1127 s. 51st, street West Philadelphia, Pa. 19143
It was late night, at one point of the gathering, when someone looked over to me and asked “so Mike, is Queeruption going to be in your next Slug and Lettuce column”...well... I guess it is.
Returning to Philadelphia after being in Europe always gives me mixed feelings. While it is nice to sleep in my bed again, and to see the lovely faces of my friends and my roommates Corina and Andy - the oppressive feeling of America starting with the goons at customs, to reading the headlines in The Philadelphia Inquirer, is apparent. It is when returning to the States that my partner Wilder says, “Maybe we should think about trying to emigrate to Holland”. Awww, but West Philly is my home...so I just value my little escapes. Overall, being back in Europe was a blast. We went to some good shows with BALLAST, got to spend some time with the great folx at the Punk Rock Inn in Amsterdam before they were evicted for good (RIP). Revisited my Euro home-away-from-home, The Jonrue house in Liege, where I spent time with the lovable Aussie wanker Philthy Phil. Saw Sin in Barcelona and spent a good 3 weeks there...as Barcelona is hands down one of the most amazing cities in the world. (Once again I walked down the Ramplas, imagining it in 1936, when the civil war began and the Anarchist seized control of the city). But the one event I really want to talk about from my trip is Queeruption.
At the time I joked that Queeruption felt like some kind of summer camp for queers of all ages, and in retrospect it really did. It was held in a squatted factory on the outskirts of Barcelona. Working together, eating together, having workshops and discussions together, and at night “making big party” together - all of this built a sense of cohesion among us. Queeruption was specifically set up where everyone was invited (and expected) to be part of the gathering. This wasn’t a gathering that was set up by some, and consumed by others - instead we all worked on the project together - taking turns with food preparation, security, clean-up, entertainment, and workshops. Decisions were made by consensus and the feeling of “we are all in this together” was amazing. I had so many good discussions, so many laughs, drank so much wine, danced to a lot of Techno, punk, and Metal, and had so many kisses that it is hard to describe the intenseness of the experience. Lately I have been finding myself starting to gravitate to queer events and identifying more with the culture. This is a culture I feel comfortable with, and I found many of my thoughts on it mirrored in a pamphlet given to me by a person named Neil.
This Pamphlet is called: Queers Bash Back - Principles of Engagement: The Anarchist Influence on Queer Youth Culture and it is simply amazing. Neil originally wrote this as a chapter for an anthology textbook on Queer Youth Culture, but is also printing his text for mass readership. In this pamphlet he does an overview of how segments of the Queer youth culture are breaking away from the assimilationist politics of mainstream gay organizations, and finding strong ideological allies within the modern Anarchist counter-culture. Neil really shows these ideological and social connections between the modern Anarchist and Queer movements, showing how they aren’t just complementary, but are (and should be) interwoven together. Both movements have a focus on deconstruction of the hierarchical status quo, by the creation of a new models of living. The anti-capitalistic mentality is predominant in both counter-cultures, and the autonomous attitude of anarchists is closely related to rejection of social constructs, which is a basis of queer consciousness. Neil uses examples from Asheville, showing the strong radical movement in the town, and the melding of youth who identified as both Anarchists and queer and the fluid exchange between the groups. (Neil- firstname.lastname@example.org)
I find many personal acts revolutionary, especially when deconstructing our everyday life. Sometimes I find so many social Anarchists downplay the importance of a “revolution of everyday life” where we question everything that has been taught us. It is important to rebuild our own identities, of the people that we want to be, as much as we work on the world around us. The queer movement has a lot to offer all radicals, even those who identify with a hetero sexuality. Really, all people should re-examine what they believe about gender and sexuality, because mainstream society has historically silenced dissent from the norm in many areas of life. Our lives should be our own, and not be shaped and decided by economic, political, or social structures that have been forced upon us.
