symposium dispatches from the front lines of contemporary culture the world’s worst prostitute flower power color purple not cute
the pop culture relics we’re obsessed with
nicki minaj’s rider eating people is wrong
remembering the victory in california
heather cassils an
exclusive interview with gaga’s prison yard girlfriend
a tribeforcalled queer the suquamish, two-spirits are just as important as one on our side quotables from those fighting for lgbt rights girlfriend margaret cho and joan rivers on fag hags and tmi
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dispatches from the front lines o contemporary culture
commiserate about our financial w griege tea and a slice of gypsy tar Gypsy tart, I should explain, wa now-defunct British dessert which the main ingredient was boiled, co milk resembling pus—that even wr makes me feel vomitatious. It is ha we ate it, but eat it we did. In his s raphy, the fabulous Keith Richards the horrors of gypsy tart and attem taste: “Pie with some muck burned
The World’s Worst Prosti tute
Back to 1973. consumption of this hideous conco
Hooking ain’t easy. SIMON DOONAN
Manchester, England, 1973. It’s my final year at college. Funds are running low. I bump into
a fellow student at a church hall jumble sale. After a childish and embarrassing tug-of-war over a 1930s fox-fur scarf thingy with heads and paws dangling off it—Halloween was coming up and I thought I might slice the dead fox into a bikini and go as Raquel Welch from One Million Years B.C.—we call a truce and pop next door to a filthy tea shop to
excitedly tells me that she has foun of income. She has started to make flogging her jumble sale thrift find vintage emporiums such as Antiqu Road and the uber-groovy Virginia land Road. (Still in business and no ‘30s numbers and nifty Victorian c of Kate Moss and Lily Allen.) Her n vintage picker explains the aggress the fox fur. My pal also mentions, quite en p batting so much as an eyelash, tha out an additional way to take the fi off: She now gives her landlord a m lieu of rent. I was so stunned by th chocked on my gypsy tart. At first, my pal thought that I w embarrassed, and she got all huffy with me for being judgemental. On coughing, I was able to reassure h feeling judgmental, I was, in fact, tion for her entreprenurial zeal. I w “You go, girl!” except that this con did not exist back then. So I proba old-fashioned and clunky, like “Go certainly are a very enterprising yo luck with this exciting new directio has taken!” I was impressed. Very impressed irrationally impressed. My louche pal something rather wicked within m
woes over a cup of rt. as a truly appalling, h was so revolting— ongealed tinned riting about it ard to imagine how stunning autobiogs bravely confronts mpts to describe the d into it…”
During the oction, my pal nd a new source e extra cash by ds to fancy London uarius on Kings a Bates on Portow selling bias-cut capes to the likes new incarnation as sive posture over
passant, without at she has figured financial pressure monthly blowjob in his revelation that I
was shocked or y and remonstrated nce I stopped er that, far from filled with admirawould have said nvenient phrase ably said something oodness me! You oung woman. Good on which your life
d. Very, very, almost had unleashed me.
Cut. I position myself near the jukebox and start biting the ait like a wild gypsy. Like a gypsy tart, if you will.
Cut. That’s me, drunk and disheveled and biting the air, clambering into the front seat of a banged-up Ford Cortina with an older bloke. This not-unattractive Charles Bronson type is concerned that I might spew my guts in his vehicle, thereby rendering it even more unsavory. I promise him that I will not defile his Fablon-covered dashboard.
Cut. Me taking hours to get my key in the door, the way drunks do, and still intermittently bit The following evening, as if impelled by a supernatural force, I got all scrubbed and twinkied up and made my way in my platform shoes, vintage oxford bag trousers, and my copy of a Mr. Freedom satin jocket jacket to a working-class gay pub near the canal in the center of Manchester. This is where I often started my Saturday nights. A drink or two and then off a chichi disco called Samatha’s. On this occasion, I stayed at the pub with a pal called Vinnie, and got thoroughly smashed. I had a plan. Vinnie was a trainee hairdresser. He was very open about the fact that as a younger twink, he had been “on the game.” But Vinnie was now respectable and had put his tawdry past behind him, unless the rent was overdue, in which case he was anybody’s. Drunken escapades, if you can remember them at all, are recollected in the jerky handheld-camera style of the early Andy Warhol movies. There are no gentle fades, just abrupt cuts.
Opening scene: Me and Vinnie are locked in an intense tête-à-tête as he schools me on how to play the role of rent boy. Apparently, the key to being a prostitute is flaunting yourself. Flaunt! Flaunt! Flaunt! He tells me to unzip my jacket to the navel, wet my lips, open my mouth wide and, this is the most important part, bite the air in a tempestuous tigress-y fashion. “You are living for kicks! Yes, bite the air, like a dog catching flies. Bite! Bite! Bite!” I am not sure how this flaunting and biting is supposed to attract potential clients, but I do it anyway, knowing that Vinnie has more experience in these matters. I am the trusting ingénue.
ing the air for good measure, just to keep the client happy. The Charles Bronson look-alike, who has a strong Northern accent, shouts “What the fook is wrong with you? Stop twitching like that and get the fooking door open!”
Cut. Me and Charles Bronson are rolling amorously around the floor of my squalid student
crash pad in our undies. We set off a mousetrap. Fortunately, nobody is injured. More rolling. (When, 40 years later, I heard Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” I was probably the one person on earth who had a visual for the oblique lyrics.)
