“Cities have always been the refuge of gay people. At the end of the 1960s, a gay activist described San Francisco as a ‘refugee camp’ that had attracted gay people from all over the country — people who were running from the impossibility of living out gay lives in the hostile, hate-filled atmosphere of small-town America. …refugees who thereby helped to consolidate the reason for their coming: the existence of a ‘gay world’ that they joined and to which they brought the enthusiasm that characterizes new arrivals.”“Insult and the Making of the Gay Self” by Didier Eribon
I was at the Double T on Route 40 recently for my friend Jude Asher’s retirement party. On one side of the table sat myself and some other friends who know Jude from the Charm City Kitty Club, our queer theater collective. Across from us sat a bunch of Jude’s yoga students (all of whom were deeply committed to her, which was really cool to see… I’ve been meaning to check out one of her classes, lmk if you’d like to go together some time), whose orientations I didn’t know but whom I generally read as straight.
The Kitties and I got into one of those always funny conversations where you’re discussing oppression by the dominant group in front of (presumed) members of the dominant group. Specifically, we were talking about our experiences as kids — River, who grew up on the Eastern Shore, had to explain the term “smear the queer” to our tablemates — and I was reminded of the Eribon passage above when we all agreed that moving to the city as soon as we could had been the obvious step into adulthood.
There are a lot of reasons for GSM (gender and sexual minorities, h/t to the GLCCB for re-introducing me to this snappier acronym) to want to move to the heart of urbanity at the soonest opportunity… relative anonymity, dating prospects… but at its core, I think the concept of safety in numbers drives many of us. We know that we will be stronger together, able to walk at night in force rather than one by one, able to take each other in and help each other out as needed, in a world full of people that want us dead.
In nature, safety in numbers is accomplished in one of two ways (for the record, I’m not an animal behaviorist, I’m talking out my ass, but roll with me). There’s the herd model, in which members stick close together so that only those on the margins get taken. Then there’s the pack model, in which the members that can fight form a force to fend off attackers altogether. The question for the GSM community, here and elsewhere, has long been — are we a herd or are we a pack?
Respectability politics derives from a herd mentality. If our validity comes from conforming as much as possible — we’re just like you, with one small difference! — then those who won’t or can’t conform to the ever-shifting (and largely illusory) “acceptable” standard remain targets. Obviously this is hardly safety at all, just a way to delay the day on which you happen to be the slowest. Many fall into this destructive mindset reflexively. Rise above it.
Then there are the bigots — racists, transphobes, and others who lurk in our communities. They tend to have a pack mentality, but they have defined their packmates as a much smaller subset of those around them, and they have a predatory, rather than a defensive, mindset, seeking to drive out or actively destroy those whom they see as intruders. I won’t bother explaining why this isn’t acceptable.
I found my pack, my litter, my pride, in the Charm City Kitty Club about a decade ago now. On a broader level, I see so many of you as my people, but these are my PEOPLE, y’knowhatImean? To quote again from Eribon, “Gay as well as lesbian sociability is founded on a practice, even a ‘politics’ of friendship.” To quote myself in Baltimore magazine (https://www.facebook.com/charmcitykittyclub/posts/10156388589315687), “After a while of supporting each other, you become a family.”
Man, that Baltimore mag thing is a trip! I appreciate them doing the piece, to be clear. They did a solid job, got good quotes from Rahne Alexander about our 17-year history and from Unique Mical Robinson about our show at the end of the month in which she’s appearing. The photographer (www.frankhamiltonphoto.com/) was a really fun guy and I love the shots he got (mega thanks to Chris Jay and the Baltimore Eagle Night Club and Bar for hosting the shoot!)
On the other hand… well, ok, so they have a circulation of 50,000, which is amazing, but the average net worth of their readership is over $1.2M (dang, srsly? page 3: https://www.baltimoremagazine.com/assets/pdf/17MediaKit_AllInOne_email_norates_071217.pdf) and that’s not exactly where most of the radical artist/activist types who make up our core demographic are to be found. In the end, like I said to a friend: “If three people come because of it, we will welcome them with open arms, and it’ll have been very worth doing Baltimore Magazine for those three people.”
