heteronormativity and queer burlesque


I had a really enlightening talk with a friend of mine last night. She was telling me how much she loves my Queerlesque! shows but that she has noticed there is a privileging on stage of depictions of straight relationships. She wanted to see more lesbian and other queer relationships. 

This totally blew me away. 

I started out doing drag and was always frustrated by that, that I was performing a queer art but replicating straight relationships. So I often played gay male characters, even though I don’t really know anything about their culture other than what I see and hear from friends. I’ve played bears, leather daddies, twinkies, gym bunnies… all so I could continue to be in drag and play with masculinity in all different kinds of forms but still in an explicitly queer depiction and framework. 

I posted earlier about why I started Queerlesque! but basically I saw performers wanting a safe stage to be openly queer in whatever way that meant to them as well as a safe space for audience members. 

I spent a long time and a lot of energy working to convince non-femme or non-female-identified performers that they were very welcome on stage, that everyone would find them sexy when they stripped. But nearly all of them felt more comfortable doing it in drag. I never asked why, because I do burlesque in drag sometimes (and sometimes not). So, to me, though some acts appeared heteronormative, just the very act of having an openly explicitly queer body naked on stage was a queer revolution to me.

I’m not sure how to balance this. Burlesque is often solo performance and to me giving a safe stage to people who identify in some way as queer and celebrating their bodies without anything other than some sexy stripping is a defiant act. But it wouldn’t explicitly depict a queer relationship. I (and hopefully the audience) just know that the performers on stage are there because they really want to be there, they want to be performing queer burlesque for a queer audience.

I thought about one of my friends who I think of as “straight queer,” an ally who identifies with queer politics. She always performs in my shows and at the last one, where she performed her first draglesque act, she said to me, “Thank you for allowing me into this space.” It touched me, because I’ve always thought she belonged, she’s performed with me many times before, but her recognition of the importance of emphasizing queer bodies on stage was really moving (and exactly why she is in my shows!).  

Returning to the butch or stud or in some way masculine women, transmasculine performers and genderqueer performers that I worked so hard to get on stage— should I really encourage or persuade them not be in drag when that is what makes them feel sexy and safe on stage? (I would never do that). And sometimes they, just like I did when I was performing drag, will do acts where they portray gay men (stripping!). 

This all comes down to a simply-stated but not simply-understood— what is queer? How do we identify it not just in people (that’s really about self-identification) but in events and performances and actions? 

I don’t have any answers. I didn’t have any for my friend. But if anyone has any thoughts, please drop them in my ask box. 

The ultimate irony of gay liberation is that it has made it possible for straight people to create more fluid gender, sexual, and social identities, while mainstream gay people salivate over state-sanctionared Tiffany wedding bands and paticipatory patriarchy. If gay assimilationists wanted actual progress, they’d start by fighting for the abolition of marriage (duh), and universal access to the services that marriage can sometimes help procure: housing, healthcare, citizenship, tax breaks, and inheritance rights.

That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation (via queerfatfemme)

(via queerfatfemme)

It makes me really fucking sad:



  • that just because I am dating a man, certain people no longer consider me to be part of the queer community.
  • that even after I say “no, I still identify as queer,” that people look at me and go… “yeah, whatever, you’re bisexual.”
  • when people say shit like “you missed the dick, didn’t you?”
  • when people I respect and care “joke” about my sexuality.
  • that it took me so long to come out, and people are just shoving me right back into this little box with labels and explanations to make themselves feel better about it.

But most of all, it really devastates me that my boyfriend tells me that it would be okay if I outed him so that people could “understand.” I shouldn’t fucking have to invalidate his gender as a way to validate my queerness. It makes me fucking ANGRY that this has to even be an issue, and that he would be willing to do such a thing for me cause it makes him sad to see me cry over people’s ignorant comments.

My name is Yash, I’m dating a very sweet man, and I’m the biggest fucking queer you will ever meet.

All of this.  This queer femme says ‘thank you’ to the OP.

I just had a Mefi conversation with a guy who’s very much gay but is married to a woman who he loves very much. His mum is similar - gay woman who married a guy and held it together for 23 years. And I’m strongly lesbian-leaning, but am in a long-term relationship with a guy by choice - he loves me, we trust and take care of each other, there’s a lot more going on in this relationship that isn’t worth tossing away for just mismatched genitals. We’re not doing this out of denial or repression. We just work our love in different ways. DEAL WITH IT.

