Man Up and Apocalypstick

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            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.


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Copyright: 2013 lindsayelliott.com

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Copyright: 2013 lindsayelliott.com

Additional photographs and information about events can be found at https://www.facebook.com/manupvancouver

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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.

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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.



Gender Failure


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