Drunken escapades are recollected in the jerky handheldcamera style of the early Andy Warhol movies. No gentle fades, just abrupt cuts.
Cut. Close-up on my face. I am no longer biting the air. My expression has changed. My eyes consist of two crosses and my mouth is a zigzag. It’s a face that says, “I have done something stupid. I have broken one of Vinnie’s cardinal rules.”
Cut. Me and Charles Bronson, still rolling around, but now attempting to agree upon a fee for
my services. Every time I throw out a number he reminds me that I have yet to pay my cab fare. That’s a surprise! Apparently that car, with the holes in the seats and the crocheted steering-wheel cover, is a taxi of some description, Charles Bronson being the chauffeur thereof. The good news: He seems willing to play the role of john. I’ll make some money. It’s just a question of how much. The bad news: He’s an enthusiastic negotiator, adamant that whatever he ends up paying for “my services,” it would be subject to the deduction of his fare. He is, he maintains, a businessman, “just like yourself,” who desires to be compensated for his services. More numbers are ping-ponged back and forth. More snuggling and rolling about. Some laughter. More haggling. Though not unpleasant, the whole experience was a bit like having a threeway with a calculator. Much of the rest of the evening was a total blur. I do, however, remember one thing. The money. That measly fee. Even back in the economically depressed early ’70s it seemed like a paltry amount. What was the un-princely sum that I finally extorted out of my customer over a cup of tea the next morning?
OK,Three putrid quid. so I’m not Paul Newman, but I’m not Marty Feldman either, God rest his soul.
Three quid. I had spent more than that buying Vinnie cheap cider! There is something really gruesome about three pounds. Even now it makes me wince. Two might almost have been better. I distinctly remember lobbying for five pounds, having come down from 50, but every time he brought up that niggling outstanding cab fare—snog, grope, snog, grope—I could feel any advantage slipping through my fingers. So three quid it was. In the cold light of the next day, I realized that I just might just be the world’s worst prostitute. I was tragic. No self-respecting pimp would ever have tolerated my bungling efforts. I was a shameful embarrassment to the world’s oldest profession and all who sail in her.
Pastoral prints are making their mark on menswear. SAMI PRITCHARD
Even in this modern age, floral patterns are an unexpected (and welcome) twist. Miuccia Prada led the way with her kitcshy gold-inspired show, overflowing with garish prints of the garden variety. Riccardo Tisci created an ode to the tropical bird of paradise for Givenchy. And other designers, too, are taking note, infusing their collections with a sense of bucolic brashness—often filtering them through the prism of Hawaiian surf culture of hip-hop head-to-toe prints from a few years back to keep their masculinity intact. Looks like men may be the unexpected victors in the war of the roses.
Meet Bunker, the new gay superhero sensation. MIKE BERLIN
With his West Hollywood fashion sense and faux-hawk, Miguel Jose Barragan might look the part of a cartoon Project Runway contestant. But as his alter ego, Bunker, he is DC Comics’ first major gay superhero—recently added to the Teen Titans roster, a junior Justice League of sorts. “If the comic book industry doesn’t create another white, straight male superhero, that will be OK,” says Scott Lobdell, the comic’s writer, who’s adding non-white heroes to the series. A sprightly Mexican import with more attitude than a Chola girl, Bunker (who refers to his own “cute butt” in his debut), is in the unique position to alienate some readers for being too gay. “It never entered my head that people would obejct to the color scheme of his outfit based on whether or not he was a homosexual,” says Lobdell about the character’s signature color, purple. “I thought I was being clever and fresh.” The writer lives close to Los Angeles’s unofficial Little Mexico and created Bunker’s outfit as a throwback to the retro vibrancy he found there. Bunker’s superpower, wielding force field bricks, is a sly homage to Stonewall. Bunker isn’t the first gay bomb Libdell has set off in the comic world. Working with Marvel in 1992, he outed the company’s first major character, Northstar, who lived as an ill-tempered closet case for over a decade (due to an editorial ban on homosexuality). His coming-out—though a watershet cultural moment in gay visibility—was an isolated event left underdeveloped for years. Given the chance to create a new gay character in Teen Titans, Lobdell was averse to watering down Bunker. “I don’t think it’s my place to write a gay everyman,” he says. I’m writing a very specific character.” And indeed, the specifics craft a deservingly intricate teen, with a backstory heavy on growing up in the village of El Chilar, Mexico. What about love interests? “He has love in his past and in his future,” Lobdell says, “and will have a healthy relationship life as all the other characters in the book.” But, he admits, the Titans all have obstacles that come in the way of dating: “They’re on the run from a trans-global organization out to kill them.”
