Author Khashayar J. Khabushani, films ‘Mutt’ and ‘Summer Qamp’ and music by Thea Grace and Um, Jennifer? top this week’s culture calendar

Plus patient advice from the Trans Handy Ma’am

Well, my posies and nosegays and regular gays as well, here we are in the the waning summer sunshine again, getting in one last trip to the beach or the lake or the park, one last late-afternoon ice cream cone before dinner, one last end-of-season fancy swimsuit for the collection before we return to the days of hard shoes and Trapper Keepers and Fridays that last all the way until 5 p.m. I hope you are sucking every bit of nectar out of the honeysuckle, getting tickets to outdoor productions like Dream in High Park in Toronto or The Prom in Vancouver or Opera in the Park in New York City with a fancy picnic and your phone at the ready to take beautiful photos of all your friends in the syrup of the golden hour. When you find yourself ready, however briefly, to come indoors, here are a few tremendous enticements to make it worth your while.

I Will Greet the Sun Again, by Khashayar J. Khabushani 

Holy shit, this is a good book. Like, laugh, cry, curse aloud, pause, stare out the window to let a new sentence or idea wash over you kind of good; like, buy one and keep another to lend kind of good. I Will Greet the Sun Again is the story of a kid whose traumas don’t steal all his joys, who struggles to know himself while exterior forces (especially his father, a tyrant in his tiny fiefdom) work against him in every way. I have certainly read plenty of queer memoirs, many of them quite good, including a hearty sampling of coming-out-in-repressive-environment ones, and the ones I most enjoy are like Khabushani’s, trusting the reader to walk into even the most difficult moments, but also enticing us with beautiful prose in case we are not as brave as we should be. Khabushani is prepared to be brave enough for both, should you require, but I trust and believe that we can rise to the occasion with him.

Mutt, by Vuk Lungulov-Klotz

I am advised by my favourite followers of the planets and their assorted fuckery that we are in a Mercury retrograde again, a fact that kept springing to mind watching the film Mutt, a fast-paced account of just … a really long day for trans guy Feña (played by cutiepie Lio Mehiel). A truly exhausting number of unresolved issues yank his attention, while he simultaneously does the business of Life-While-Trans, trying to stay tender while having to be tough, over and over and over. Mutt, which has had a much-lauded run through the film festival circuit and is now enjoying that rare (and beautiful, and rare) opportunity of film, the theatrical release. I am truly gutted that it’s happening during the strike, robbing the actors of the opportunity to get out and promo the hell out of writer/director Vuk Lungulov-Klotz’s compelling movie. Everything happens—everything—and I feel aware that it might seem contrived to someone who isn’t trans, and constantly navigating the world, their relationships and their gender expression. But everyone should watch this (seriously, go buy a ticket, I can wait). Kudos also to MiMi Ryder, who plays Feña’s sister Zoe, for a performance that’s exactly wild enough.

 

Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide to Home Repair, by Mercury Stardust

TikTok sweetheart Mercury Stardust, the Trans Handy Ma’am who has talked so many of us step by step through our various home repair dilemmas and emergencies via her TikTok and YouTube videos, has written a book, and it is as cute and helpful as Stardust herself. What I love in particular about all of her work, both in video and in her new book Safe and Sound: A Renter-Friendly Guide to Home Repair, is how approachable—and slightly goofball—she is. There’s no sense of shame over the fact that I don’t know what a washer is, or what all those kinds of screw-heads are called or whether I do or do not own a hammer of any kind. She just very nicely explains it to you while maintaining a gentle sense of enthusiasm and encouragement the entire time. In her world, whatever you can already do is great and today we are just going to add a skill, and that, too, is great and you are great, so let’s go. There are probably 20 other books that contain the same information, but none of them even begin to approach the encouraging tone and downright delightful charm of Safe and Sound, a perfect gift for anyone you know who is about to be responsible for their own drains. You can also catch her on her 52-city book tour: check here to see when she’ll be in your town.

Thea Grace and Um, Jennifer?

Um, Jennifer?

Somehow, perhaps because I am old enough to have attended both Tribe 8 and Indigo Girls concerts as a teenager, these two very different sounds reside comfortably together in my heart, to say nothing of my ears. Thea Grace, a nice girl with a guitar, has been remaking dad-rock songs as though they were Sapphic classics of the Ferron era, and her clear and lilting tone makes “Jessie’s Girl” somehow obviously a late-summer wimmin’s music festival song. Meanwhile, in Brooklyn (because of course), trans rock band Um, Jennifer? has released the video of their new song “Girl Class” and it’s the cutest, queerest business (and who among us would not like to pick up the handy toy phone in the park and phone a friend for some gender help, I ask you?). Put on your Birkenstocks or combat boots and play these tracks back to back to back, wakame mushroom complimentary protein loaf optional, but recommended for verisimilitude.

Summer Qamp 

I’m not sure I was aware how much of a shades-of-trans theme I’m apparently having this week, but here we are one more time with some of the sweetest, fiercest queer and trans young people in Summer Qamp, a documentary by Jen Markowitz getting a premiere at TIFF this year. The movie, which spends a few sun-soaked days with the campers at Camp fYrefly in Alberta, captures a lot of gender euphoria and trans joy as the campers experiment with what makes them feel good in their bodies and identities without any censorious characters to make them rein themselves in. The young people at Camp fYrefly are superlative advocates in their own right, though they should not have to be—ideally, we could leave them, unfilmed, to discuss their preferences in tank tops and hats without having to send the film crew to observe them. Since we do have to, though, this film does a great job of showing how clever and resilient the campers and counsellors at fYrefly are, and will provide an illuminating window for anyone who cares to look in. If you’re not able to catch Summer Qamp at TIFF in Toronto, keep an eye on the local LGBTQ2S+ film festival near you. I imagine it will make a splash this year.


And that, my beloved peaseblossoms and prom monarchy, is a bouquet of new and pleasing items from our late-summer harvest of the arts, to enjoy with a fizzy drink, a bendy straw and your friends and the sweet promise of a few more warm moments before we all have to drag out our tuques and boots, before everyone’s thighs are tucked back under wraps for the winter. I hope you get a last sip of everything delicious while there’s time. As always, if you’re making something new and queer, DM me? 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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