Gay Heritage Blog Salon: Reena Katz

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. Today, we’ve got a lovely piece from Reena Katz.

This text is highly flawed, and much of it is a lie.  Not all of it, mind you.  It’s two lies and a truth.  You guess which is which.  This text is the author’s attempt to articulate how she connects to her gay heritage with her upcoming 38th birthday in mind.  (Gifts can be made directly to the Radiodress Fund for Feminist Art Survival at: www.radiodress.ca)  She sits down to write.  She’s thinking:

Heritage, by definition is temporal, and therefore finite.  It implies that time is linear, and won’t come back to dance or bite us in the ass.  It’s happened already.  This in itself is a problem.  A problem of time.

But, lies can be fun, right?  Help spread the lie by reclaiming your gay birthday!  What is a gay birthday?  It’s an exclusively gay invention, developed here in Toronto by a bunch of brilliant queers who are slightly disgruntled by the current maintenance of the gender and racialized and therefore classed power dichotomy in the queer/trans community.  I refer here to North America, but not exclusively.

Oops – sorry.  What I mean is this: A gay birthday is a period of time, linking two singular days.  It’s the time of year you share with loved ones in your big, gay family[1] in which you are both the same age.  It includes multiple birthdays and every day in between!  For example, my partner and I have our gay birthday from September 1st  to December 29th every year.  I knowVirgo/Capricorn mixso good[2]. (Gifts can be made directly to the Radiodress Fund for Feminist Art Survival at: www.radiodress.ca)

1928, Drilge / Iłża, Poland:

Here is a boy who looks like I will look, when I’m 9, in exactly 47 years.  It’s our birthdays.  Well, his birthday, actually…if you want to work with linear time.  He’s just been moved from his shtetl to these four crowded streets, forming a makeshift Jewish ghetto in nearby Iłża, Yiddish name: Drildge.  He doesn’t care about the move.  He feels safer here than in the shtetl.  In these streets he can walk with his eyes closed. Voices seem closer, smells are everywhere.  He can both leave his body and stay deep inside, all at once.  And there’s a castle nearby.  Just around the corner!  He can go there anytime he wants.  Well, he can see it anytime he wants, and project himself atop it’s round bastion.  That’s good enough for now.  He’ll take a picture there one day, and send it to America.  To whoever will receive it, hold it, wait with it, for him, there in the golden land.  This boy lives to move.  This boy wants to write poetry, wants to speak to the doves from the roof at sunset.  This boy wants to invent niggunim[3] and get closer to the Creator.  He is soft like that.  Curly haired, round face.  Black eyes.  This boy doesn’t touch himself at night, doesn’t tease his sisters.  This boy looks at the stars and remembers that his is a singular constellation.

1993, Toronto, Canada:

I am sitting with Raizl at her kitchen table.  She lives in the Baycrest Home for the Aged, a big place.  Used to be the moshav zekenim at 29 Cecil Street.  It’s a hothouse of native Yiddish speakers, so I go every week and kibbutz to the best of my ability with Raizl and her Mahj[4] friends.  So there we are at the table: me with my shaved head, probably wearing an Intifadah solidarity t-shirt, Rayzl with her gleaming silver-blue hair and navy 1980s Lacoste housedress[5].  Her friends are offering me pieces of mandlebroit and asking me if I have a boyfriend.  “Nein.  Ich hob nisht kein boyfriend.” They laugh.  They all know why ich hob nisht kein boyfriend.  Duh.

Raizl looks into my eyes and says in English:

You know, it’s very tempting to go with the ladies.  I almost did it once myself.  You’re hanging around together, no men are around, and you think to yourself: why not?  She’s beautiful, she’s lovely, she’s a great cook to boot.  But the next morning, you wake up in her bed, and you realize you’ve made a huge mistake.

2051, Reclaimed 3 Fires, 6 Nations, Huron-Wendat Territory:

I’m doing my weekly Kabbalah/Collective queer tarot circle in the Commons, located in the former skating rink at Nathan Phillip’s Square.  Chan-Katz’s Famous 5-Ball soup[6] is on the fire, and our twins, Emancipatia and Diaspora are running around with a few of the other queer spawn, collecting dandelion samples.  There is a healing circle down the block for a community member who has cancer.  She contracted it during the Resistance of Clarity (2020) while dismantling the main engines of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. We can hear the focused singing filtered through the bank of solar-powered boom boxes, which pump a playlist at an easy 120 bpm.  Down the road and a little north of here, Riverdale Farm has been redesigned to reflect the agricultural experiments of Ti-Jeanne’s grandmother in Brown Girl in the Ring[7].  There’s no municipal government anymore, after the Fordists removed democracy in October, 2014.  Thanks to Idle No More and harm-reduction activists, this triggered neighbourhood-based localized autonomy movements, which worked to undo addiction across the culture of late-capitalism.  It kind of succeeded, kind of failed.  We’re still working on it.  Our little corner is extra special ‘cuz it’s just so gay.


[1] i.e. besties, comrades, partners, lovers, poly-triads, landlords, etc.

[2] The author would have liked to direct you to the website of the Crossing Press, a feminist press which originally printed Aurora’s Lesbian Love Signs, but it has since been subsumed by an imprint of Crown Publishing Group which leaves no cyber trace of its origins.

[3] wordless melodies composed and circulated by Chassidic communities, part of the tradition of ecstatic chanting.

[4] Contraction of Mah Jongg – the Chinese tile game played extensively by Jewish women (and some men), living in North American post-WWII.  The Jewish version differs slightly from the Chinese one.  (Sliding-scale lessons available at: www.radiodress.ca)

[5] My cousin Moniak worked at the Lacoste factory in Florida for years after the war.  He sent his Canadian relatives sample dresses and a crate of grapefruit every Rosh Hashana.

[6] Invented by BK Chan and myself, this Chinese/Jewish fusion dish is made with beef balls, matzoh balls, tapioca balls, water chestnuts and peppercorns.  5 Balls! (For those of you who have already tried it…it gets better with age, trust me.)

[7] Nalo Hopkinson’s 1998 speculative fiction work inaguerated the Turtle Island Feminist Prophetics shortlist of 2036.

Reena Katz

Reena Katz is an artist, curator, and the wielder of a most fantastical imagination. You can see what she’s up to these days over on her website.

Read all posts by Reena Katz

1 Responses to Gay Heritage Blog Salon: Reena Katz

  1. Pingback: Gay Heritage Blog Salon: Zach Pearl — Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

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