Don’t host your bachelorette party at my favorite gay bar. DREW DROEGE
Not Cute I guess Danielle is married by now. A few months ago, I spotted her sweaty ass, sporting a dirty paper tiara, slamming mojito shots, and screaming, “This is my jam, bitches!” in reference to Katy Perry’s “I wanna see your Peacock! Cock! Cock!” while her equally raunchy girlfriends fucked the air and whistled. Where was I? A cousin’s wedding in South Carolina? An airport Applebee’s with a half-off sliders and ranch? A boozy secretary’s birthday bash? No. I was at the Akbar, in the deliciously chill eastside of Los Angeles. I did not know Danielle—yet. I’m at Akbar all the time—I’m probably there right now. It describes itself as “a neighborhood oasis,” and it’s a hot mash-up of faux-Moroccan kitsch and Silver Lake—Los Angeles, realness. In the front are autographed headshots of Drew Barrymore, Edith
symposium Massey, Alex Trebek, and Fred Schneider. Imagine having a cocktail with that foursome, and you have an idea of what Akbar can be. There’s both a dub-step/ska night and a craft night. While I love and embrace that everyone is invited, let’s face it: It’s a gay bar. It’s not your typical twink tweeking Gaga Freeknik. But come on, no straight bar would display Queen Carlotta’s headshot ensconced in gold. It was a Friday night at Akbar. I’d just seem some wretched theater and needed to drink it off. It’s packed and feral. Boys have their shirts off, the bartenders are doing shots with the barbacks, lesbians are being irresponsible—and it’s only 11. I push my way through the nasty jungle of naked and saddle up to the bar. Just before I can say “Grey Goose and soda,” I feel a horrifically violent stab to my kidneys. Holy shit, I think. Someone’s stealing my organs. Then I hear a piercing shriek that sounds like a parrot getting fisted. “Oh my god, I’m drunk!” exclaims a vision in Wet Seal who smells like Cancun and ham. “Wow, that really hurt,” I say. She replies, “I don’t know how that happened!” just before falling down. Several of us pick her up, try to remount her tiara on top of her shellacked mess of offensive hair, and stand her back upright in heels that she can’t handle. “You boys are sooo cute!” says the barf wagon, ans she clumps away. I don’t think too much of it—she’s drunk, it’s crowded, it happens. I get my vodka-soda and head toward the back room, in the mood for the dance floor. The DJs playing Grace Jones, Sylvester, De La Soul, The Darkness—bliss. I’m grinding, sweating, losing my mind, and making choices with no apologies. At this moment, everything is beautiful. Suddenly, the DJ switches to Katy Perry. Time to get a new drink. In storms a deluge of Midori-drinking harpies. It’s her! And she’s brought more of her kind! “You were in the last bar!” she squawks. “I was just in the other room,” I say, as I attempt to avoid her and her kickline of sweaty blowjob machines. “What!?!?!? Hahah—I’m Danielle. What’s your name? You’re soooo cute!!”
She’s gonna celebrate by getting blackout plowed on Hpnotiq, shaking her dumb party tits to Katy Perry, and kickin’ it with the gays because they’re “cute.”
Again with the cute thing. And she didn’t say it like “Damn, you’re hot, good for you.” Or even like, “You’re mildly attractive, best of luck tonight!” No, she said it like she was at the fucking zoo. She was looking at me like I was a goddamned billygoat. Another girl chimed in with, “Danielle you should make out with him! This is your night!” Oh yeah—this is Danielle’s bachelorette party. And she’s gonna celebrate by getting blackout plowed on Hpnotiq, shaking her dumb party tits to Katy Perry, and kickin’ it with the gays because they’re “cute.” She also burps bon-mots like, “You’d love my brother,” or, “Doesn’t my Bumpit look ferosh?” I used to have an issue with bachelorette parties at gay bars—ummm, we can’t get married (most places), so please don’t swing it in our faces at our bars. But on the other hand, I have plenty of wonderful straight friends who should be allowed to celebrate this huge occasion wherever, however they want. And I love Akbar for welcoming everyone—it’s the neighborhood fucking oasis. So, I don’t resent Danielle because she’s a straight girl—I resent her because she’s a drunk, condescending asshole. Welcome to Akbar. Grab a cocktail. Congratulations. Just don’t call us cute.
media, stars, and more that we find just fabulous
It seems like yesterday (or two months ago) that table and charming demands of Adele’s tour ride keeping Chardonnay out of the mix.) Now, Wonderland magazine has unearthed Nic little more eccentric. Let’s start with the fluids: 24 bottles of Dasani perature, 12 on ice; Snapple, Red Bull, assorted f Now, onto some snacks: dried cranberries, raw cucumbers, green olives, Wishbone Light Italian water. (Do you think it’s all mixed in a bowl together? How da Onto more snax: “Lots of wings” in the three 1 meat—“no thighs” allowed.
we were discussing the charier. (Again, we so feel you on
cki Minaj’s own list, which is a
i water bottles—12 at room temfruit juices, Simply Lemonade. w almonds, salad with tomatoes, dressing, Bumble Bee tuna in ank would that be?) 12-piece buckets of “spicy”
OK, you know what? Perhaps this tour rider doesn’t have a mandatory $20 donation to charity for all guests, but I’m sort of on board with Minaj. If you’re going to request fried chicken, why not be specific? This list isn’t really full of “overthe-top diva demands,” as US puts it. Regardless, let’s lower the bar for exposed celebrity tour riders. I mean, I’m not saying that if, somehow, my SeamlessWeb records were released to the public, they wouldn’t be so different from Minaj’s list... I’m just saying that the spicy meat can be better, and I loathe thighs like a certain pop star loathes hydrangeas. That’s all.
Not as charming as Adele’s.