Lately I have been thinking about how I have been more vocal with the fact that I am a queer man. I believed this is an outcome of my hatred of homophobia, as homophobia had definite impacts on my own life, especially when I was younger. One of my personal goals is ensure that younger kids (12 to 14) don’t have to experience what I felt at that age. For those who were not around in the late 80’s, the punk scene definitely wasn’t as progressive as it is today. At that time bi-sexuality wasn’t as common a mainstream phenomenon as it is today, and homophobia was a very predominant force throughout the punk scene. I remember being attracted to both girls and boys, and in a way was really terrified with this. Because wanting to have sex with girls was all fine and expected, but wanting to have sex with boys was not. The label of fag was a dreaded repercussion, so I learned to avoid it. I had to bury my feelings, to repress desires for fear of social exclusion, which is not a way anyone should be forced to live. I have many dreams of a more utopian society, and one of those dreams is that kids wont have to go through the same inner conflicts that I did, when I was a kid entering puberty and my teenage years. I want to see a place where kids choose their own sexuality and gender instead of being forced into one. For me, a Queer revolution is one that allows people to built their own gender and sexual identities, instead of accepting the ones forced upon them. Where everything is open for exploration, discussion, and examination.
1) So someone (aka Sin) told the Queeruption event organizers about my little dance troupe in West Philly, and I got approached to do a show. I originally declined, saying that the rest of the dancers are back in the states and...fuck I am way to nervous to perform in from of so many people. Now dancing/stripping around your living room in front of your neighbors is one thing - but to hundreds of people at an international Queer gathering in Europe is a whole different thing. (Ok, to but this in perspective to you musicians out there - it was like your band going from playing in your basement to being the headlining band on pointless fest). But there were those who believed and with a little persuasion, and the enthusiasm of some others who were willing to dance, I realized we could do it, and do it well. When putting together a dance/strip show the most importance aspects (after the actual performers) are music and a routine, so Tobin from Denmark and I listened to bunch of metal until we came across IRON MADIAN’S “Number of the Beast”. Then we knew we were on to something. We, and the others in our international band of queer rockers, started planning and practicing. After a couple of days we were ready like a run away train and were scheduled to go on two minutes till midnight (fitting, eh?) on the night of the big sex party.
Of course, planning on a performance and actually doing it are two different animals - and an hour before we went on, panic set in. Some dancers were missing, and Macho the Canadian (who was playing the part of the Devil) was almost passing out - but the show must go on and at 2 minutes till midnight we took the stage. It was quite intimidating to walk on stage with 300 faces staring at you (especially when you are about to disrobe) but my natural ability to make a ham of myself kicked in. There I was, standing on stage, with the other performers crawling across it. Hot, it was, but Murphy’s Law (the theory, not the HC band) kicked in, and the music died, leaving us standing there like half naked deer in headlights. Typical. The sound people (aka Sin) told us to start again, which may have been the best thing to happen because when we reentered the stage the crowd really went wild. They had their taste and now they were ready to drink deep to the exciting concoction of Heavy Metal and scantily clad men. We were totally out of step, taking off this at the wrong time, making out at the wrong chorus, but it all seemed to work in the end. The screaming of the crowd was intense, and their joy, lust, and laughter filled the room. It was one small step for us, but one giant step for the world of Queer metal, which is all this one Queer Punx from the little village of West Philly, can hope to achieve on the international stage.
2) For the most part (being the Luddite I am) I have ignored most of the Internet world. I saw the Internet as a key force in alienation, as people give up face-to-face contact with the people around them to semi-imaginary interactions through computer screens. But last winter, mostly as a joke, my roommates and I set up Myspace accounts. I thought this was a sarcastic winter thing as we played on the computer in the living room - making sites about our house and sending jokes to our friends far away. But lately I have been realizing what a resource it can be - allowing writings to be spread without the use of paper. Ever since Bood said my columns resembled on-line journals (something I knew nothing pre-last winter) I have realized maybe there is a demand for my ramblings so I am posting some of my writing (including old S&L columns) on my Blog entries, so if anyone is interested feel free to check them out and make comments, to me or in general. I am under my legal name “Mike Straight”. But, beware as I am having too much fun being goofy and sarcastic on my site profile.
3) I would also like to thank everyone who came to “straightfest” (where hardly anything straight happened) - A two-day smorgasbord of Goth-dressed crusties, dancing, street parties, spin-the-bottles and naked clowns. The amazing Big Bang Circus came to town and did a show to remember. Everyone went wild in honor of my birthday (and for the sake of rockin’ out), and I did a bit of yellin’, laughin’, kissin’ and drinkin’ and I tell ya, it was some fun times. My last memory of the whole thing was Jasmine and I sitting in the morning light on our “sidewalk couch” finishing the last beer, talking about how much we love our respected partners who had passed out hours before. A good way to enter my 32nd year, no? Aww, Leben ist Gut!