Communing butch voices, dance documentaries and writers on writing

Our recommendations for what’s up and what’s on, beginning Aug. 12

Happy allergy season, my dearest unicorn floaties and donut rafts, and welcome to a hot, hot edition of Queer Culture Catch-Up. I write today from my perch immediately in front of the air conditioning, feeling both warmed and cooler (culturally speaking) by all the amazing queer and trans cultural business that has blown through my wheezing inbox in the last two weeks. Let’s dive right in, shall we, as if into a pristine lake populated by one majestic loon (me, it’s me) and sink in.

Butch Voices Conference

Butch Voices conferences features Tobi Hill-Meyer
Tobi Hill-Meyer

There’s nothing in the world like the electricity of walking into a room brimming with butches and other masculine-of-centre folks. However, Butch Voices is responsibly protecting their community and taking the whole situation online, for the benefit of butches (and those who love them!) everywhere in the world. For a whole $25, sign yourself up for panels, keynotes, performances and even butch-centred exercise options (I am brimming with enthusiasm for Butch Pilates, it must be said). Be in community with an organization that centres BIPOC leadership and presents options you simply won’t find absolutely anywhere else from Thursday, Aug. 19 to Monday, Aug. 22. Even if all you catch is an opening keynote speech (one from Tobi Hill-Meyer and the other from B. Cole, both longtime activists and educators with deep wisdom to share) or a closing ceremony (including the Wakan Wiya Two-Spirit community drum), you’ll definitely get your money’s worth and, in absolute value, far more. 

Ailey and Can You Bring It?

Bill T. Jones
Bill T. Jones

Some great queer force is clearly acting on the film industry recently, and it has delivered us not one but two documentaries of great queer forces in American dance. Ailey, the freshly released story of dance pathfinder Alvin Ailey (we’ve given up on the settler colonialism concept of “pioneer,” in case you hadn’t heard), opens this week in actual theatres (!). In a clever trick of documentary filmmaking, the film is largely narrated by the late, lamented Ailey himself, interrupted only by collaborators and colleagues speaking about him. (This is accomplished through the use of interviews he actually gave, not some terrifying AI nonsense.) If you’re in for Black queer excellence but not for an in-person movie theatre experience with other people and all their face-holes, TIFF Bell Lightbox is streaming Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters. The film tells the story of the origin and revival of the absolutely germinal (not saying seminal anymore, either) and deeply emotional 1989 dance work D-Man in the Waters, a truly gripping piece about the AIDS crisis in gay Black men’s communities. 


Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)

still from Ellie & Abbie (and Ellie’s Dead Aunt),
A scene from “Ellie & Abbie (and Ellie’s Dead Aunt).”

If your movie vibe is more rom com and less dance-dram(a), I have good news for you, too: the hilariously awkward queer teenage romance Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) starts streaming Friday, Aug. 27, for your got-too-much-sun-but-still-a-little-tipsy indoor delightful needs. Closeted lesbian high school student Ellie, massively crushed out on her out-and-proud classmate Abbie, fumbles literally every portion of her attempt to come out as queer. She handles it all so awkwardly that her dead aunt, Tara, returns as a fairy god-lesbian to give her the advice she so desperately needs. It’s a fun and feel-good situation, as I personally prefer. If you liked But I’m a Cheerleader (of course you did), then try this for the same pleasing emotional register. 

We Still Demand: The Past, Present and Future of 2SLGBTQIA+ Activism

On Friday, Aug. 27, at 1 p.m. EDT, The Canadian Centre for Sexual And Gender Diversity is convening a free queer history and activism panel featuring activists and movement scholars Patrizia Gentile, Tom Hooper and Gary Kinsman. We Demand was one of the first ever LGBTQ2S+ political protests in Canada, when activists assembled at Parliament Hill to present their 13 demands on Aug. 28, 1971. Progress was very, very slow at first, though it saw a kickstart in the aftermath of the horrifying, life-destroying Operation Soap raids (ten years, almost to the day, later). These demands included such wild flights of fancy as not disqualifying people from the public service for being gay and allowing queer people to have custody of their own children. Fifty years later, the panel will discuss where we’ve been, where we are now and what’s next in the fight for justice.

Writers, Talking About Writing

Charlie Jane Anders
Charlie Jane Anders

Credit: Annalee Newitz

I’m having a happy gay literary time recently reading some of the amazing interviews and essays by writers on writing, and I thought a little roundup might be pleasing. Herewith, please enjoy Casey Plett (author of the exceptionally good Little Fish) talking about belonging over at LitHub, Alexander Chee being interviewed about his writing process on Vermont Public Radio, Akwaeke Emezi over at Interview with some real talk about how she writes and thinks about writing, Krys Malcolm Belk in a long piece for shondaland about his own writer’s journey, and my longtime friend and literary crush Charlie Jane Anders on how writing can save us all, but not without some costs. As a writer, I find that if I’m not very, very careful it’s easy to imagine that all the other writers are joyfully knocking out a couple thousand of words per day before breakfast and then spending the rest of their time striding confidently around in their berets; as a reader this sort of behind-the-scenes business is very compelling to me.

ICYMI: “Shout It Out” by Gabrille Papillon

I’ve started waking up with this happy poppy queer nonsense on my shower radio, and I have to tell you, friends—it helps. The video by Gabrielle Papillon, featuring a toothsome selection of fabulous queer, trans and non-binary people in glitter makeup helps even more. My advice is to click through and take a three-and-a-half-minute vacation to this happy, primary-coloured neighbourhood of the internet along with your coffee.

That’s all for this time, my favourite imaginary friends, and I hope some of these things hit the sweet spot for you as they did for me. May the ice in every glass you drink stay cold and may every heart you ignite remain warm until we meet again. 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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