[poetry] Lady Gentleman

I once met a lady
who was the example of a 
perfect gentleman

Dapper -
in her clothes
well-fitted waistcoasts on
button-down white shirts
cufflinks on sleeves touching on
slacks a day off a fresh press
shoes well-worn but sturdy
topped off with a fedora
on hair waiting to be tousled

Dapper -
in her manners
pulling out a chair for you
well-honed cooking skills making
meals handed straight to you
asks about you and takes concern
"may I help you?"
soft-spoken courteous gentle
yes, like a gentleman
respectful and never
- you don’t see that
a great deal nowadays

For unlike those that fancy themselves
yet tacky with their sleaze
come-ing on to you too strong
too cock-sure
never mind if those sleazy cocks
were skin or silicone
the fedora is just a costume
the speech just acted lines
the drinks plentiful - in their head

unlike those faux poser copycats
She is truly a gentleman
full of respect for your independence
sincere with her generosity
all offers given without assumption of
any particular sort of reciprocity
just a love for chivalry
and concern for a fellow human being

Now normally I am egalitarian
can’t see me being bothered to
"dress up" or "get made up" for anyone else
Mother always tells me to be
"more like a lady"
"more sophisticated"
- meh
I can’t be bothered
not even a male companion can stir me
into gender-role complicity 

But there’s something about the Lady Gentleman
that makes me want to
put on a summer dress
clip a flower to my hair
pretty up my eyes with sparkle
so that I can be her Lady
linked arm in arm
sitting neatly cross-legged on the chair
she pulled out for me
daintily sipping tea and taking bites
out of fresh home-baked brownies
listening intently to her
listening intently to me

so charmed by her
that I would happily let her
unclip the flower in my hair
to make a corsage in her waistcoat
that I would promptly undo
while putting on her fedora
letting her gently kiss my ears and neck
while my fingers work those buttons down
right to the cufflinks

- and sometimes I’d like to be the Gentleman too
so that I could make my Lady a cup of tea
and a home-baked brownie
(ingredients adjusted for her sensitivities)
sincerely admire the flowers on her dress
show her respectful polite company
whether she is linked to my arms
or has her fingers down my waistcoat
while wearing my fedora

My encounter with the Lady Gentleman
sweet but far too short
yet certainly sparked smoulders of desire
- desire for another Lady Gentleman for me
or to be the Gentleman to another Lady 

[poetry] i would like to treat someone like a princess

wait, that’s not a good word
not privileged to be locked up in a cage where you have to conform
make sure everyone knows that you are the king’s daughter
never make a misstep
never go out of line
never do anything that could cast a shadow on anyone that knows you
always be perfect
hold your head high
so that glittering tiara stays on your head
it’ll fall off if you try to dance

i would like to treat someone like a queen
wait, that’s not a good word either
sure it can mean taking on power
absolutely fabulous
bright light energy here i am don’t you deny me
but it comes with the flip side of
i do this because you won’t let me
you cheer me when i am in complete character mode
but ignore me when the wigs come down and the makeup melts off
when i am nothing but a dirty queer in your eyes
you only see my light when it is an artificial dazzle
otherwise i am nothing to you

no, i want to treat someone with the light they have within
the tiara on their head even if they’re rolling in the mud
LOUD AND PROUD even when they are quiet and unencumbered
by costume character compromise chains of convention

i want to treat you, my beautiful dirty queer
as who you are, but who you may not have been allowed to be
savour the salt of your skin as i kiss each patch of semi-shaven hair
curl up against irrational curves and blunt bruises
tentative fingers softly brushing along a body of memories
lines and dots and shadows holding a story of
dreams come true or
disappointments unforgiven

i want to treat you as sacred and profane
drink you in your holy spirit
as you dive down down down into animal power
raw red passion purple dark black ecstatic white
devour you as you devour me with soul
hungry hands pulling your heart screaming
relaxed but also tensed up as someone finally gives you
the key to the release valve

let it all out
while we let each other in

i want to treat you better than royalty
better than superstar
better than anything

i want to treat you like you
best way i know how