As you know, a week or two back I participated in the Women Say Something Forum organised by Steph Sands as part of Mardi Gras season. I spoke about ‘diversity’ as in pertains to performance, with other panellists speaking on a variety of topics from resilience in kink spaces to the early days of lesbian activism to the femme community to being transfeminine to Indigenous takes on LGBTQI and much more. It was an utterly astounding group of women (and woman-ish creatures like myself) and I was completely honoured to be able to address and interact with them and the audience.
At first, I was really hesitant about being involved in such a forum. Me? At a ‘proper’ Mardi Gras event? At the Columbian? Amongst a group of ‘lesbians’ discussing the ‘women’s community/ies’? What could I offer? How would ‘they’ react to me? Oh my… It was WELL out of my comfort zone as a gender-irreverent queer-as-bleep flouncy fag bear but I bit the bullet and you know what? IT WAS FREAKING AMAZING. Wow. People liked me, and what I had to say, and I was respected and valued and… hmm… it is rather nice to get out of my ‘queer bubble’ sometimes!
(This next bit would be shameless self-promotion, if I wasn’t quite so humbled by it.)
Here is what Steph had to say about the evening, including this bit about us getting to know each other:
‘I want to share a personal story that bought me to this point. It made me take a good look at my own reactions and my own thoughts on the subject.
I never really “got” the queer scene. I struggled with the performance art and I struggled with why people dressed in a non-conformist manner. I didn’t think I was a judgemental person, I just thought “it wasn’t for me”, but then I met Zoo. I say I “met” Zoo, but really I started to get to know her through Facebook. We instantly clicked after an incident at Sleaze ball last year which saw her write to the community press and me respond. The importance of boundaries was the title of my response and it was based on the respect that we all had fought for for the past 40 years in terms of diversity and acceptance.
Writing that response really started me thinking about my own opinions and judgements.
Zoo is the first real Queer that has come into my life in a major way. She is controversial, provocative and well, just out there. Queer performance pieces, I admit, I still don’t “get” at times, but she is happy to explain them to me, and from there I have a greater understanding of what people are trying to say. She is someone who never stops saying something. She has taught me, and I say taught, because I do feel she has been my teacher, that expression comes in a number of ways, and acceptance comes from appreciating that.
The other thing Zoo has taught me is that the Queer scene isn’t really that scary. Over the past 6 months she, and others I have met, have introduced me to some amazing artists, writers, professionals and musicians. I see self-expression in everyone I met, and I have even started to define and develop my own sense of expression in the clothes I prefer to wear. The “look” I try to achieve for myself when I got out. I no longer listen to those people who tell me I can’t wear that, I choose to listen to that person inside that say’s I can! And I choose to wear what I wear where I wear it. Transcending the queer to the gaystream to the bears to the twinks.
What Zoo and I have is a symbiotic relationship. We often laugh about how I teach her about the gaystream and she teaches me about the queers. It works!’
Cross-pollination? YES PLEASE. Thanks Steph, and everyone who is willing to participate in the debates, the discussions, the dialogues, no matter where you come from or where you are at!