Nicki Minaj’s Rider MIKE BERLIN
find elsewhere. A few days trawling the site is also something of a cultural primer—the movies of Tuesday Weld, the work of Peruvian poet Blanca Varela, a gallery of latex Halloween masks from the legendary Shock Monster line. “The blog is about creating community and giving support to these artists,” he says. “When I was young, people helped me, and I just have a natural inclination to do that.” His interest in people is also what makes him a compelling writer of nonfiction and an impressively bold interviewer (profiling Keanu Reeves in 1990 for Interview, he asked, “Are you gay, or what?” The actor gamely responded, “No. But ya never know.”) Cooper was inspired to begin writing during a tumultuous childhood in L.A. Born into wealth (his father was good friends with Richard Nixon, after whom Cooper’s brother was named), he was thirteen when his parents separated, leaving him in the care of his unstable mother. He found an escape in writing satires at school, and later poetry and fiction—published in zines—inspired in part by Arthur Rimbaud and the Marquis de Sade. “I’ve always had pretty perverse fantasies, and when I read Sade, I just felt, Oh my God, I can write about this stuff, it’s legitimate,” he recalls. He describes the act of writing as wish fulfillment. “I was never really that wild,” he says, although he admits spending much of his late teens and 20s hanging out with and procuring hustlers, partly as an exercise in role-playing. “I would make up a character to see how they interacted with me when I was that kind of person, but it’s always been a fantasy thing for me. I don’t want to do these things, but writing is a way to experiment and test myself.” Maybe a little too much at times. In an essay on Nan Goldin for Spin in 1996, Cooper wrote frankly of a sojourn in Amsterdam that was largely defined by crystal meth and promiscuous sex. “Even now, when I think back on some of the shit I pulled, at some of the bottoms I hit, the memories are distinctly Goldinesque. I can see the rooms where I snorted drugs, fucked hustlers, screamed at my boyfriend.” Although he likes to say his books aren’t autobiographical, Cooper is always present in them, as is George Miles, his first love and a muse for the five-novel series that began with Closer in ’89 and ended in 2000 with Period. (Miles, who was severely bipolar, killed himself in 1987, though it was another 10 years before Cooper found out.) That series is limned by desire and destruction. Although Cooper’s characters are often older men doing monstrous things to books” than older readers. “I’m more interested in younger people than I am in older people,” he says. “I’m interested in the difficulties of them, and the beauty of them, and the way they live their lives. Where the compassion lies is with younger readers, and so I think they feel comfortable with me.” With the evening light radiating through the trees, Cooper gets up to return to his apartment, but not before dispensing a suitably Cooper-esque tip. “You know what you’d never think to go to, but is actually really, really great, is London Dungeon,” he says of the macabre English attraction that recreates gory historical events. “It has a fantastic mirror maze in it, and it’s a great spooky house. You have to wait in line for it, and it’s expensive, but if you have nothing to do, go to London Dungeon—it’s a blast.”
younger men, he bridles at the suggestion that he’s writing gay fiction. “I’ve been out since I was a kid, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I’m not interested in identity politics,” he says. “I don’t think
of my characters as being gay. They have sex that’s gay because that’s the sex I know and understand and care
about. But I don’t think of my books as being ‘gay’ books.” This distinction may explain why his audience seems to be split evenly between men and women (at least based on the reader reviews on the book lovers website Goodreads). The fact that The Marbled Swarm is being published by Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins can be seen as a breakthrough moment, up there with Kiki & Herb playing Carnegie Hall. Certainly, Cooper considers it his best book and compares it to the kinds of tricked-out haunted houses that he likes to visit during Halloween—his favorite holiday. “Spooky houses are like artworks,” he says. “You’ve got this certain kind of space, and you’ve got to make it really complicated and make it feel really big and disorienting. So the novel is like a really complicated spooky house.” Not surprisingly, he’s a big fan of Disneyland: “My favorite ride of all time was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. It’s from the ‘50s. It’s fantastic.” It could be said that Cooper creates literary rides of a similar kind—complicated, experimental, puzzlelike. And also terrifying. Maybe it explains why he thinks younger readers are more likely to “get the
If I did have sex with him, what would I want to do? I realized I wanted to eat him.
It’s a fine September afternoon in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, and author Dennis Cooper has invited me to meet him at a café beneath his apartment in a converted monastery to talk about cannibalism. “I’ve actually been wanting to do something with cannibalism for a long time,” says the celebrated (and demonized) chronicler of youth culture and psychosexual obsession in novels such as Frisk, Closer, The Sluts, and the just-published The Marbled Swarm. Cooper, it’s worth noting, is a vegetarian, although The Marbled Swarm, his ninth novel, has its genesis in a very carnivorous impulse. “I was really interested in Russian pornography for a while. It’s very dark and strange and just depressing — I mean, Russia is a depressing place; the people just aren’t very happy there,” he explains. “There was this one model I was really interested in, and I had this revelation where I was like, If I did have sex with him, what would I want to do? I realized I wanted to eat him.” We are sitting outside, and this matter-of-fact admission melts into the reassuring sounds of traffic and passersby. “That’s what started it,” Cooper clarifies. “I just thought, What a strange thing to want to do to someone.” Cooper has made a living from such conjectures, and his books are shot through by a rigorous conviction that no subject is off-limits, giving him a reputation as some kind of literary heretic. The fact that he lives in a monastery is an impish touch, but it’s also a nice allegory for the compassion that illuminates even his most butt-clenching novels. “People always say I’m trying to shock, and actually it’s the opposite,” says Cooper, who chain-smokes through our conversation like the committed existentialist he is. “I’m not a sadist. I don’t want to torture people, and I don’t want to torture the reader. I want to seduce them into dealing with stuff I’m presenting.” In other words, though he might want to eat the Russian porn star, he is much more interested in finding out why. The Marbled Swarm is concerned as much with language as it is with relationships and power. The unnamed narrator uses words to disarm and persuade, deceive and evade. His fantastical story of everyday cannibalism is told in such finely chiseled yet disorienting prose that you suspect you’re being led into a maze. Cooper’s relationship with his readers is nurtured on his meticulously maintained blog, in which he corresponds with them and publicizes their literary and artistic projects. To some of his loyal fans, he is a source of encouragement and mentorship they can’t
Dennis Cooper has never shied away from extreme subjects. Next on the agenda? Cannibalism.
