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 a prolific writer who has premiered any number of works on our stage, Sonja Mills.
Hey, look at me, writing a blog!
Why, I remember when my IBM Selectric with disposable ribbon cassette tapes was state-of-the-art in writing, and here I am, blogging on the interweb. I’ll be sure to employ short sentences and throw in a few LOLs and OMFGs to engage my younger readers.
I’m old, so all this newfangled technology has really got my head spinning. My technological expertise peaked at bank machines; that’s how old I am. But I’m not as old as Sky Gilbert.
“Gay” and all its spin-offs came into existence for me somewhere around 1980. Or so. It’s a bit blurry. There was a lot of drugging and drinking going on back then, possibly, as I recall, though I’m not saying for sure. And parties. Oh the parties. Lorraine Segato, Jack Layton, Jane Siberry, Daniel MacIvor – these are but a handful of the notable Canadian celebrities whose toilets I have thrown up in. I met Jane Rule at a party at the Body Politic offices, that’s my queer history highlight.
There was a big rally. People were mad about the bathhouse raids (google it) and the Body Politic getting busted (google it) and the harassment of us harmless queers in general. Sue Golding made a speech in front of 52 Division that started such a party. Somehow, I ended up sucking Irene Miloslavsky’s cock on the hood of a cop car parked on College Street.
Hm. I never imagined this would be the subject of my first internationally available essay. Sorry, Mom.
Anyway, ten years or so of that sort of revelry and revolution later…
There was Buddies. Where all this queer anger and queer energy turned into queer art.
I was at a party. It’s possible that I was in one of my drunken stupors, though I can’t confirm or deny that for certain. Sky Gilbert, who was then and is still ten years older than me, was there, holding court, as was and still is his prerogative. I started babbling. I don’t know what happened, it was one of those drunken (possibly) slippery slopes. I told Sky about a play I’d written, though I’d written no play.
I ended up writing many plays for Buddies. I don’t even know how many. More than several.
I’d written fluff pieces for the Body Politic in the 80s. Stuff like how cute and how much in love with Annie Lennox I was. By the 90s I was writing a column in Xtra, hard hitting journalistic essays like “hey what’s with that heterosexist billboard on Bloor Street?”…
Buddies was where I wrote what I wanted to write. Where I did what I wanted to do. I wanted to live and breathe all the queer that I was and more. Yeah, you think Nightwood or any other theatre would have produced the Dyke City series in those days? “Give her a finger, she’ll take an arm…”? “I wouldn’t fuck her with a ten foot pole…”? Not a chance.
I don’t live in Toronto anymore. Couldn’t keep affording it. I live in Hamilton. I like it here; there’s a good amount of stuff to do but you can drive across town in ten minutes. Sky Gilbert lives across town. He’s much older than I am, as I’ve mentioned.
I still write, of course. Plays. Started a novel but we’ll see how that goes. I try to talk about the novel only as much as I actually work on the novel, which isn’t that much, so I shut up about it. Nothing worse than writers who only talk about writing.
I can tell you that everything I ever write will be super gay. As gay as a school girl on a spring day in the south of France. Because I can’t help it, and because Buddies made it okay.
When I do go to Toronto, which I do pretty often, it’s usually to go see something at Buddies. Or to have lunch with an old friend I met at Buddies. Or to try and talk Brendan into letting me do something crazy at Buddies.
Buddies is my connection to to my gay heritage. Sky was and is still my mentor.