: butches, studs, ags, anyone masculine-of-center. If folks who are not butch identified would like to attend, that’s fine too, but do realize that we’ll be talking personally about our own identities as we get to know each other. It is not necessary to be butch-identified to attend this brunch, but it is encouraged.
Butch Brunch is co-sponsored by Butch Voices NYC and Sugarbutch, so we are adapting Butch Voices opinions about what butch means. From ButchVoices.com: “We are woman-identified Butches. We are trans-masculine Studs. We are faggot-identified Aggressives. We are noun Butches, adjective Studs and pronoun-shunning Aggressives. We are she, he, hy, ze, zie and hir. We are you, and we are me. The point is, we don’t decide who is Butch, Stud or Aggressive. You get to decide for yourself.”
And secondly …
Saturday, October 23rd, 12:00pm noon
LGBT Center, 308 West 13th Street, West Village of New York, NY
Queer Comic Kelli Dunham (aka Sister Mercy) was not a very good nun. She had what the sisters called “insufficient docility” and “too much self esteem.” Because of this, Kelli was held back in pre-aspirancy for a year and a half. This is the convent equivalent of failing preschool 18 times. On Saturday, October 23rd, her 15th anniversary of leading the convent (down to the day, the Feast of the Assumption) Kelli will share the story of what a nice queer like her was doing in a convent like that.
With food by Kitchentop Catering.
Spinach and cheese quiche
Cranberry scones w orange and honey butter
Butternut squash and chickpea salad
Fall green salad
Pumpkin swirl brownies
(yup, all made from scratch)
Buy your tickets ahead of time! Tickets are 15 bucks in advance (includes brunch and the show and some very um, special surprises) and 18 bucks at the door IF they are available.
And it was fantastic.
I want to tell you all about it, and I barely know where to start. It was thrilling to work on a committee which was so invested in working, and whose skill-sets were all so complimentary. Primarily, I worked with promotion, copy, images, and event planning & promotion, as well as hosting some of the events over the conference weekend too. Which tend to be the things I’m good at, and the things I most like to do, in terms of putting on an event. There were a lot of logistical details that I was less concerned with, personally, but the rest of the Core Committee was so on top of it, I didn’t have to worry about it—I could just do the parts I was particularly good at.
It’s the first time I’ve been such a key organizer for a regional conference, and I had a wonderful time. I learned a lot about organizing and producing big events. I think I might go into a little bit of withdraw after working so closely with the other organizers—Kelli, Kawana, Lea, Paris, Emma, Emilie—I’m hoping we can organize a post-event gathering to debrief and talk about what’s next. (There’s already some discussion about another New York regional conference in 2012.)
But: what happened at the actual conference?
The Friday Night Social Event
Friday night kicked off the conference with Speed Friending at Anti-Diva. I was surprised and impressed at how many masculine-of-center folks came out for that. It was great to have a kick-off event where everyone came with the assumption that they would meet other people, everyone was more open and talkative than usual. We planned on having Melissa Li perform an acoustic set, but there were some technical difficulties and Melissa never did go on. But oh the rest of us did … on and on, talking to each other and about the conference the next day and about the other events that were planned for the weekend. Many folks were in from out of town, and not everyone who came planned on attending the entire conference, but was interested in meeting butches (for various reasons).
Just about as I was ready to retire, a text came in from Kelli, conference “chair,” if we had one of those, to both myself and to Emilie, along with a photograph of the conference space: we had a wall! A genius contractor had saved our asses at the very last minute by coming in to help us divide up the very large QEJ Performance & Conference space into three separate spaces where we could hold two workshops, registration, and the hospitality suite. Not only did it look amazing, it ended up being constructed out of cardboard, twine, and tarps. It was more than I would have expected—when I arrived on Saturday morning—and it was perfect. Em and I were so thrilled, we actually high-fived—a move I do not usually participate in, but it was apt.
And then the conference started …
After getting things up from the car and helping to open up registration, the first thing I did was to attend a workshop with Corey Alexander called Doing Relationships with Emotional Armor: For Stones and Our Partners. I’ve flirted with stone identity, and definitely have some emotional armor, so it was interesting and intense to bring those things to light and discuss them openly. It was a difficult subject to begin the conference, but set the tone for the depth and personal level of discussion throughout the day.
