Celebrate Pride with ‘The Annie Sprinkle Project’ and theatre from Bilal Baig

Plus more of what’s up and on, starting June 23

It’s Priiiiide Month, friends and loved ones (a group that extends to all of you, with your consent—I’ve loved more than one stranger in my time)! We made it! Do threats abound all around us as anti-queer and anti-trans forces marshal support by telling terrible lies about us? Yes! Is now the moment to use the Pride season and events around it as opportunities to build friendships and coalitions with people whom we might not otherwise encounter? Absolutely! Are we going to fight bigotry in every form together, using our skills and access to uplift everyone, remembering daily that respectability politics will not save us and it’s all or nothing around here? I sure as hell hope so. So, I am offering a challenge with this column—try something that reflects a community or experience you don’t encounter much in your regularly scheduled life. Join me!

The Annie Sprinkle Project

Annie Sprinkle, queer sex-work and body-positivity pathfinder, is the subject of a solo show by Sophia LaPaglia, who performs a verbatim play. The Annie Sprinkle Project is in the spirit of Anna Deveare Smith, but with a single subject, inhabiting Sprinkle and performing excerpts from her pandemic interviews word for word. Sprinkle, who famously battled it out with the American government for the right to declare her work art, rather than pornography (as if the two have no overlap; come on now), has a lot to say and LaPaglia opens and transmits the message as she invokes moments from Sprinkle’s 40+-year career in performance. I’m uncertain whether LaPaglia’s Fringe show includes Sprinkle classics like “Tits On Your Head,” but nevertheless, it looks absolutely delicious AND, for one night only, the live-streamed show includes a talkback with Sprinkle herself, on June 25 at 4 p.m. EDT, with pay-what-you-can tickets.

​​Trans Gemmes: Daddy Let the Girls Out (Oral Edition) 

I’m SO excited that Buddies In Bad Times Theatre’s famous Pride offerings have a digital option this year! This audio play is directed by theatre giant and CBC standout Bilal Baig, who is also working on Season 2 of their show Sort Of (as well as many other delights to the senses, one assumes) but this one is an aural pleasure—it goes in your ears. Trans Gemmes is a hidden glimpse into the world of “pillow fights, flashing lights and trans rights,” which—as a trans person—tells me a whole lot about what will be in store. Not trans? Buckle up and listen in to what I predict will be a full-fledged and full-throated depiction of the ways that joy, pain, community and isolation shape trans women’s experiences and, knowing Baig, it won’t be an explanation but an exploration. Sign up now with a pay-what-you-can ticket, and they will give it to you good … when they’re ready, and not before. 


Death Panel podcast—“Panic! At The Gender Clinic” special episode

Legit genius and actual hero Jules Gill-Peterson is joined by Charlie Markbreiter (of whom I am newly a fan) on a special episode of the podcast Death Panel, debriefing Emily Bazelon’s tragically damaging (and wilfully misinformed) article in the recent New York Times Magazine, which I will not link to because it is full of actual bullshit, but Google if you like. They conduct a step-by-step takedown of every misinformed premise and slanted take that the “article” “reports,” and make clear exactly how much a very small group of cisgender doctors and parents have, while loudly yelling that they support trans kids, created and maintained an absolute hell-fest of nonsense that the fundamentalist right wing has seized upon and is currently using to try to outlaw trans people, entirely, forever. Bazelon, along with her both-sides colleagues, does not appear to care about this, but I surely do, and you should, too. If you ever find yourself in arguments with trans-antagonists, one listen to this podcast will give you all the talking points you need to shut down any logical argument—but let’s be real, these are rarely logical arguments; just hatred dressed up as “concern.” 

True Biz by Sara Novic

I absolutely stayed up too late two nights in a row finishing True Biz by Sara Novic, a complex, gorgeous, thoughtful novel about, well, so many things—relationships between parents and children, teenagers seeking agency, old and young love, Deaf culture, language nerdery and so much more. One of the central storylines is a lesbian romance, but all of them are compelling in a certain and very queer way—the book touches on what happens to a kid when they don’t have access to their own culture, but also what happens when being the second or third generation of something feels too constricting a way to continue (even when it also contains advantages). Novic generously includes a lot of ASL and Deaf culture information, and even some introductory sign diagrams, so that hearing audiences can follow along if they’re not familiar, but neither these nor the book ever veer even briefly into A Very Special Episode territory; it’s just enough to keep you apprised if some of the cultural pieces are new, and the story is beyond engrossing in the best way.

Deb-we-win Ge-ken-am-aan, Our Place in the Circle

This is an older doc from the NFB’s Indigenous Filmmakers Programme, but I love it for the non-nonsense enthusiasm with which Lorne Olson, the writer and director, makes this documentary about his choices around actualizing his understanding of himself as Two-Spirit. Deb-we-win Ge-ken-am-aan, Our Place in the Circle, streaming for free on the NFB website, is pure, beautiful storytelling, with Olson at the centre of his own story. There’s a moment at which he describes listening to a guiding voice in his head and “driving until there was no more road,” which feels in a certain way like a universal story of understanding one’s own identity. Olson’s exploration leads him to a golden eagle that has died in a remote prairie location, but many of us, in our ways, are required to drive until there’s no more road, and then get out and walk the rest when we begin to understand our genders and sexualities. Especially compelling also are Olson’s friends, who share their skills and knowledge with him so tenderly. 

And that, my most wonderful comrades, is what I am most excited about, culturally. These join my towering pile of books to read, and my swollen list of things to watch and listen to, as I drown (happily!) in Pride releases and events. My advice to you this time is to do the same—to fully submerse yourself in queer and trans business, allow yourself to be suffused with our language and rhythms, to let them be glorious in your heart and in your mouth, to take them into your lungs and let them wrap your bones, because when people say hateful things, all of that beauty and power and rich, dark goodness will move with you and through you, bind your wounds and heal your spirit, however many times it takes. As always, if you’re making something new and queer, drop me an email or a DM—I love to hear your news.

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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