A lesbian holiday rom-com, Brian Falduto’s queer country and Nick Cave art

A selection of cultural concoctions to get you through this heavy week

Good day to you wherever you are, dear and precious reader, in the world or in your day, whether you’re a morning enthusiast or a night owl, braced for the cold or unfurling into the sunshine. It’s just a few days since the most recent violence incited by the religious right wing, and I notice that, as usual, many of us are being asked to do extra work or to be extra forgiving in the wake of such tragedies, rather than being allowed the comfort and respite we need from the larger world. To make things more challenging, we are careening quickly into the holiday season, with all its queer complications, and that—and all of you who are going to be pressured to sit at a table with someone you know has voted to destroy us—are on my mind.

More than anything in this moment, I want to say: reach out. If you’re feeling dispirited or hopeless or disempowered, if you feel overwhelmed by your grief, if you’re stuck where it hurts, if you’re simply too exhausted, please reach out to friends, or to volunteer hotlines like Trans Lifeline. You can also donate to a trust for Club Q survivors (run by a local queer business) here, if you can, or other things too. The axiom “we keep us safe” doesn’t just refer to the heroes who stomped the gunman to a pulp, but also everything that happens after, all the ways we tend and love each other enough to be brave, the comfort and the strength, the solace and the pleasure. This column, as ever, hopes to offer some of the latter in the form of what we’re making, even in such difficult times.

“Same Old Country Love Song,” Brian Falduto 

Somehow, Colorado Springs reminded me of this song I heard on TikTok a few weeks ago, featuring a good ol boy in a hat and boots (and not much else, which may be why I paused) even though there’s surely a long tradition of queer country songs from the amusing to the heartfelt (and even those that started as jokes and ended up being more meaningful than anyone might have predicted at the time). “Same Old Country Love Song” does away with queer coding, the perennial singing to a gender-nonspecific “you” and other ways that more conservative music forms have treated queerness and simply lays it out: this is gay. You may remember Brian Falduto from his turn as Billy, the junior stylist in School of Rock, and let’s just say that grown Brian is as delightful as kid Billy ever was on film (including fringed pants with rhinestones on the backside, because of course there are). Recommended for drowning out the natterings of any homophobes you may encounter along your way this week.

 

Forothermore, Nick Cave

Black queer multi-hyphenate Nick Cave, whose artwork is also fashion is also music is also history, has opened a show at the Guggenheim Museum called Forothermore and my loves, it is truly an experience for all the senses. Cave, in his 60s, is being honoured with a giant retrospective all the way back to his early work, and has organized the exhibition into sections that map on to “What It Is,” “What It Was” and “What It Shall Be” as ways to consider his own past, present and future—and those of his intersecting communities—as well as paying tribute to the Black Panther Party. The physical exhibition of his work feels like being a joyful child in a much smarter big kid’s imagination landscape, and even when the work becomes difficult, or even a bit emotionally dangerous, there’s a sense that Cave has thought of this; that the extra beauty and colour with which he is so free is your balm for standing alongside the bitter and burning moments. Forothermore shows at the Guggenheim through mid-April, but the exhibition also includes considerable online material including Cave in conversation with Guggenheim chief curator Naomi Beckwith, the first Black chief curator in the history of the museum.

A Different Kind of Normal, Abigail Balfe

Balfe, a queer and autistic Brit with a whimsical pen and an engaging and immediate writing style, has released a U.S./Canada version of her part-memoir, part-advice book A Different Kind of Normal. This book lived in my house for two days before I actually saw it, because my 12-year-old non-binary kiddo saw it first and swooped it down to their lair before I got my actual professional hands on it, during which time they evidently read it from cover to cover. Since A Different Kind of Normal is marketed as a middle-grade book, that seemed encouraging, and when I read it, I understood why: it’s so much fun. It’s fun even when things are hard and it’s fun when things are great, it’s fun like the friend you have with whom you somehow never have a bad time even when absolutely nothing goes well or in any way to plan. Balfe has found a tone and vocabulary with which to discuss her neurodivergent experience that feels accessible but not childish, and I would be inclined to give this book as a holiday gift to any tweens in my orbit.

Merry & Gay 

Listen, I understand that some people don’t adore a romantic comedy, and some people even feel we don’t need gay romantic comedies, and I … am not those people. Beginning Dec. 1 on DIVABoxOffice.TV, the new lesbian/queer women’s channel, you’ll be able to watch Merry & Gay, a properly sappy Christmas rom-com featuring meddling mothers, high school sweethearts, the hometown girl who returns from the big city and loses her heart to a local blue-collar stud with good values and a remarkably good haircut. You can rent this to watch all during the holiday season, and honestly who doesn’t need a low-stakes Christin Baker signature lesbian rom-com right now? This one also features Stella Parton and Dia Frampton, for musical interludes among the cuteness.

Little Dickens, Ronnie Burkett

I know I don’t typically recommend things that happen only in person, but I am so delighted by Ronnie Burkett all the time that I am doing it anyway because his work is so beautiful and queer and so layered and moving (and sometimes filthy; this retelling of A Christmas Carol at Canadian Stage is 16+). You cannot go to a Burkett spectacle thinking that you’ll be led along by the hand, it’s always by the heart—or sometimes another one of the blood-rich organs, but the effect is the same—it’s the feelings that are queer, rich, priceless. The ways we are seen and not seen; the ways we long for respect, legitimacy, legibility and find them only conditionally are all vying at the forefront of his work, just under the voluminous skirts of a marionette. If you’ve never managed to see a Burkett show in person, Little Dickens might be the queerest yet, so it’s absolutely time to grab tickets ($29-$89, shows at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday until Dec. 18 at Canadian Stage in Toronto). 

That’s the vibe for this time, my tiny delights and robust satisfactions, my unexpected pleasures and familiar comforts. I hope you’re getting all the good stuff as it gets colder; I hope your heart is warm and so is your backside and so are your toes even at the end of the day. I wish we could have homemade soup and bread together and talk all about it; I wish the world were both bigger and so much smaller but in the meantime I hope you feel safe enough. And if you’re making something new and queer, please send word? 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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