California Supreme Court ruled nd on February 2 , 2012, that making queers into second-class citizens is unconstitutional. The issue may now be heard by the United States Supreme Court.
Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video is nothing short of epic. Nearly 10 minutes long, it picks up where her “Paparazzi” video ended—with the pop star headed to jail for murder. Once inside, Gaga does what any woman in her situation would do—she finds herself a hot girlfriend. Canadian performance artist and personal trainer Heather Cassils was handpicked by Gaga to play the role of her prison yard girlfriend. We chatted with Cassils to find out how she ended up in the “Telephone” video, her feelings about depictions of queer women in mainstream media, and what it’s like to make out with the most
famous woman in the world.
Out: Were you familiar with Gaga’s work before you were cast for the shoot? Heather Cassils: I was not a totally massive fan per se, but my background
and training is as an artist, and I did notice she was bringing a lot of elements of performance art into her pop cultural practice. And she has referenced people like Leigh Bowery and feminist performances, so I was aware of that, and that’s what caught my eye about her more than anything else—as well as the fact that she was doing something different and presenting herself differently from other pop stars who have been around in the last little while.
O: How did you get cast in the video? HC: I got cast because I work as a personal trainer. I run my own independent
contracting business, and I run it out of a gay gym in Silver Lake. There’s a woman at my gym named Dallas, and she’s also kind of an aspiring actress of sorts, and she had been called in to play one of the guards. She called me up from the casting and said they were desperate for bodybuilders, and she told them, “There’s this person at my gym who’s not a pro bodybuilder, but she has a really cut physique,” and she suggested I’d be perfect for it. So I went down and auditioned—but I’m not hormones or anything like that—so they ended up casting me as an inmate in the prison scene. They were blocking the scene, and the woman who was blocking for Gaga disappeared, and Gaga came out, and she just kind of instantly called me over, and it just happened like that. She called me over and asked me to portray her girlfriend and said, “OK, you’re going to be
my prison girlfriend, and you’re going to come to me, and I’d like you to touch me inappropriately.” [Laughs] We just kind of went from there. O: So, it just happened right there on the spot? HC: Yeah. It was a very strange, organic Los Angeles moment.
O: What was Gaga like on set? HC: She was extremely professional and very, very funny. After we did the [kissing] shot, she screamed across the yard to me, “I think you got me pregnant!” [Laughs] She was also very present and real. She took the time to ask people what they did for a living and who they were and where they were from. She was a very genuine, grounded person.
O: OK—let’s get to the juicy stuff: What was the kiss like? HC: I think we did several takes—to be honest, it was a little bit of a blur be-
cause it happened so quickly. On the first, take her cigarette sunglasses were steaming a little bit, but by the third or fourth take we were both inhaling a lot of secondhand smoke [Laughs]. It was kind of intense. And it just kind of
Lady Gagaâ€™s prison yard girlfriend. NOAH MICHELSON
20 happened naturally because she didn’t really give me explicit instructions to kiss her—it just felt like a natural thing to do. In fact, I sniffed her like a kind of aggressive beast. And as we got closer, she actually put her tongue in my mouth. She just went for it. [Laughs] It was really good.
O: Tell me about your feelings about depictions of queer women in
popular culture. HC: I’ve been in shoots before, and I’ve worked with other artists, and there’s this thing where they try to femme anybody up—especially when it’s mainstream media. And there’s this expectation that you’re either going to fit on one end of the spectrum or the other, so I really appreciated that I literally showed up on set and was allowed to go just as I am. My body is a complete construction. I feel there’s a lot of pressure, even in the queer world, to go trans or whatever and take these real extremes, and I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with that, but I do think there’s a lot you can do with your own body. And as a visual artist I think of the body as a sculpture of sorts. If you can manipulate it via exercise and diet and physically empower yourself and give yourself a body that has a certain masculinity to it—that has a lot of power and you can insert that into mainstream images. People get really caught up on language, and when you’re talking about these things people get kind of hysterical, but when you just present them with an image of something that’s “other” or that they can’t plot, I think that’s really important—and to offer up something in between that doesn’t have binaries—because it offers people more options. And I believe that binaries are dangerous across the board. If you look at mainstream representations, it’s mostly things like The L Word. Or you have a trans character, but it’s not played by a real trans man, it’s played by someone with a grizzly man beard Scotch-taped onto their face. So I think we’re moving closer to where we should be, but I don’t necessarily identify as trans—though I kind of do—but I don’t take hormones, and I don’t want to alter my body in that way, but I think it’s a real progression when someone who identifies in that way can then actually be that instead of having someone play you in black face or whatever.
