A Queer Art Canon: Heath V. Salazar and Lucas Silveira of The Cliks

Let’s make a canon! And let’s fill it with queer art, or queer-ish art, or art that has no idea how queer it is. Queer art is often secret art: black-market, whispered-about, read-between-the-lines art. And since secret art can be hard to find, let’s shine a light on a few of our favourite things so all our friends can see them.

We’ll call it a canon because it sounds Weighty and Important and Serious, but we also won’t be too serious about it. We won’t make The Canon, just a canon. Each month, we’ll chat with a different queer-about-town and ask them to submit something to the canon. And they’ll tell us what that book or play or movie or TV episode or sculpture or poem or dance piece or opera or photograph or painting or performance art piece or anything else means to them and why they think it deserves a spot in our illustrious canon. 

This month, we talked to singer/dancer/performer/creator Heath V. Salazar (aka Gay Jesus) about singer-songwriter Lucas Silveira of the band The Cliks.

What are you submitting? What have you got?

I was thinking of… have you heard of the band The Cliks?

Yes.

I just found out about them this past Tuesday! I didn’t know they existed, and I was hanging out with a friend of mine, and basically… I’ve been on testosterone since September. And I haven’t been out about it, because there’s this negotiation where, working as a performer and working as a singer—shifts happen, right?

I had never even considered singing and how that would connect to transitioning.

It’s one of the reasons I put it off for so long, I was like: I can’t risk it. And where my voice was at right before I started was the biggest range and the most control I’ve ever had. So, I had to make peace with the fact that it was gonna change drastically.

Wow.

I was in a musical within the first three months of being on testosterone. I was so worried about saying something and then having my ability challenged or brought into question. I was told that I had to sing every single day, to maintain and keep training my voice. But then all of a sudden, nothing in my contemporary music was sitting in the pocket of where my voice was at. And it was interesting how the only lower music that I could find that was pop music was really, really sad and depressing. That’s the only time that men can sing low. And I was like: I don’t wanna sing sad songs all the time!

Of course not!

But then, I have this back injury. It’s right at the base of where my ribs are—I have one or two vertebrae out of place. And I reinjured it during a burlesque performance and it really affected my breath. So, all of a sudden, I didn’t have the ability to breathe properly, to support my voice to be able to sing, because my spine was affecting my intercostal muscles. So, I had like two weeks where I couldn’t sing and I couldn’t dance, and I was losing it. I was telling my friend Sly about it and she was like, “You’re going to be fine! We have massage therapy for you. We’re gonna take care of your spine. And vocally, we know about The Cliks, it’s gonna be fine.” And I was like, “…What?” And she was like, “Obviously, Lucas is fine, so you’ll be fine.” And I was like, “Who is Lucas? What are The Cliks? What are you talking about?” And then she was like, “Oh, well, let me show you.” And she busts out this song. And as soon as I heard the vocal quality, I was so moved. Because for the first time in the entire process, I was actually seeing someone who was able to transition and still do this thing and fulfill this need that we have. Cause it’s such a visceral thing that has been taken away from me.

That’s lovely.

For three weeks, I had had to rework every single Gay Jesus gig that I had done. Because I couldn’t dance. And I couldn’t sing properly. And then, all of a sudden, there’s this album of stuff that is the first stuff that I’ve been able to sing full-out in so long. We had this Carmilla fundraiser coming up, and Sly was like, “I was listening to this album before I sent it to you, and there’s this one song. You’re not gonna move. We’re not gonna re-injure you. You’re gonna stand there and we’re gonna cover you in fabrics, and we’re gonna turn on the fan, and that’s gonna be your dance. That’s it!” It was the first time in weeks that I got excited about a performance.

And how did that performance go?

Well, I think one of the reasons Sly knew about Lucas is that he comes to performances sometimes for drag and burlesque stuff. He’s liked some of her stuff on Instagram. So she was like, “Can you imagine if he came?” And then, the day of—Babia was one of the burlesque performers in the lineup. And apparently Babia had messaged Lucas and said, “Hey, Gay Jesus is gonna do one of your songs, so you should come to this performance.” And then they walked downstairs and they were like, “Hey, Lucas is up the stairs.” And I freaked out. I was like “What if he’s offended? What if he just doesn’t like what I do with it? What if he realizes I downloaded the song from the internet?” (laughs) And also, the performance was really weird. My underwear had feathers in it. I’m holding a bouquet in my underwear and then eating beets and staining everything. And I was like: that’s going to be… an interesting thing to see happen to your music! And I was standing on the stairs, and I saw his neck tattoo from afar, and I was like: oh, no! Thank god I forgot about him when the performance was happening, I was so nervous. But I came offstage and I was a mess. I’m covered in beet juice and beet chunks. And he just grabs me and says, “Hi, nice to meet you!” And he went to hug me, and I was like, “I’m going to cover you in beets!” And he was like, “I don’t care!” And he hugged me and I’m pretty sure I stained his clothes. He was so nice. He was like, “That was so exciting! Thank you so much for using my music.”

I feel like it would be so exciting to see someone responding to your work like that! Remixing and repurposing it.

I’m happy he felt that way! He could have been like, “You are an asshole! Donate your earnings to my music!”

I guess he could have handed you a Cease and Desist…

And then I went, “I didn’t even know you existed until Tuesday!” That was a weird thing to say! And then I can’t make eye contact. So, I was like: OK, I’m gonna go home and I’m gonna send him a message to clarify. By the time I got home, he had put up a video of the performance and made a post about how excited he was that someone had used his song. So the next day, I was like, “Hey, just FYI, just timing-wise, this is why this was so significant for me.” And he offered to meet up and chat. To make time in his life. And I assumed it would be a thing of: oh, I would love to meet up sometime… But he was like, “What are you doing this weekend?” So now, we’ve met up and chatted about vocal stuff, and he’s been so supportive and wonderful.

That’s amazing!

It’s ridiculous! He’s actively become this…

Mentor?

Mentor, kind of!

That’s a very lovely story!

It’s so absurd! The entire time that I was sitting across the table from him, I was like: had my spine not re-shifted, I would not have known that he existed, we would not be having this conversation, we wouldn’t be chatting about all this stuff.

Of any Queer Canon submission I’ve had, that is the most complete narrative!

Isn’t it crazy?

Full story: beginning, middle, end. It’s perfect!

Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker is a writer of many plays, a hoster of many burlesques, and a maker of many jokes. Follow him on twitter @handsomejohnnie

Read all posts by Johnnie Walker

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