Drag kings, queer cowboys and a pair of trans books to catch up on this week

S. Bear Bergman is back with a curated collection of culture creations

Good day my lambchops, my ruffled cabbages, my sweetmeats of all sorts and welcome to another episode of Queer Culture Catch-up, the exciting game where everyone in media empties their pockets onto my desk and leaves me to sort through the treasures, trifles and lint before presenting the best to you. I’m your host, S. Bear Bergman, queer culture nerd and eager consumer of a highly idiosyncratic and sometimes just jumble-sale range of queer cultural offerings, always excited to show you what I’ve been enjoying, for those moments between Renaissance and whatever wonders Rihanna is about to grace us with.

“Hey Cowboy,” Devon Cole

I hopped on the Devon Cole train on TikTok some months ago after her clever verse “W.I.T.C.H.” was all over my #fyp, before I even knew she was a queer Canadian. Her newest release, “Hey Cowboy,” really blew my skirt up with its specifically queer-girl-likes-queer-boys bi vibes, featuring a quintet of hunky queers (including a bear in bikinis for my personal eye candy; thank you, Devon) and the sexy kind of mixed messages that tend to cause straight people to glitch. If a girl seductively singing “you can keep your boots on, baby” while a hot twink grinds on a pink flamingo pool floatie sounds like your vibe, then a) we should probably be friends, and b) this is your fall jam. Cole also really understands what people like in behind-the-scenes content, so check out her TikTok for hilarious mom moments and other pleasing business.

Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood, John D’Emilio and Before We Were Trans, Kit Heyam

Okay, listen, I love a history. I love feeling like I know who has been here before and what they did, what they solved, what troubled them and what were their triumphs. I love feeling situated—understanding how I ended up in the moment in which I find myself, personally and politically. If you’re like me in this way, let me recommend two books that couldn’t be more different but gave me the same deep hit of emotional satisfaction: Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood by John D’Emilio and Before We Were Trans by Kit Heyam. D’Emilio, who has been an eminent historian of the American gay man’s experience and struggle during his lifetime, has turned his searching eye inward and now gives us a different kind of history—one that’s pegged to his own life, loves and learnings. Every page is fork-tender with emotion, and to be honest, in my mind’s eye, I imagined him going back to a huge file of every sweet or difficult or thoughtful observation he’d ever excised from one of his academic books and sewing them together with hindsight for this volume. 

 

On the other end is Kit Heyam’s book Before We Were Trans, and (though I imagine Heyam also saving a similar folder of feelings to be engaged in their later work) it is, in a certain way, an incredible relief. I go about constantly talking about how trans and non-binary and genderqueer and gender noncompliant people are not new to the world, and that I can prove it. I list a brief selection of my favourites, but Heyam makes an entire meal with dessert where I have typically just gestured. Around the world and across the centuries, Heyam explains and describes the many ways that, to paraphrase Dr. j wallace skelton, being a gender outlaw has always been a radical act, but it is a radical act with a very long history. The book comes complete with ONE HUNDRED PAGES of bibliography, because Heyam knows that a variety of shitgibbons will come and attempt to discredit our very existence, and so in addition to this lively and readable history, you also get rock-solid citational practices.

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson

Credit: Courtesy TIFF

Be warned, my loves: this movie is a fucking gut-punch, but a needed one. I missed it at TIFF when it played in 2019 and just learned about it (maybe the theme of the column is Things Bear Has Been Late For?) recently. The Obituary of Tunde Johnson is directed by Ali LeRoi from a screenplay by Stanley Kalu (here, talking about the film he wrote with the fab folks at Black Girl Nerds). In the film, title character Tunde Johnson, a Black gay student living in Los Angeles, is murdered by police. Immediately after, and each time following, he wakes back up in his bed at the beginning of the same day. Each time he makes a series of choices about his parents, his friends, his outness, his maybe-boyfriend and other actions, but none of his choices (or his good looks or wealth or obvious desire to do right in the world) can keep him out of the hands of police. It’s a difficult film, and yet not without a sense of hope: Tunde’s thoughtfulness and the love by which he is surrounded also speak in this film, and director LeRoi takes a deft hand in the details to show us.

Fake Mustache Drag King Troupe

File under: things I’ve been sleeping on and I am so sorry, because it turns out that the Calgary-based Fake Mustache Drag Troupe has been livestreaming their always high-quality, sometimes high-concept, definitely highly queer drag king show every month. This fact just came to my attention in the queerest imaginable way: I was on Scruff in a city where I do not live, and had coffee with someone else who also does not live there, who brought his partner, who runs the show … hello, boys. The upcoming show is A Drag Ode to Plaid on Nov. 17, but there’s a show every month and past themes have ranged from Pajama Party to Seven Deadly Sins, so these fab foxes clearly have range. They are making a new show every few weeks, so don’t sleep on their shows (on Discord, which means easy and uncomplicated access and also you can chat to your neighbour during the show without risking the dreaded drag scolding). 

And that, my floofs and fillies and fabulous friends, is the roundup for this week and it does not include SO MANY books I just didn’t have time to read, like the amazing-looking Queer Little Nightmares that I really wanted to read before Halloween because hello, seasonal content, but the contributors look amazing and also Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo’s Sort Of is coming back to CBC very soon (here’s the first season in case you missed it), and also, to be honest, you, and everything you’re doing. I’ve missed you, friends, so send me your events and books and movies and shows and whatever else wonderful and queer you’re making; in every possible way I have to tell you: I can hardly wait.

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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