O: Right. I think it’s important to have people who complicate
our notions of gender—whether they be playing with butch/
femme or consider themselves gender queer or just don’t fit into the gay/straight/bi/trans spectrum so neatly—because we still have a long
way to go with our understanding of gender and sexuality, even in the queer community. HC: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. One thing I like about Lady Gaga is that strange rumor about whether or not she has a penis. I’d like the same rumor to circulate about me. [Laughs] The not knowing and the suspension of disbelief and what that does to people—it starts with the body, but it can translate into all kinds of other important things.
O: Definitely. And the other thing about the penis rumor is that she
doesn’t deny or confirm it. It’s like she’s sayingif she does have a penis, it’s not a bad thing, and if she doesn’t have one that’s not a bad thing either. It gives people permission to be who they are. HC: Exactly.
O: What do you think about the new breed of younger pop stars— and some have accused Gaga of this—who claim bisexuality or a kind of pansexuality in an effort to use queer culture for their own personal gains? HC: That’s been going on since the dawn of time. Elvis stole from African American music. Everybody’s constantly riffing—Madonna stole voguing
from poor, disenfranchised black drag queens in Harlem. This isn’t a new concept. I think there’s
more reverence with regard to Lady Gaga as she’s obviously educated herself in her trajectory with visual arts practices and the stuff that she’s doing isn’t light stuff. It’s difficult when they’re making millions of dollars and placating to the masses—it’s tricky to maintain that, but I think she tries. And even including someone like me is a part of that. The thing that was kind of interesting was that in between takes I was getting kind of annoyed because the camera guys were really kind of drooling and talking about “girl-on-girl action” and I said, “What about boyon-girl action?” And she turned to me and said “Oh. Do you identify as male?” [Laughs] And I said, “Well,
probably more than you do.” And she said “I’ll be sure to tell people that.” We just had this abstracted conversation about gender in the middle of this shoot, which I thought was really weird and pretty interesting: A) that she would take the time and B) that she would even ask me about that.
O: Tell me about your own art. HC: I started off as a painter and a drawer, but I
now do performance art, and I know that sounds absolutely terrifying, like you imagine people shoving yams up their asses, but I think of my work as moving paintings essentially. There aren’t a lot of massive, sweeping actions. It’s more like I use the fact that the image is live to try to capture and transfix people, because people can walk away from a painting. I do portraits of sorts. I recently got funding through the Franklin Furnace, which is the largest nonprofit performance art fund in New York City to do this piece called “Hard Times,” which is kind of my portrait of the current culture of California. It features me—I train really, really hard so
The not knowing and the suspension of disbelief and what that does to people—it starts that I get really beefy and really ripped inwith a kind the body, but it can of scary way, translate into all kinds of other important things. and I do this performance on a really, really high piece of building scaffolding. I’m basically wearing a blonde Farrah Fawcett wig and a coral body thong. Basically, I do these body building poses but I slow them down incredibly, and I transfer from pose to pose so slowly that I create a nervous system overload—the entire body starts to quake and then the scaffolding does too. And when I turn around, you see that I have this prosthetic mask on that looks like my eyes have been removed from my head, and I have this soundtrack that I composed with a sound designer friend of mine, which is made up of 12 to 20 different wattages of just raw power—like literally the sound of electric power—and I mix all of that together and do this piece that basically, to me, is a portrait of California in this kind of economic crisis and this need to uphold the beautiful and the superficial in a place where we are rotting from the inside out in a lot of different ways. So I wanted to create this image that plays with the expectation of this beautiful woman that you’re going to see, and then you get something else. And all of it is using a lot of tropes from film because I live in Hollywood.
O: Have you been recognized from the “Telephone” video yet? HC: Yes. It’s very strange. It’s kind of like the people you wouldn’t normally talk to you all of a sudden really want to talk to you [Laughs]—just because
you’ve had this experience of being close to a celebrity. It’s kind of crazy. My Facebook page exploded, but in terms of just off the street? It’s mostly from Facebook—like people posting and re-posting and re-posting. So it’s not like complete strangers but more like strangers of strangers of strangers who’ve seen my friends’ post. But I was just at the Fusion Festival—the LGBT people of color film festival in L.A.—and I was definitely approached there quite a few times at the opening.
O: So the attention is flattering? It doesn’t weird you out? HC: It is a little weird to be someone who works really hard at what I do, and then to do something like making out with a pop star and
to get so much attention for that. I do think being in the video is important because there are going to be kids watching that who maybe haven’t seen anything like that before and can then maybe imagine themselves being something different. So in that kind of simpler way I do think it offers something important, but it’s not the same kind of level of rigor or mental work as when I’m doing my own performance work.
O: It really speaks to the idea of visibility. When you think about the way queer women are presented—even in 2010—we never see images like you and Lady Gaga making out. HC: Oh, yeah, and that’s a very sad thing. It’s like the opening of The L Word will have a pregnant married couple, and it’s like a fucking
nightmare! [Laughs] And it’s not that I’m not for fighting for equal rights but come on—what makes us queer? To be queer is to be on the outside and to be on the outside is to be a force of resistance. I think of my body as that, and I think of it as armature—I don’t want to belong in that really particular way. I think it’s important to posit something that will make people raise their eyebrows. It’s not about just being accepted—it’s about opening up people’s brains a bit.
