Try a taste of the rootsier Melissa Etheridge we’ve all been waiting for

Our recommendations for what’s up and what’s on, beginning Aug. 26

Good day and well met, lutes, flutes and woodwinds all, as well as everyone else taking a well-deserved moment to consider how best to feed their hearts, minds and souls with the great mosaic of our brilliant siblings’ work and words. I, having moved permanently into my caftan and found my inner Dame Judi Dench, am simply too pleased to share with you this fortnight’s selection of queer delights.

“As Cool as You Try” by Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge headshot

Credit: CP Images

Thirty years ago, heaven help me, I sat alone in the dark with my Walkman on and let Melissa Etheridge sing to me in her wild, sexy growl about love and loss and an idea of sex I had yet to experience (but fervently wanted). I may have lost a little interest during what I continue to think of as “the overproduced years,” but while we’ve all been at home I have rekindled my love of her work, assisted in no small part by the months of living-room concerts she’s presented on Facebook. She’s clearly getting back to her roots, and “As Cool As You Try” is, in every way, the rock anthem I wanted this week (and is whetting my appetite for the new album, One Way Out, which drops Friday, Sep. 17).

Smoke, Lilies & Jade

Still from Smoke Lilies and Jade

Credit: Courtesy of Shoga Films

Richard Bruce Nugent, who died in 1987, was a writer, artist, dancer and collaborator of many better known cultural participants of the Harlem Renaissance, like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurtson and Ralph Ellison. But, as with Bayard Rustin, being out as a gay man (and tackling gay topics in his work) harmed his legacy. Now, as Shoga Films is uplifting some unappreciated voices of the Queer Harlem Renaissance, Nugent’s story about gay, interracial love, originally published in 1927 in the magazine Fire!!, has been given a gorgeous treatment. Smoke, Lilies & Jade is the third film to be released from Shoga Films’ digital series, preceded by short films T’ain’t Nobody’s Business (available to rent, and narrated by Jewelle Gomez!) and Congo Cabaret; it will be followed by Mood Lavender, a genre-bending study of queer participation in the Harlem Renaissance, centred on Bessie Smith. A virtual encore is available via OutFestLA for USD$10 until Friday, Aug. 27.


Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke 

People are typing book cover

Credit: Courtesy of Doubleday

I am not here to say that being forced to convince people you’re real is a trans metaphor, nor that any part of trans people’s social engagement experience is relevant in any way to the concept of being an entirely online entity—but, if there was a case to be made, this book might be it. Several People Are Typing is timely, funny and a wild ride into the great improbable. If you’re ready to wring some humour out of your work-from-home experiences—and perhaps do the merest spot of investigation about what your offline life looks like—drop into Bluestockings Books, a fave of mine, and join the book launch on Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. EDT.

Pinky Swear by MANifesto

Manifesto album cover Pinky Swear

Credit: Courtesy of MANifesto

Okay, this is just charming: five gays have formed themselves into supergroup MANifesto, and I will be honest that when this information crossed my desk I almost deleted it without reading because, in general, things that start with the word MAN in all caps are… something else, these days. How-the-gay-heck-ever, I did click through and found this delightful queer quintet, covering girl group songs from The Chordettes to En Vogue, and donating all the proceeds of their debut album to Rainbow Railroad (which, if you’re not familiar, is an organization that assists queer and trans people fleeing persecution in other countries and could really use your support). MANifesto is cute, quirky and tight. What else could you need in a queer bop? The album, Pinky Swear, drops Friday, Sep. 10.

Kristen Stewart at TIFF

Bi babe heartthrob Kristen Stewart—who’s at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year in Spencer, playing Princess Diana during the weekend she decides to leave Charles—is also being presented in “intimate conversation” by Share Her Journey, a TIFF initiative that works to achieve gender parity in filmmaking. I, for one, would like to know more about how her celebrated turn as Bella (nice girl, in love with vampire) may have influenced her performance as Diana (nice girl, in love with vampire). Perhaps you also have these questions, or are otherwise interested in women in film—or maybe you just want to gaze fondly at Stewart’s consistently strong eyeliner game. Regardless, you can do it for free online Wednesday, Sep. 15 at 12:30 p.m. EDT at TIFF Bell Digital Talks. Spots are limited, so sign up before Friday, Sep. 10.


Q Force TV show

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

I haven’t seen this yet, but I like the look of adult cartoon Q-Force, coming to Netflix on Thursday, Sep. 2. When the fictitious American Intelligence Agency standout Steve Maryweather, a.k.a. Agent Mary, comes out, the agency can’t just fire him. So they exile him to West Hollywood obscurity. Undeterred, and maybe a little Type A, Agent Mary assembles a rogue team, including “master mechanic” Deb and disguise diva Twink, to fight crime. The AIA accepts them under one condition: they also have to take along a straight man, Agent Buck. Let’s see how it shakes out. Considering that it includes the voices of Sean Hayes, Wanda Sykes and Laurie Metcalf, I have high hopes.

ICYMI: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado, a wildly inventive and challenging writer, hit every branch on the “I never thought about it like that,” tree in her 2017 debut, Her Body and Other Parties. I have been rereading it (but not before bed, because while I love a twisty horror story, I don’t love them at night) and re-remembering how pointedly it offers up the conflicts of relationships, of all kinds, to complex interpretation. I picked it back up after David Demchuk’s Red X (out next week) reminded me that horror movies are too much for me, but that sometimes a beautifully written, if wildly stressful, horror book hits just the right note. Machado’s debut hits a whole lot of them. 

Thanks for riding with me, my queer all-terrain vehicles (a sexual orientation to which I was introduced by the great Tina Horn), through the lovely meadows of artistic achievement on this episode of “Queer Culture Catch-Up.” Until we meet again, may all your takeout arrive at the right temperature and all your flirtations be well received.

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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