All month long, buddies is hosting a blog salon with some our favourite writers and artists responding to one question: How do I connect with my queer heritage? Follow the conversation on our blog, or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #GayHeritageProject. Here’s an entry from the always-amazing Ryan G. Hinds.
At the risk of coming off like one of those painfully Canadian Heritage Minute spots….I need to have a painfully Canadian Heritage Minute spot. Well, maybe longer than a minute. Reading the blog posts from Michael Lyons, Indrit Kasapi, Sonja Mills, Zach Pearl, and Reena Katz made me imagine a queer family reunion; you get to hear about people you adore, people you disagree with, people you may never have met. You laugh, you cry, you yell, you dwell, but you’re still connected through heritage.
To Michael, the baby of this imaginary family: it amazes (and pleases) me how you are always able to find the slightest hint of titillation in anything. If there’s a hidden meaning, a scandalous inference, or a romantic longing hidden under dense verbiage, you’ll find it. You could probably turn my grocery list or library fines print-out into something erotic and intimate. I have always envied the way you are able to excavate; for someone so young, you have strong curious muscles that just want to dig and dig and dig. When you are editor of some big magazine or curator of some kind of museum or gallery, I will look forward to the renaissances of knowledge you’ll spark. For now, though, don’t become Miss Havisham before you’re 30…..the past is a lovely place to visit but please don’t get stuck there.
To Sonja Mills, the lovably irascible elder of this family: Sky Gilbert is older than you are, as you are older than me. I know how old Sky is, but I don’t know old you are. I tried hard to find out your age; The New York Times and IMDB were of no help. I don’t know you well enough to ask, and running around asking questions of strangers is exactly the kind of dirt-digging behaviour that has gotten me into trouble so many times before.
I wish we could collectively reject the idea that aging is a bad thing. Gay life does not end at 30, and if aging means wisdom, experience, knowledge, ability, grace, and respect, than I say bring it on. I wish often I had lived through disco, or the moon landing, or Trudeau kicking the state out of our bedrooms. The queer folk I know who survived the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s all have a backbone of strength, a strength borne of experience in a time and place that I cannot and will not know. So, call me curious….against my better judgement re: societal niceties, not wanting to further cement my reputation as a gossip, and as an extended member of your queer family, I desire some knowledge. I want to know how old you are, Sonja Mills. I want to know the times and experiences and eras you’ve lived through. I want to know what world, local, and pop cultural events shaped your view, informed your knowledge, and gave you context. I want to read the Sonja Mills biography while I’m on my way to your new play. It’s clear from your blog post that teasing aside, you look up to Sky. Do you know how many of us look up to you in the same fashion?
To Indrit Kasapi, my twin brother in Diva-loving: Put down the Beyonce. Put her down. DOWN. When you wrote “Names like Bettie Page, Farrah Fawcett, Liza Minelli, Bette Midler, Dolly Parton and others (including some which I might still be completely in the dark about); their music and fame I am not entirely familiar with”, it made me want to Ring The Alarm. Do you know whose love you need to put on top? Liza M-I-N-N-E-L-L-I’s, that who. First of all, there’s both a song AND a best-selling dvd both centered around the spelling of Liza’s name; it has a Z and two Ns. Go watch Cabaret and New York, New York and Liza with a Z. They won Oscars and Emmys, so Beyonce has no choice but to Bow Down. The classics are classics for a reason, and Liza at her prime set benchmarks of achievement that Beyonce simply cannot match. You shouldn’t pick up these DVDs because they part of the gay canon, you should pick them up because they are towering accomplishments of acting, music, and dance. As a student and practitioner of performance art, they are necessary watching; they are not fluffy pieces of entertainment, they are serious works of art that influenced many genres. Whenever I watch Beyonce, I’m hit with a serious case of Deja Vu; her direct inspiration from people like Liza is palpable in every hair flick, gyration, and fashion choice. Beyonce can’t originate, she can only re-create, and as much as she wants us to believe otherwise, she does not Run The World; that particular Halo belongs to the women who set the bar. For real, Indrit….let’s make a movie date and I promise you that One Night Only with Liza Minnelli will leave you Crazy In Love with her talent.
To Zach Pearl, the cool distant relation from out-of-town: In addition to being knowledgable, you have wicked taste in tunes. It’s a truism that attraction can happen regardless of the physical aspect, but google satisfied my curiosity. You’re totally foxy and way smart and your Moz love sent me deep into a youtube hole of international playboys, Ouija boards, and hairdressers on fire. It made me think of you wandering around the Mall of America with The Smiths on your walkman, looking cute.
You brought up Diamond Rings as being an out gay man, which unless I missed an interview somewhere is not quite accurate. In fact, he’s said specifically in several interviews (Paper, for one, and Queerty, for another) that he specifically is not. It’s clear he doesn’t want to be labelled, and so the media often indulges his attempts to be one of us without actually being one of us…..but I read it as cowardice and a marketing gimmick. This can definitely lead into a whole other conversation of the definition of queerness (and whether in fact queerness has anything to do with sexuality or gender), but it’s safe to say for now that Diamond Rings aka John O’Regan isn’t an out gay man. Diamond Rings aka John O’Regan uses a gay aesthetic while working against being labelled as gay at the same time as he is targeting specifically gay male fans (aka dollars). As for his music? He’s no Sylvester or Patrick Wolf. Or Morissey, for that matter.
To Reenz Katz, the cousin I haven’t met but totally know: When I saw your post, my first thought was “Omg it’s Reena!” Then I remembered that we haven’t actually met for real. Your reputation obviously precedes you in all the best ways, but I wasn’t expecting to connect with your writing so strongly. Although I’m not jewish, I don’t avoid touching myself at night, and I’ve never been tempted to go with the ladies, I found a touching familiarity in your words. I grew up amongst aged familial relations from Europe. I know Nalo and her work. I fear the Fordists. I thank Idle No More. We have things in common that I didn’t expect. I hope when we do eventually cross paths we can chat about our commonalities and be friends and maybe come up with drag names together. I wish I had come up with “Emancipatia” myself and copyrighted it. I envision her wicked step-sisters “Patriarcha”, “Misogyna”, and “Rachel Tenshin”, and we’d write a searing musical that explores all the things I want to explore via art, but never do because I’m full of self-doubt; but then I remember my 90 year old great-aunts telling me stories about the things they went through before they came to Canada (are they similar to anything Raizl went through?) and your story about the curly haired boy from Drilge/Iłża and the Haudenosaunee people holding tight through the ages to Turtle Island….and then I get over my issues. You made me unexpectedly think and remember, Reena, so even though we haven’t really met I thank you for your powerfully familiar words.