O: Whenever I see truly queer representations, especially embedded in such a mainstream moment like “Telephone,” I think of kids in the middle of Kansas who maybe aren’t
exposed to anything, and then they see this Lady Gaga video, and they start asking questions. Even something as fluffy as a pop music video can be hugely influential. HC: Totally. Gone are the days when if you’re against the war you go and protest on the street. Protesting doesn’t stop wars anymore. Going to your gay pride rally is nice—it makes you feel good, but unfortunately we don’t live in that era anymore. The only way you can create social change is to insert yourself into the machine.
O: Right. And cast yourself as a monkey wrench. HC: Exactly.
Telephone has 134,118,989 hits on Youtube.
But near Seattle, tucked away off the Puget Sound, there’s a sovereign nation whose citizens can marry whoever they choose. They’re called the Suquamish, and they were there before Washington was a president, much less a state. The Suquamish enjoy the right to same-sex marriage, thanks to Heather Purser, a 29-year-old lesbian tribal member who grew up near the reservation. She’d already tried to come out of the closet twice during her childhood, and retreated both times before she arrived at Western Washington University and started attending LGBT events. “I saw that I could be safe there,” she says. “I decided I wanted to have that feeling back home, too.” Purser began speaking with her tribe about samesex marriage in 2007. A year later, she addressed the tribal council, which cautiously encouraged her cause. She did her research: contacting a tribe that had recently passed a similar law, requesting copies of their ordinance, reviewing it with an attorney, and
Gay couples can’t marry in Washington.
In the Native American community, two spirits can be better than one.
nadleeh, the Lakota say winkte, the Plains Cree use iskwekan—there are almost as many terms as native languages. One word you probably won’t hear is berdache, a pejorative (something between a catamite and a male prostitute) introduced by early French colonists. In 1990, a queer Native American caucus settled on “two spirit” as an umbrella term to describe indigenous people of alternative gender or sexuality. “In traditional communities, ‘gay’ wasn’t even a category,” says Dr. Karina Walters, an out member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Director of Washington University’s Indigenous Wellness Research Institute. “Quite often there were third gender statuses, sometimes up to seven,” Walters notes. “These relationships weren’t homosexual, they were heterogen-
Americans’ recognition of queer people predates Columbus. The Navajo call them
translating it into Suquamish. After three years, she put her petition to a vote at a council meeting. “Everyone said, ‘If you do that, it’ll kill your dream. We have to do this slowly,’ ” she says. Purser demanded a vote anyway. In a room of 300 people, not one dissented. In August of 2011, her dream became law. This isn’t the first victory for queer Native Americans. In 2006, the First Nations Two Spirit Collective formed, creating a political platform for LGBT native people. In 2008, the Coquille tribe of North Bend, Ore., became the first to allow same-sex marriage. This summer, the Suquamish became the second. Two months later, the Oglala Sioux tribe of Pine Ridge, S.D., issued a proclamation in support of LGBT equality, declaring it “time to ignite the civil rights movement of the 21st century.” This may sound progressive, but Native
A Tribe Called
through reservations in Saskatchewan, now makes
dered.” Two spirits often inhabited the in-between spaces, working as medicine people and mediators between rival factions, living on the outer ring of camp to serve as buffers from outsiders. Some two spirits were even present in Washington, D.C., during treaty negotiations. At best, they were revered. At worst, they were tolerated, sometimes teased. Like smallpox and whiskey, homophobia was a Western import, codified once the U.S. and Canada became nations. Government-run boarding schools spearheaded this reeducation: Students were given Western names, clothes, and haircuts, along with a set of foreign values. Dylan Rose, 24, who describes himself as a mix of Plains Cree, Scottish, Irish, and French, deeply resents the lasting cultural impact of those schools, which flourished through the 1970s. “They taught us not to be Indian,” he says. “We’re devalued because of same-sex relationships now, and that’s not how it used to be.” Generations of ingrained homophobia and sexism have led to high rates of assault, depression, and suicide among two-spirit youth. They often leave reservations to seek refuge in cities, though cities don’t ensure safety. “I know of two-spirit people who end up homeless in cities because they had to leave the incredible bullying in their home communities,” Walters says. Rose, who spent his youth traveling
In traditional communities, ‘gay’ wasn’t even a category. Quite often there were third gender statuses, sometimes up to seven. These relationships weren’t homosexual, they were heterogendered.
his home in Saskatoon. Purser met her girlfriend in Seattle, where she now lives. Coya White Hat-Artichoker, a member of the First Nations Two Spirit Collective and the Lakota tribe in South Dakota, didn’t meet a queer Lakota man until she visited the Stonewall Inn. After being forced to recant so much of their heritage, many Native Americans seem poised to reclaim their two-spirit brothers and sisters. “Two spirit was very much an urban term,” says Dr. Alex Wilson, a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. “But it has spread to small communities and reservations, which I think is fabulous.” In many cases, queer native people are reclaiming their roles as mediators— Walters notes a disproportionate amount of two spirits working as counselors, community liaisons, and activists. Rose documents his experience as a queer indigenous person on his blog, Urban Pionqueer, where he shares his story with anyone who will listen. “Talking about who you are helps you become stronger,” he says. This resurgence reclaims traditional values, but also recognizes that, more than five centuries since colonization, there is no room in the Native American community for discrimination. More than a gay rights victory, the Suquamish decision sends a strong message that everyone deserves recognition. Purser trusted that when she put her petition to a vote. “We’re a community that supports its own,” she says. “I knew that people would have my back.”