That said, hey, come out to our next show, “Claws Up, Walls Down”, on June 28th and 29th (https://www.facebook.com/events/268322887416917)!! Is it good? My friend, if you are EVER bored, it’s because you’re not hanging with us. Seriously, the level of GSM cultural creativity in this town/region/world is through the damn roof. The collective has put on 45 shows so far, and we’ve NEVER lacked for the most talented, fun, and wild singers, comedians, dancers, poets, queens and kings, performance artists, and assorted astounding uncategorizables, even though we usually feature different people every time.
The format is a cabaret/variety show. We put up queer women and trans artists in a range of disciplines, and do skits between their sets around a theme. Sometimes the theme is pure silliness (“Queerassic Park”), often it’s got a more serious edge, as this one will. “Walls” is a rich topic to explore when it comes to the nation, Baltimore, and GSM history.
The shows happen to fall exactly on the fiftieth anniversary of the nights of the Stonewall uprising. In one skit, we’ll travel back to 1969 and talk to the folks at Stonewall about where we’re at now thanks to their efforts. On the one hand, life has improved for so many! On the other hand, what will be the reaction of the members of this uprising against police brutality led by trans women to hearing that, at Baltimore’s parade in celebration of them last year, trans exclusionists bearing signs saying “Dykes don’t like dick” and similarly bigoted slogans jumped out in front with the Mayor and marched the whole way, shielded by a heavy police contingent?
Can we agree that that’s not going to happen this year?? No given individual dyke needs to like dick in the least, but some dykes HAVE dicks and some other dykes like them a lot. Marching in a Pride Parade with the aim of tearing down and erasing trans women is the worst sort of betrayal, not just of the historical event of Stonewall, but of the people who are both most in need of the solidarity of the pack AND who tend to make up its fiercest fighters and most inspiring voices, both on our behalf and for others (it’s no coincidence that GSM people make up a lot of the support on other justice issues — most of us have realized by now that an attack on one is an attack on all).
If you see a homophobe at Pride (or anywhere), you kick them out. If you see a transphobe at Pride (or anywhere), you kick them out. Got it? Good. Let’s have each other’s backs! Happy Pride, my beloved GSM Baltimore!!
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Next week, I’m hoping to finally dive into the story of Keith Davis Jr. The column should go up on/around the one month mark before his next trial, which is on Friday, July 12th. For now, I’ll just ask that you come with me if you can (https://m.facebook.com/events/281353249417978/) (carpool, anyone? I know the relatively affordable downtown parking spots) (alternately, bike group?) and that either way you tell others. It can make an immense difference to have eyes on the process.
A man’s life is on the line. He is being lynched before our eyes. Will we let them do it? Or is he too in our broader pack, in the circle of people who deserve our protection and support? If the phrase “One Baltimore” means anything, then he is and he must be. We can’t just let this happen to him.
Cultural event of the week: Pride, duh!! Whether you’re after the official itinerary (http://baltimorepride.org/pride2019/), the alternative dance party (https://www.facebook.com/events/338313986877718/), or a few bucks (the Eagle is looking for bartenders and barbacks to work pride, email firstname.lastname@example.org), it’s going down around town this coming weekend, the 15th-16th.
Green event of the week: This Sunday morning, 6/9, is Tour Dem Parks, Hon!, a great bike tour fundraiser. They’ve got short, medium, and long versions of the ride with refreshment/repair stations along the route, and you get to see some of the loveliest spots in the loveliest parks in the city. What’s not to love? Plus grilling and jazz after!
Song of the week: “Heterosexuality is a construct” by Onsind
I’m not a heterosexual man / I’m not ticking your boxes, that’s not who I am / I don’t fit into your neat little plan / And I never will / Love is not a crime / And I’d rather color outside of the lines / Love knows no gender, and it’s about time / You nailed your colors up next to mine