I took a brief break to prepare for the Cock Confidence workshop I was leading in the third workshop block, and then joined the impromptu discussion. Conference organizers intentionally left some physical space empty such that active discussions could happen, either folks could bring up new topics they felt weren’t being addressed or could continue discussions started in the workshops if they felt inspired to do so. So a few people decided to lead an open discussion on responsible masculinity, which was very fruitful and touched on many topics and conundrums of masculinity that I frequently contemplate. It was great to hear other perspectives on these things that often really get to me, that I spend days thinking about, or talking about, or writing about. The question of “What is responsible masculinity?” was posed, and much discussion of misogyny and feminism commenced. One of the major points made was the ways that expectations can be oppressive, and that though our identities may appear to be something someone knows and can identify, and therefore draws all sorts of conclusions about (e.g., masculine of center -> butch -> top -> dominant -> dates femmes), that one has to actually ask and observe that particular individual to see if any of those things are true for them—and they may not be!
We also discussed butch competition and policing, and how to build more butch community. Someone said, “The only way to eliminate butch competition and enhance butch camaraderie is to acknowledge each other.” Which, I think, was beautifully put and I wholeheartedly agree. We spend a lot of time circling each other silently, and it is a thin line, if at all, between that and competing.
Next, I ran downstairs to Cock Confidence & Strapping It On, which is a workshop I’m doing many times this fall (already at Purple Passion and Conversio Virium in New York and Good Vibrations in Boston). I was greated by a packed room, and people just kept streaming in—it didn’t hurt that I had two Aslan Leather harnesses, three Vixen Creations cocks, and one Tantus cock to give away, I’m sure!
I started in on my workshop contents about confidence and communication when there were a few questions and comments, rapidly, from attendees. I’m paraphrasing here, but basically what was said was, “What about butches who bottom, and the ways that can be seen as emasculating?” and then, “What about women who are survivors of sexual assault, and for whom penetration is difficult or traumatizing?”
Whoa. Big, huge topics.
Which I will gladly write about here, I have plenty to say about them (watch for future/soon essays), but on which I was not prepared to speak, or lead a discussion. I had a lot of (prepared) material to get through, so I explained that, and said, those are both way important questions and I would love to have a discussion about them, that I was not prepared to hold the space for that discussion now. But, I proposed, I will do some talking about toys, do the raffle, then adjourn early and folks can go off and explore another workshop, or stay here for Q&A and we can discuss those things. I also said: Thank you, for bringing that up. I am used to doing this workshop at sex toy stores (mostly with an audience of hetero couples) so those questions are definitely Cock Confidence 301 instead of 101, and I love that the Butch Voices NYC crowd really raised the caliber of the discussion.
Thank you for that, all of you who were there.
I think the room understood my point, so I kept moving on. I talked about toys, my favorite and the most popular harnesses and cocks, answered some questions, and pulled names out of the bucket to see who would take home some new toys. I’m going to work on a Cock Confidence Product Guide and let everyone know the things that I recommended and where I recommend getting them.
The conversation, when it continued, was a much smaller group and we ended up more CR-style, discussing our personal challenges and experiences.
It was definitely the best Cock Confidence workshop I’ve ever facilitated, and it was so much fun. Wish I could give away toys every time I do that workshop! To be clear—I give away these toys, and I work with these companies as a sponsor (of sorts) of Sugarbutch because I adore their toys so much, not the other way around (I don’t adore their toys because they’re a sponsor). I’m pretty picky about the toys I give away, and while I have tried out all sorts of products, even if I suspected they would be awful, I won’t give away things I think are awful.
Butch Representation in Media
Off I rushed to the Media Panel, where I moderated a discussion about butch visibility, mainstream media, working in the media, and how we use the media to further authentic images of ourselves. It was a great discussion with Madison, Grace, Mamone, and Dasha, and the attendees had many questions and comments about race, participation, othering, and success. I didn’t feel like we had a point that we really hammered home in this workshop, but then again, we didn’t really have a point that we set up to make when we formed this panel, so that was okay.
At the end of the panel, we went around the room and everyone there introduced themselves and did their thirty-second elevator pitch about what they do. It was fascinating to see the caliber of talent we had in that room, all together.
The Community-Building Keynote
The keynote at Butch Voices NYC was non-traditional in that we didn’t want to have one singular person speak for all aspects of masculine of center communities, and since it was a one-day conference we didn’t have time—or money—for multiple keynote addresses. So Kelli and I planned a community building keynote ceremony that was a commitment to our butch voices, and it turned out beautifully. It was incredibly moving, from start to finish.
It all started with a pebble, a river stone—everyone received one at registration. I took them from my own rock collection (remember my this I believe poem? “rocks in my pockets”?) I counted out 180, which didn’t even make a dent in my collection, to make sure we had enough for everyone, then added a few handfuls more for good measure. I have collected rocks over the years from just about any place I have visited, from Bournemouth in England to Ocean Shores in Oregon to Washington state to Southeast Alaska, where most of the rocks are from. The pebble beaches are the best up there. It’s become a bit of a collection, that therefore I subsequently have no idea what to do with. It doesn’t make sense to display them, not really, not beyond a few rock stack formations here and there, so they’ve been in a box for years. Seriously. A box of rocks. Useless and taking up valuable New York City apartment space. I’d be glad to donate them to a garden or beach, but most green spaces around New York are so manicured it doesn’t make sense to leave them there.
