Below is a list of all the terms queer-gender-related. If you think a term is missing, or if we’ve defined something incorrectly, let us know and we’ll get on it ASAP!
Want to see and be a part of how our city is queering gender?! Here’s what’s going on locally in Vancouver! Check it out!
Man Up is an event held at the Cobalt in East Vancouver, which is held monthly and consists of a, “queer variety show and drag king celebration”.³ This show includes incredible performances from members of Vancouver’s gender performance community, as well as thriving d.j’s who spin amazing beats to create a fun and lively environment. Some of these talented performers, such as Ponyboy, Boi Job, and BJ Babeslayer, can be viewed at http://manupvancouver.com/the-performers for a brief bio, as well as pictures! It was, “Originally conceptualized four years ago by Sammy Tomato (Sena Hussain) of the troupe Drag Kings United and Majik (Chanti Laporte), Man Up appeared in one of Vancouver’s popular queer nightclubs, Lick,” and proceeded to become increasingly popular and successful leading to its current location at the Cobalt, and its future involvement in Pride in Portland, Oregon.¹ This event allows for the questioning of gender as a performance and queries gender and its associated conceptions which many people may hold.
Copyright: 2013 lindsayelliott.com
Copyright: 2013 lindsayelliott.com
Additional photographs and information about events can be found at https://www.facebook.com/manupvancouver
In addition to this event, Apocalypstick is an event which is also held at the Cobalt. This event occurs on long weekends, and consists of performances by drag queens. This event also consistently has a large and diverse audience, who seem eager to watch and support the performers. It was originally founded by Brandon Gaukel and Dave Deveau.4 Two of the performers Cameron Mackenzie and Kaylum Thornbury are key members and are highly involved in the drag scene. Cameron, who was active in the move of Apocalypstick to East Vancouver says his motivation for this event was, “ to create a variety show, like the old Judy Garland show, but with drag queens,”.4 Cameron states that he “didn’t want to create just another drag show; I wanted to create variance.”4 Cameron and Thornbury both emphasize the difference of drag between East Vancouver and the west end, in which the scene in East Vancouver seems to allow for more freedom and may be a bit more open, according to Thornbury.4 This allows for the show to question gender and gender as a performance, as does Man Up. Overall their show seems to have taken off and is continuously successful.
More information can be found on their page on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Apocalypstick-East-Vans-Drag-Show/12671006.
These events query the existence and representation of gender, and as Ponyboy, one of the leading performers of Man Up states, “Gender itself is a performance. The show is a performance of gender,” (Ponyboy, as quoted by Hallam)¹. This show challenges preconceived notions of gender and the gender constructs associated with these notions. These performers present themselves in ways that create a disruption in the ways in which gender is often viewed, leading to an enhancement of experiencing these shows. Some of the performers have stated that these shows and dressing in drag allows them to feel a sense of empowerment, which may be one of the many reasons for their participation. These events are extremely inclusive of all individuals and create an environment with a community feel where anyone is welcome!
¹ Hallam, Tara. “Vancouver’s drag king showcase Man Up gets its groove on” Straight.com Vancouver Free Press. 2013. Web. Sat, Apr.6, 2013.
² “King for a Night (Inside Vancouver’s Drag King Scene”. Youtube. SennaFilms. N.p. Feb. 8, 2011. Apr. 6, 2013.
³ Man Up. N.p. n.d. Web. Sat, Apr 6, 2013
4Shanti, Ghassan. “The Queen of East Van”. Xtra Canada’s Gay and Lesbian News. Pink Triangle Press. Dec. 15, 2011. Apr. 6, 2013.
Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon have both made a mark in Canada’s queer communities over the past decade in their own unique ways. Coyote has secured her place as a master storyteller, having produced an impressive volume of work that can be defined as “good old-fashioned kitchen table stories,” which ultimately serve as powerful narratives about everyday truths. Spoon, who just released their first collection of written stories, First Spring Grass Fire, has toured extensively throughout Canada and the world over the past decade, carving out a place as a talented songwriter who tackles subjects ranging from grief and loss, to their interactions with colonialism.
What could be considered both artists most significant contributions, however, is the way in which they engage with issues of gender and queerness through their creative work. With Coyote and Spoon’s most recent collaborative project, Gender Failure, the two Canadian artists bring together their writing, music, as well as the visual presentation of artist Clyde Peterson, to explore this side of their work and lives. Described as “an exploration and expose of their failed attempts at fitting into the gender binary, and ultimately, how the gender binary fails us all,” Gender Failure is an opportunity to see and hear how the artists negotiate gender and its limitations. The show includes commentary on subjects ranging from the frustrations of pronoun use and the difficulties of chest binding, to the exasperation and anger experienced when interacting with the medical establishment. And while each story and song shared by the two artists is highly personal and unique, they also possess many relatable, universal truths about lives lived outside the established norm.
