Provocative pairings, from graphic books to the New York art world

Our recommendations for what’s up and what’s on, beginning May 6

Well, chickadees, spring has sprung and the birds and bees and flowers and trees are going at it in fine style (and with a little luck and a couple injections of science, we will be soon, too). While you’re starting your tomatoes and refinishing your patio furniture and deciding how you feel about this season’s inseam lengths, here are some exciting cultural delights—books, music, podcasts, events and more—to keep you hot, cool and sometimes really and thoroughly warmed, all here in our Queer Culture Catch-Up.

Dynamic comic duo: Lee Lai and Alison Bechdel

Cover of Lee Lai's book Stone Fruit
Lee Lai’s ‘Stone Fruit’ is a lovely contrast to Alison Bechdel’s new book.

Credit: Courtesy of Fantagraphics

This fortnight brings a one-two punch of brand new, very different and completely amazing graphic books—one gorgeous and difficult queerly-complex chosen family narrative fiction (Stone Fruit by Lee Lai) and one funny, thoughtful memoir told through… exercise (The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel). On the surface, they couldn’t be more different. Lai is a debut novelist and Bechdel is a legendary icon. Stone Fruit is a difficult and rewarding novel and The Secret to Superhuman Strength is a truly Bechdellian investigation of herself, her experiences and her memory. And yet, in a certain way they make a perfect pairing, bookending the ways that we as queer people try to understand our inner emotional lives when our benchmarks don’t match the larger world’s. 

That’s So Gay: Eleventeen/Rodney Diverlus

Venerable queer artistic installation That’s So Gay went virtual this year and in doing so has added quite a slate of interactive and performance artworks to its usual visual vibe. Stay tuned for the Pride-month reveal of this year’s visual component by curator Syrus Marcus Ware. In the meantime, revel in the monthly event series. This month’s is a durational, interactive performance by Haitian-Canadian “artivist” Rodney Diverlus that takes place Saturday, May 15, beginning at 6 p.m. EDT. Having seen Diverlus make many works over the years, I can confidently predict that this live, digital event will contain all the hallmarks of a Diverlus performance: The truth, the beauty and the revelations they bring.

Rufus Does Judy at Capitol Studios


If you’ve never seen Rufus Wainwright do his note-perfect, beat-for-beat rendition of Judy Garland’s Apr. 23, 1961, concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City, I am here to tell you it’s a treat—one of Wainwright’s most affecting performances. It may be a cliché to say that he’s channeling Garland as he performs, but there’s a way that Wainwright’s Judy-focused work is different from all the rest, simultaneously more grounded and more free. If you’ve never seen it, or if you’re extremely ready for a familiar pleasure right about now, the show streams Thursday, June 10 (Kristin Chenoweth is the guest star). Tickets for the show (and the fireside chat after, if you like) are available in an assortment of timezones.

Tu Me Manques

Oscar Martínez stars in Tu Me Manques
A father finds himself in unexpected places in ‘Tu Me Manques.’

Credit: Courtesy of Kantarr

Bolivian filmmaker Rodrigo Bellott’s Tu Me Manques, the official selection of Bolivia for the 2020 Oscars, debuted at San Diego’s Film Out festival last week and will be available on demand this week. And holy tadpoles, friends, it’s a wild ride. Love, sex, death, family, foregiveness, redemption and a few extremely nice backsides add up to a movie that’s hard to categorize (difficult topic! slapstick moments! gorgeous visuals! disjointed narrative!) but easy to love. Streamable on basically any platform, so also easy to get. Watch this one with your best ex.

TransTok sweetness: @geezahgobble and @mx.deran

There’s a whole gaybourhood of TikTok, of course, because we are a particularly delightful and creative people. Two creators in particular are really hitting that funny and tender point for me recently: Drag maestro @geezahgobble (a “geezer” in Brit English is a sexy man, FYI) plays as Gladys, the sweet-and-sassy administrative angel who greets you after death and gets you oriented to your new life in the Great Beyond. Non-binary love machine @mx.deran offers hilarious commentary and affirmations, including a series of POV Mom videos (the one when her kid comes out as non-binary left me snot-crying). 

Art, two ways: Keltie Ferris and Anthony Iacono

Belted figures in painting by Anthony Iacono by
‘Red Delicious,’ from Anthony Iacono’s new exhibition of painted collages.

Credit: Courtesy of Marinaro

Again, they couldn’t be more different (it’s a theme of the week!), and yet somehow it makes sense to tell you about queer, bold, fetishy Anthony Iacono’s new show, Beware of Pickpockets (complete with bondage collage), at New York gallery Marinaro, while also telling you about Keltie Ferris’ large abstractions in an exhibition entitled FEEEEELING at New York’s Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery. Honestly, I’m in a pandemic moment where I want both: Iacono’s cheekiness, which borders on cheesiness but never crosses over, and Ferris’ trans and truthful rendition of grappling with emotion that pulls the viewer in so deeply that the works sometimes seem unfairly truncated by the frame. 


I’ve recently been rereading We Came All The Way From Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?, a 1990s collection of queer Latinx love stories (broadly defined) by Cuban-American writer Achy Obejas. I remember buying it at Boston’s late, great Glad Day Bookshop (a spinoff of the still-in-business Toronto store of the same name), taken in by the title’s suggestion of a narrative about a young queer at odds with family about her gender presentation (see also: Me, in 1994). Then I fell into the lyrical, vigorous way Obejas writes about connection and community and the ways we do or don’t see each other, care for each other and believe in each other. 

That’s me for this time, beloved fruits and vegetables and rhizomes and seed pods (IT’S SPRING AND I AM A LITTLE EXCITED, CAN YOU TELL?). Stay kind, stay curious, stay present and alert to occasions of joy, and I will see you soon. As always, if you’re working on something new and exciting, let me know! Email or DM me on Twitter with your news.

Correction: May 10, 2021 10:17 amAn earlier version of this story featured the wrong date for Rodney Diverlus’ Eleventeen performance.

S Bear Bergman

S. Bear Bergman is a writer, educator and advice columnist. His ninth book, Special Topics In Being A Human, was published by Arsenal Pulp Press in the fall of 2021.

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