Big Freedia’s latest tracks have us bouncing all over the place

Our recommendations for what’s up and what’s on, beginning Sept. 23

Well, my prettiest pumpkins and candiest apples, it’s my birthday! And apparently for my birthday, I get Elvira coming out as having been in a queer relationship for almost two decades and Lil Nas X’s cover of Jolene, as well as Fat Bear Week, which is about to begin. So I think it’s safe to assume that the universe will be showering me with queer blessings in the upcoming year, and I am very excited to share them all with you. The next fortnight has a wild crop of new LGBTQ2S+ biz so let us dive in and roll around joyfully in this assortment.

Sort Of

Bilal Baig in "Sort Of."

Credit: Courtesy of CBC

I am a giant theatre nerd, and I see a ton of work in Toronto and write about it, so not only have I been a fan of the amazing Bilal Baig for some years—I can prove it. I’m extra excited for their new show on CBC, Sort Of, co-created with Queer as Folk alum Fab Filippo. The first episode, which I got a peek at ahead of time, has all the hallmarks of a Baig production: sweetness, queerness, chaos and nuance—which, I think we can all agree, are perhaps not the most common qualities of television programming, so this feels extra nice. Bonus icing on the cake is another perennial Toronto theatre stunner, Amanda Cordner, as 7ven, the best of best friends. Sort Of is available to stream on the CBC Gem app starting Oct. 5, then on CBC and HBO Max later in the fall, so set your alarms. (You can read Xtra’s interview with Baig next week.)

A Dream of a Woman by Casey Plett (and also a piece by Ross Showalter)

Casey Plett's A Dream of a Woman

Credit: Courtesy of Arsenal Pulp Press

For everyone who has been waiting with enthusiasm for a new book by Casey Plett, the day has arrived! (Cue confetti cannons.) A Dream of a Woman was two things for me: first, a collection of incredibly well realized and lyrical short stories—the sort that bring to mind the story about Flannery O’Connor’s neighbour, who is said to have returned some stories she’d been loaned to read with the comment, “Well, them stories just gone and shown you how some folks would do.” These stories do, too; the characters feel real and fully realized, but also, secondly, they’re a bit of a relief from the barrage of difficult or violent or just plain sad trans stories. I can like the characters without constantly fearing that they’re about to be assaulted, which is a lovely change. I was also reminded—because basically I shovel words into my brains like a coalman and wait to see what sticks to which—of this essay by Deaf queer writer Ross Showalter, where he writes: “While context and content matter, so do the choices you make. The choices to invent. The choices to explain. You only have to put in the work to make sure someone who does not share your experience can enter the world you create. If the reader refuses to enter, you cannot do anything. But if the reader encounters a barrier, you must decide if that is part of the path.”

Queer Muslim community spaces

A few new initiatives welcoming queer Muslims have come to my attention in the past week, so let me hip you to this virtual queer and Muslim parenting group getting started at Queer Crescent. So get on that. And also this queer Muslim community space being run by our friends over at The 519 in Toronto. While we’re here, I’ll just mention the Trans Zakat Project, which will run during Ramadan (mid-April to mid-May in 2022). You can like them on Facebook now to be notified when the next opportunity to support your trans and non-binary Muslim siblings arises (or to receive support as a trans or non-binary Muslim). 

BDE from Big Freedia

Big Freedia

Credit: Courtesy of Big Freedia

This week in music to vibe into autumn with, we are graced with a new six-track EP from Big Freedia, BDE, which, I am advised by the press kit, stands for, in this case, “Big Diva Energy.” So… let’s go with that (but be advised that the song “BDE” definitely opens with the dulcet tones of Jax crooning: “She got that Big Dick Energy…”). This delight comes direct with a new video for “Not Today,” featuring Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters, which left me wanting to just hold up an iPad with this TikTok of gender-neutral replacements for “yass queen” by social justice/environmental justice educator Parker on loop while pointing a lot. 

Queer Practices, Queer Embodiment Conference at Karada House

If you, like me, love perverts with big… vocabularies, this might just be your jam: the fine folks at Karada House in Berlin are hosting a three-day online festival on the theory and practice of being joyfully nerdy and dirty. I’m not even entirely sure what a session about rope bondage and family abolition might cover, if we’re being honest, but I respect the extremely queer Berlin vibe (“we put art things, sex things and cultural anthropology things all in our handbag and someone sat on it”) of everything that’s happening here.

It Gets Even Better: Stories of Queer Possibility

It gets even better book cover

Credit: Courtesy of Speculatively Queer

I backed this very cute Kickstarter book of short stories because it was launched by the child of a friend of my best friend from high school (Lisa Eckstein, writer and reader), and features a story by a different friend of now 20 years (Charlie Jane Anders, with whom I was an absolute baby at the late, celebrated GenderCrash in Jamaica Plain in the early aughts)—in case you were wondering how my queer social network works. Now the book is finished and it’s a delight. A whole variety pack of queer science fiction and fantasy writing, with many flavours and textures to enjoy. For Bi Awareness Week, and also because it was one of my favourites, let me especially shout out “The Invisible Bisexual” by S.L. Huang, who is evidently also an armorer (?) and some kind of math genius (??), so I am glad to be on the same side.

Gilbert & George at Lehmann Maupin

Gilbert & George

Credit: Courtesy of Lehmann Maupin

My brother Jeff Bergman, who’s a gallery director at Pace Prints and as much of a nerd when it comes to visual art as I am about, uh, several other kinds of art, likes to feed me the occasional tidbit from the gallery world. For this I am grateful, because our family resemblance extends to several things, notably excellent comic timing, remarkably solid hairlines for middle-aged men and good taste in art. He hipped me to this queer COVID-19 installation by longtime artistic duo (50 years and counting!) Gilbert & George. New Normal Pictures feels exactly like I do right about now: just bursting at the seams with wild colours, trash and treasure, fevered dreams of joy and threat, and all sorts of other juxtapositions that make life interesting but feel at least as much like joy as they do like a threat. Lehmann Maupin gallery has made it easy to walk through the whole show, and if you like what you see you can dig into a little retrospective at the Tate Modern, which doesn’t show you everything but teases the good bits. 

With so much hot new biz this month, I haven’t had 10 seconds to peer into my vault and bring an old favourite to your attention. So let us simply cruise forward on the strength of all this birthday cake and queer goodness, my perfect tiny festive lights, into the great and wonderful new landscape that awaits us, in full confidence that we will absolutely rock it. As always, if you’re making something new and queer, email or DM me on Twitter with your news—I love to hear from you.

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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