“People have often treated my gender like there’s this truth behind it, and I’m not telling it, and they sort of re-roll the magic eight ball over and over when they keep getting answers that don’t measure up. And they want to know what genitals I have, and what sex I was assigned at birth, and what my name used to be, and…they want the truth. But the truth is, in all of the explaining why I was a man, I lost the plot. One day, when I was asking to be called ‘he,’ I realized I didn’t really even think I was a man anymore, because the absurdity of the struggle to be accepted had made gender feel more like a comedy than a fact. So I decided to retire from the gender binary altogether, and change my pronoun to the gender neutral ‘they.’” (Rae Spoon)
“I am a gender failure. You are free to call me trans, and I am proud to lift this name up and hold it right there in the sun, and you would not be wrong. But it still feels like I’m borrowing this word from someone else, but it’s not all the way mine, but my friend who lent it to me might need it back, or they might need it more than me, and really, these are all just words, and words are always imperfect, and words are just sounds we make with our mouths that point our minds to think of things that cannot be fully described in words anyway. I am a writer, so I know exactly where words fail us. And I know, that a name is not a person, it is just what we have agreed to call them.” (Ivan Coyote)
Gender Failure is currently on tour, and performance dates can be found here.
And you can watch a clip from the final act of Gender Failure below.
“Gender Failure,” British Film Institute (April 2013): https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/llgff/Online/gender-failure
“Biography,” Rae Spoon (April 2013): http://www.raespoon.com/?page_id=12
“Bio,” Ivan Coyote (April 2013): http://www.ivanecoyote.com/page/6/bio
BUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls is a photo-based public art exhibition being displayed in transit shelters throughout Vancouver from March 11 2013 onwards. A gallery of the exhibition will also be on display at The Cultch from April 9 – 25 2013, with an Art Party on April 10 from 6-8pm!
The exhibition is an exploration of female masculinity in contemporary communities. The images celebrate and honour the beauty and power of those who transgress the gender binary. S.D. Holman conceptualizes Butch, “not as oppositional too Femme and Trans identities, but as an inclusive site of resistance to limitations on the way women, gender and sexuality are still defined” (sdholman.com).
The images aim to provide an alternative representation of what it means to be female outside the culture’s narrow vision of femininity. The images serve as a mirror to those who are not represented in mainstream ideas about what it means to be a woman. They also aim to to reach an audience that has little to no exposure to or understanding of Butch identities. Holman states that she wanted to show straight society, in particular, that women exist outside the normative version of femininity that is generally represented (xtra.ca).
Holman also pushes beyond simple representation, aiming to contribute to a more diverse understanding of Butch identities, with subjects reflecting a wide range of Butch styles from diverse backgrounds. It is noteworthy that she approaches the work from the perspective of gender, rather than a coherent subject position. In doing so, she blurs the boundaries between Butch, Femme and Trans identities and diversifies our understanding of “butchness”. Rather than see Butch as simply a “lesbian with masculine characteristics,” she understands Butch as reflective of gender transgression more generally and as an inclusive site of resistance to dominant feminine norms. In strategically placing the images in the public sphere, she thereby complicates the dominant image of femininity in mainstream communities and encourages reflection on what it means to be female in this society.
Though Holman wishes to represent Butch identities, she nevertheless understands “Butchness” as an inherently fraught concept. “I don’t believe in the objective. We always bring something to it. We bring whatever our preconceived notions are. I don’t believe in the perfect moment. I believe we’re a bunch of messy, imperfect moments,” says Holman (xtra.com). Her work contributes to a growing body of queer and trans theory in which “categories like ‘woman,’ ‘man,’ ‘butch,’ ‘lesbian’ and ‘transsexual’ are all imperfect, historical, temporary, and arbitrary” (Rubin, 2006, p.479).
Historically, “butch” and “femme” have been presupposed as existing in a fixed relationship to each other, with “butch” representing the hypermasculine, active role and “femme” being their hyperfeminine counterpart (Rubin, 2006). As Rubin states, within this system, “gender role, sexual orientation, and erotic behaviour” were defined always in relation to each other (p.475). However, it is increasingly recognized that virtually every conceivable combination of gender and desire exists in Butch sexualities (Rubin, p.475). There are Butches who prefer their partners to control and direct sexual behaviour, Butches who desire other Butches, Butches who are tops, bottoms, FTM transsexual Butches who prefer femmes and those who prefer other Butches.