But a ritual—it was a perfect use for (some of) them. I was so pleased to pass them on in that way.
Before we started the ritual, we spent a moment with the Memory Wall we had constructed to add names to, people who are no longer with us but who came before us and whom we want to remember. And right away, the room got heavier, we focused, I felt immediately moved.
We all got a rock when we checked in at registration. The seven of us organizers stood up to explain about the ritual, what we were going to do and why, each taking turns. We explained that the rock had absorbed our personal experiences of the day, our individual voice and perspective, and that we were going to add that rock to the collective pile of our community’s experiences, similar and related, yet different and varied. We invited anyone who felt moved to participate—allies too, but whom were also invited to witness if they felt so inclined, as we need witness to our statements, commitments, and very existence—to come up to our make-shift alter, one at a time, and speak aloud the sentence, “My commitment to my butch voice is,” or “my commitment to butch voices is.” Folks were invited to substitute whatever words they wanted to for “butch,” if that wasn’t their identity word of choice, such as queer or genderqueer or stud or aggressive.
I wasn’t prepared for how moving it would be. I wrote the majority of the script that we read (which only dawned on me about halfway through the ritual, I wrote the keynote), and the whole time I was just crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t be cheesy, but would be honored and respected and come across the way I wanted it to. It did—and it went beyond my expectations, like much of the conference did, above and beyond. It was moving, enlivening, big. Many of us teared up. Many of us said hard things that would not have been easier to say in other places, but which felt safe to reveal. Many of us murmured or clapped or responded as each person who felt moved came up to place their rocks in the wooden bowl on the make-shift alter.
Paris closed the ritual by having everyone repeat a line that Kelli and I came up with, based on the Core Initiatives of the Butch Voices conference: “Our commitment is to stand together, to take care of each other, and to make the world a more just place.”
And with that, everyone could take a rock home with them, if they felt so inclined, and we adjourned.
What a day.
I’m still reeling from it all.
And yet … right after the keynote, Kristen and I rushed downtown to get to Bluestockings Bookstore for the Butch Voices Speak Queer Memoir/Sideshow mash-up reading/performance. I posted photos and a wrap-up of it over on the Sideshow blog today, but expect more photos from Syd London (official Butch Voices NYC photographer!) as those get processed.
And more articles, more thoughts, more things from me, too, as that all gets processed.
I feel so much gratitude toward the folks who came and were involved. I’m thrilled to have been a part of it.
I can’t resist posting this. Kelli Dunham, comic, former nun, friend of mine, and nerd extraordinaire, posed a question on her Facebook page about what genderqueer folks do when needing to pee at Penn Station: go into the woman’s room, and get yelled at? Or brave the men’s room’s grime and row of urinals?
In response, a friend of hers suggested she write a catchy song, and voila, she did. Here’s the whole explanation, and the song, in the video:
If you’d like to see her live, she’s got a show coming up with Cheryl B. (who you may know as my co-host from Sideshow), Katie McCabe, Elizabeth Whitney, and Lea Robinson, aka the Famous Lesbian Comedy Roadshow* (*famous lesbians not included) at Stonewall Inn this Tuesday, July 6th. It’s the DIRTY FILTHY RED HOT SUMMER SHOW, clearly not to be missed.
The Famous Lesbian Comedy Roadshow* is doing a fundraiser at Bulldyke Chronicles this Saturday, guest hosting the show, and I’m one of the special guest performers!
What’s that? You haven’t heard of the Famous Lesbian Comedy Roadshow*? Well you should have! It includes my Sideshow co-host and co-curator, Cheryl B., along with Kelli Dunham, Kate McCabe, Lea Robinson, & Elizabeth Whitney. They’re going on tour this summer and this is their special fundraising show here in New York. Come on out!
Saturday, May 15, 8:30 pm
Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie St.
Lower East Side, New York City
RSVP on Facebook
With special guests:
Doris Anderson, Director of the Lesbian Community Center
Claudia Cogan, comedian
Heather Milk Gold, performer
Yetta Kurland, politician
Athena Reich, singer/songwriter
Sinclair Sexsmith, kinky queer butch top
KS Stevens a.k.a. Miss Lez 2009
Emma Willman, comedian
And of course, the multi-talented members of the Famous Lesbian Comedy Roadshow*: Cheryl B., Kelli Dunham, Kate McCabe (in spirit), Lea Robinson & Elizabeth Whitney
Silent auction, raffle, & you can have your picture taken with Officer Ruffins from Room For Cream!
* famous lesbians not included