Black trans town hall, masc films, Manuel Betancourt’s ‘The Male Gazed’ and Cher, Cher, Cher

Plus, for those in Toronto, queer music from NXNE

Greetings, beloveds, from the depths of my closet where I am sorting through my tutu collection and shining my silver lamé in enthusiasm for Pride Month events. I’m also polishing my boots and checking the ribs on the giant rainbow umbrella I use to block protestors from the view of parade participants, which is a great job for allies and co-resistors! Get one of these and bring it along to whatever Pride events you attend. Should you see anyone out being horrible with their little anti-queer or anti-trans signs, just stop in front of them, open your umbrella wide, and rest it over your shoulder like a giant gay peacock—choruses of “Singing in the Rain” optional, but always appreciated. Meanwhile, to whet your appetites for the Pride season, a collection of queer and trans brilliance to pick you up, twirl you around and set you gently back down with glitter in your hair.

Black and Transgender In America: a Town Hall 

Tre’vell Anderson

Over on Sirius XM Radio, where thematic channels abound, Urban View, a channel dedicated to Black voices and experiences, with an all-Black lineup of hosts and programming, will host a special town hall titled “Black and Transgender in America.” The town hall is hosted by Clay Cane (author of Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality, God, and Race, which I learned about only through researching the town hall to see what kind of an environment it might be, and after reading the first half, I am legitimately excited) and Reecie Colbert. The show features three truly top-tier guests: author and educator Tiq Milan, “artivist” and strategist Hope Giselle and Xtra’s former editor at large, Tre’vell Anderson, who has the newest book of the bunch, the amazing We See Each Other: A Black Trans Journey Through TV and Film, as well as a live audience. The segment will air on the radio at 1 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 8, on channel 126, but will be available for listeners on the Sirius XM app through June, and will be a focused hour specifically dedicated to discussing Black and trans experiences. I’m excited for this partly because I’m a pretty big fan of all the speakers in their different ways, but also because many of the conversations I’ve seen presented about Black trans experiences are discussed in a way that still centres white experiences and audience members, so this early-days-of-Clubhouse vibe and an all-star cast to go with it feels like a real treat.

 

Masc film series, Criterion Channel

Stormé DeLaverie.

I still feel very uncertain about the word “masc” or the concept of “transmasculine” as a category name for people who may identify as butch, trans or some of the flannel-ier neighbourhoods of non-binary. I am not at all uncertain, though, about the Masc collection of films on the Criterion Channel curated by Jenni Olson and Caden Mark Gardner, which features some films I have long loved that are difficult to access, including Storme: The Lady of the Jewel Box, a biopic short about the late, great Stormé DeLaverie, drag king crooner and MC of the Jewel Box Revue (a wildly popular extravaganza of female impersonators dating back to the late 1930s) and the exhaustingly timely Southern Comfort, the 2001 film about the life and death of Robert Eads, a trans man in South Carolina with ovarian cancer who was denied treatment by every doctor he saw because none of them was willing to have a trans man in their care (the exact scenario the odious ruler of Florida has just passed into law with SB 1580, allowing medical professionals to refuse any care, at any time, to any person if they object on “moral grounds”). It’s a riveting documentary, and not as heartbreaking as it might seem because while Eads is dying, he is also falling in love with his sweetheart Lola Cola and living among a chosen family from whom he draws strength and humour.

It’s a Man’s World, Cher

Cher.

The truth is, I love Cher. There are days when absolutely nothing stands between me and the end of my rope but a rewatch of Burlesque and an ice cream cone. So, imagine my delight to discover that her 1995 album It’s a Man’s World is being reissued in a special edition that includes not just a fully remastered album, but remixes of a number of the tracks. And not just that, but this release coincides with a newly recut music video for her cover of “Walking in Memphis,” the song that shot Marc Cohn to fame, in which Cher, in flawless Elvis drag, does the thing she does, with her deep voice and full-belt boogie. And when the video switches back to full-femme Cher that is somehow momentarily, dizzyingly, the part that feels like drag. In any event, all of her queer readings and shading are in full remaster on the new four-side compilation, which is available digitally or on fancy coloured vinyl with a limited-edition poster, etc. for those of us who simply require it to be as gay as possible.

The Male Gazed: On Hunks, Heartthrobs, and What Pop Culture Taught Me About (Desiring) Men, Manuel Betancourt

Manuel Betancourt.

Though I didn’t intend to read them as companions, this lively and sexy essay collection from Manuel Betancourt did well alongside Clay Cane’s Live Through This—both are about men and desire and pop culture, but also about how our culture allows or polices joy, shame and freedom in boys and men, both in Colombia (the country of Betancourt’s birth) and later in the United States. The Male Gazed: On Hunks, Heartthrobs, and What Pop Culture Taught Me About (Desiring) Men includes leisurely descriptions of (homo)erotic scenes and a thorough series of reflections about the various attributes of leading men and pop stars, but also cultural criticism, sociology, linguistics and more, including a whole chapter on the many moods and Instagram selfies of Ricky Martin and another that begins with the wild space opera The Fifth Element and takes a left somewhere around the Fassbinder film Querelle and ends up at the design work of Jean-Paul Gaultier, collecting both José Esteban Muñoz and Lil Nas X along the way. In short, The Male Gazed is both very sexy and very nerdy, which obviously is extremely my shit, and I loved reading it.

A bumper crop of queers at NXNE, Toronto

This year’s NXNE festival, held annually at venues across Toronto and this year rocking from June 13 to 17, has programmed up a whole rainbow of queer acts to enjoy this year, ranging widely across genres and musical styles. For the cost of a $25 wristband, you can access dozens of concerts across the five days by bands including queer BIPOC-fronted post-punks Chinese Medicine, who recently released the four-song EP Die Aspora (deftly produced by Wade McNeil, guitarist of the multiple Juno Award–winning Alexisonfire), queer rock outfit Housewife (a very successful transition project of Brighid Fry, formerly of Moscow Apartment, whose song “Fuck Around Phase” has fuelled more than one of my aggravated cleaning sprees) and folk-pop duo Pillow Fite, who are—and I can’t think of a better way to put it—just a very sweet vibe of thoughtful, observational songs with classic East Coast guitar behind them. That is, in fact, just a taste of the queer and trans talent on offer and, frankly, for the price of a wristband and a KN95 you’ve got a fairly low-risk and high-reward way to try some great emerging acts. 


And there I leave you, dearest, darlingest friends, with many new things to explore and perhaps the reminder of old favourites to keep you company. I hope your Pride season follows that formula, too: that it’s full of both the comforting and the exciting, the old standbys you return to over and over for their guaranteed pleasures and the new, shimmering possibilities you take a chance on, hoping for the good kind of surprise. In the meantime, if you’re making something new and queer, drop me an email or DM, because 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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