[color]George Stamos[/color] has been in residence here – and many places in Toronto and Montreal – developing a project about queer ancestry and queer power across generations. He shares some of his thoughts on the subject, and on his own personal history.
How do we appreciate the larger picture of our queer lineage? How do we hold on to freedoms we’ve inherited? A sharp-tongued dart, the clever spin of a phrase, a courageous rise to action, these are a few risks taken by our forerunners so we can walk with pride today.
An urban queen couldn’t always afford to be as carefree, comfortable, and complaisant as you can now be, if you choose to. There were constant threats of bashings, losing your job, and your family disowning you. You couldn’t walk happily hand in hand in daylight with lovers like now. One had to be sly to survive.
Coming of age in the AIDS era 80’s certainly shaped me. When I was 18 I was doing safe sex outreach work for male prostitutes in the street. I was more then qualified for that activity by the time I was 16. On my own at 15, I grew up around street people, artists, and anarchists. My biological family is also indeed “queer”. By Canadian standards, I grew up in poverty. Luckily I had a very resourceful, strong, and creative mother, and an absent father.
My grandparents included a millionaire Madame who never gave a care or a cent, a mean bootlegger, a murderer, and one who was killed. I’ve never related to any of the models for family presented to me. We are born alone, we die alone and contrary to popular sentiment, family (gay or straight) is NOT always the most important thing.
Away from the tribe you have the option to be who you are, not what others want you to be, you gain perspective, the ability to change, and are able to appreciate where you come from. I come from a queer bent line of orphans and outsiders. They are my family and most of them are dead.
I bow to my grandmother, heartless beast that she was, bitter queen that he was. She was clever and had his reasons. I bow to my father, misguided, violent and empty as she was, her seed was an essential fire. I bow down and I focus on the bright sunshine my mother was, that the protestors I stood next to are, that the love of my life is, and wherever I go, I walk with them.