The Butch aesthetic is also infinitely variable, “historical, temporary and arbitrary” (Rubin, p.479. As Rubin delineates, Butch identity is “semiotically related to a long line of images of young, rebellious, sexy, white, working-class masculinity” and she is “usually accompanied by a half-dressed, ultrafeminine creature who is artfully draped on her boots, her bike, or one of her muscular, tattooed forearms” (p.473). However, this conveys a limited and stereotypical picture of an actually much more diverse community. Butches vary in their expressions of masculinity, the way they present themselves, and the way they relate to their female bodies (Rubin, p.474). Some prefer masculine appearance, style, and clothing, while others may remain relatively unmarked or more intermediate in their gender identities (Rubin, p.472). Some might enjoy their breasts while others choose to pass as men or even desire to alter their bodies.
It is important that Holman situates her work as a critique of binaristic conceptualizations of gender. As such, she conceptualizes the boundaries between Butch and Trans identities as permeable. Within the lesbian community, many lesbians have conceived of this permeability as a threat to lesbian gender categories and have treated FTMs as deserters (Rubin, p.476). In another act of policing gender boundaries, early lesbian-feminists denounced “butch-femme” identities, assuming that they were simply mirroring heteronormative roles (Rubin, p.479). These claims of moral and political superiority are increasingly being recognized as imposing new rigid limitations on gender roles (Rubin, p.479).
Although identity is undeniably a meaningful and formative part of our social lives, Holman’s work speaks to the way that all categories constrain our reality in particular ways. The following quote by Gayle Rubin (2006) serves as a reminder to be curious about the categories that we impose, rather than imposing new rigid rules for already marginalized populations.
“Our categories are important. We cannot organize a social life, a political movement, or our individual identities and desires without them. The fact that categories invariably leak and can never contain all the relevant “existing things” does not render them useless, only limited. Categories like ‘woman,’ ‘butch,’ ‘lesbian,’ or ‘transsexual’ are all imperfect, historical, temporary, and arbitrary. We use them, and they use us. We use them to construct meaningful lives, and they mold us into historically specific forms of personhood. Instead of fighting for immaculate classifications and impenetrable boundaries, let us strive to maintain a community that understands diversity as a gift, sees anomalies as precious, and treats all basic principles with a hefty dose of skepticism”.
Rubin, G. (2006). Of Catamites and Kings. The Transgender Studies Reader, 471.
Many documentary photographic projects that deal with trans issues exploit the genders of their subjects, pointing to an “otherness” or inappropriately exoticizing their bodies. A Series of Questions seeks instead to make visible the transphobia and gender-baiting that can become part of everyday interactions and lives, forming a fuller picture of the various lived experiences. In so doing, this work contrasts with the dehumanizing approaches that predominate the images made of transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and gender-variant people, which often focus solely on their gender or trans status, or use them to further a specific point about social construction and gender.
The subjects hold signs depicting questions that each has had posed to them personally— some by strangers, others by loved ones, friends, or colleagues. Presented on white wooden boards, the questions are turned on the viewer, shifting the dynamics under which they were originally asked, and prompting the viewer to cast a reflective, self-critical eye upon themself, revealing how invasive this frame of reference can be.
As a greater number of subjects and questions are accumulated, a relentless conversation of questioning emerges. Attention is directed not on the backgrounds of the transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, or gender-variant subjects, but on the dynamics at work in these conversations. I am interested in uncovering the typology of these questions, discovering what categories of questions emerge as the script of power dynamics and interrogation is flipped.
A Series of Questions is, well, a series of questions in which the subjects of the photos are not the focus – the viewer is. A picture is worth a thousand words – each image can be the subject of a critical analytic essay in and of themselves (see here for a discussion on the above photo).
Many are supremely invasive.
Akin to Kate Bornstein’s piece Gender Terror, Gender Rage¹, A Series of Questions speaks not from a personal trans perspective, but rather serves as a mirror to point out all the gender defending that is pervasive and invisible in our society.
Each photo deals with an individual issue that many trans scholars have written on before. David Valentine’s I Went to Bed With My Own Kind Once² is a piece that discusses the conflation of orientation and gender, and the clear lines society draws between everything with no room for black and white.
Of Catamites and Kings: Reflections on Butch, Gender, and Boundaries by Gayle Rubin³ is a good read that discusses the issues implied in the photo below:
The project has been on-going since 2008 and the artist is still searching for participants. See more details about it here.
¹ Bornstein, Kate. Gender Terror, Gender Rage. In S. Stryker & S. Whittle (Eds.) The Transgender Studies Reader, Taylor and Francis Group, New York, 2006, p. 236-243.
² Valentine, David. I Went to Bed With My Own Kind Once. In S. Stryker & S. Whittle (Eds.) The Transgender Studies Reader, Taylor and Francis Group, New York, 2006, p. 407-419.
³ Rubin, Gayle. Of Catamites and Kings: Reflections on Butch, Gender, and Boundaries. In S. Stryker & S. Whittle (Eds.) The Transgender Studies Reader, Taylor and Francis Group, New York, 2006, p. 471-481.