It’s very dear to me, the issue of gay marriage. Or as I like to call it: “marriage.” You know, because I had lunch this afternoon, not gay lunch. I parked my car; I didn’t gay park it.
LGBT righ not specia they are h rights.
On Our Si I only do it when I’m in a hotel room and there’s a Bible in the drawer next to the bed. I don’t want those nasty, homophobic sentences lying within 12 inches of my head. I’m the sort of person who doesn’t write in ink. I only write in pencil so it can be rubbed out. I never turn down the corner of a book. I respect books, but what I don’t respect is that particular little verse. It’s not the whole of the book.
—SIR IAN MCKELLEN, on why he tears out Leviticus 18:22
Why is there Why? He’s a dancing. End
—CHRIS COLFER, on on
hts are al rights; human
SIDENT BARACK OBAMA
29 I live the gay lifestyle, the gay lifestyle that is often mentioned by some Republican candidates for president. For those who are unfamiliar with the lifestyle, this is a typical day: 7:00 a.m.
ide controversy? star. He’s of story.
n Chaz Bono appearing n Dancing with the Stars
I wake up, and just as I have done every morning since puberty, I choose to be gay today. This will come as a great relief to my gay, homosexual, male lover who lies beside me. Because being gay is a choice, our relationship is a gamble day to day. Even though we have both chosen to remain gay and to be together every day for the past 16 years, we never take anything for granted. One of us just might throw in the towel one day and give up the lifestyle. 7:30 a.m. I take a gay shower and let the gay water rinse off my gay body. 8:00 a.m. I have a gay breakfast of cereal with milk, and a good, strong, gay cup of coffee. I am fortified for another day of ruining the fabric of American society…. 6:00 p.m. My gay, homosexual, male lover returns home from his job. Luckily, he has chosen to be gay today, too, so we can sit down and have a nice, relaxing gay dinner together. We are aware that our relationship is ripping at the seams of our heterosexual neighbors’ marriages, but we choose to ignore this. If we were normal people, the guilt might weigh on us heavily, but we are gay, after all, so we do not have consciences. We eat in peace…. 11:00 p.m. My gay, homosexual, male lover and I collapse from the weariness of the gay lifestyle we have been living today. All of this subversive loving, volunteering, working, eating, playing and socializing is exhausting. Some say the gay lifestyle is self-enslavement, but we just cannot think about that now. Before we fall asleep, we each take out our personal, leather-bound copies of The Gay Agenda. The Gay Agenda is our Bible. We do not look at the real Bible because we are gay and therefore have no religion or morality. We read and strategize how we can best destroy American society tomorrow. Sharing a good, hardy, gay laugh, we each fall into a sound, gay sleep.
—DOMENICK SCUDERA, for the Huffington Post
1> There should be a big Fag Hag Shuttle from every gay bar at 1:15 a.m. That’s when the dick
clock strikes and girls become invisible. It doesn’t matter if you’re Judy Garland back from the dead.
2> If I’m not paying you, don’t tell me what to
5> I like the term fag hag. Even though you’re
taking two derogatory things and smashing them together, it works. It’s real.
Never say pussy 3> smells like fish, because balls can smell like burritos—and I’d 4> There’s no such have fish than thing as too much rather gay bedroom talk. Mexican. 7> You’ve given me the best advice on blow jobs. 8> do with my hair. A gay friend once talked me into a spiral perm—in 2003!
Don’t claim you like shopping, then get pissed and just sit in the ‘man chair.’ Good gay shopping partners text-message while I shop happily.
My sense of personal history is Madonnacentric: The start of my stand-up career? That was during Blond Ambition. First breakup? When the Sex book came out. Her ‘Frozen’ period? That was when I was all about yoga and wearing lots of oils.
9> I don’t expect you to pay for dinner, but you’d
better take me someplace where I can spot the fancy, top-shelf, boldface gays—the ones you link to from your blog.
10> Forgive yourselves about your bodies already.
If you can’t, then shut up about it.
Gay guys should really check out the Discovery Channel reality show Deadliest Catch. It’s deep-sea fishermen, the butchest of the butch. The guys are so straight that it’s really like porn.
Can I Be Blunt? co with two of our fav fag hags on ass-sh bad advice and wh you’ve given too m information (hint: Margaret Cho
Fag hag and fruit fly are perfectly acceptable terms. Especially for Katie Holmes.
2> A word gay men use that drives me nuts: retail. 3> Here’s a gay obsession I’ll never understand: fisting. Do you know how hard it is to clean shit off a charm bracelet?
4> One thing I love that you’ll never understand? A second date.
5> I never fall in love with my gay pals because I only befriend ugly queens.
6> Gay men aren’t always on the mark about fashion. Never again will I attend an Iranian cocktail party wearing a fishnet burkha.
7> Don’t abandon me for a hookup. If you do, I will text message your trick and say, ‘Don’t fuck my friend. He’s got herpes.’ 8>
Don’t think I won’t cock-block you. I get in between more gay men than Astroglide.
9> Honesty is like Botox. There’s no such thing as too much.
ontinues vorite having, hen much never).
10> If you’re going to wear ass-less chaps, then shave your ass. How many more times do I have to say this to the lesbian community?