Dearest beloveds, friends of all ages and strangers, too (who are just the friends we haven’t met yet): welcome to another edition of Queer Culture Catch-Up. This week is Lesbian Visibility Week, an opportunity I will take to highlight a number of brilliant lesbian works of art and culture, and invite you to consider the ways in which sexism doubly impacts lesbian erasure in a culture that has trouble conceiving of any woman as having primary interests other than finding a man and keeping him happy (if this seems surprising to you, ask any of your femme friends and be prepared for a distinctly femme—stylish, political and uncompromising—education).
Look Long: Together by the Indigo Girls
I have so many nice Indigo Girls memories, many of them involving sitting on a lawn somewhere at a great summer concert venue, singing along with a lot of other cute queers to “Closer to Fine” or “Galileo” (watch this video for 2,500 sweaty fans singing joyfully along). While the Indigo Girls are touring this summer, they remain the kind of act that makes thoughtful choices about where, when and how they perform. To this end, they’re kicking off their summer season with a streamed celebration concert for their new album, Look Long, also collecting their long career of audience favourites into an evening of reminiscences, backstories and yes, singalongs, on Sunday, May 8, 2022, at 9 p.m. EDT. For $23.10 CAD, you can bask in the sweetness.And if you like, you can re-bask for the following week, as your ticket entitles you to rewatch as often as you like, or to catch the show at a more convenient time.
Girls Can Kiss Now: Essays by Jill Gutowitz
Speaking of lesbian memories and dyke histories, I read Jill Gutowitz’s new essay collection Girls Can Kiss Now with one hand on the internet to revisit iconic clips referenced in the book, like Eliza Dushku’s cheer audition scene in Bring It On, in which she unclips her wallet chain, causing the wistful sighs of baby dykes everywhere that still reverberate to this day. Gutowitz blends reflection and interrogation and moments of culture in a collage that never feels chaotic—she has her hand firmly on the tiller; she knows where we’re going and is ready to steer you competently to shore through a flotilla of crushes, the hazards of Hollywoodization and the Scylla and Charybdis of the Male Gaze on one side, and Lesbian Invisibility on the other. This personal and idiosyncratic timeline of pop culture that displays (sometimes while simultaneously denying) queer women and their desires doesn’t hold a lot back, and I loved it for that.
“Wired” by Kinetic Light
Okay. Attention, attention. I am absolutely over the whole moon and all her stars and several galaxies that this dance piece is streaming by the amazing, brilliant Alice Sheppard, founder of Kinetic Light. Sheppard is a multiracial, queer, Black Brit who left a career in academia (she was a medeivalist!), started taking classes with Kitty Lunn of Infinity Dance Theater and now … phew. The shapes, movement, athleticism, lights and projections, nuance and the metaphor are all stunning. “Wired,” presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, is available to watch in person May 5–8 at 9 p.m. EDT, but will stream live on May 7 with pay-what-you-can tickets. I have been waiting years for an opportunity to see Sheppard and company, including longtime collaborators Laurel Lawson, Michael Maag and Jerron Herman; here it is, and I will NOT be missing it and neither should you. Seriously, would you look at this? Or listen, there’s an audio-described version and a captioned version as well.
Bruised by Tanya Boteju
I’ve been looking for roller derby–themed young adult fiction as my household young adult becomes interested in it, and I am always sniffing around for books where the queer characters get to be, well, not perfect angels. Bruised fits the bill. Main character Daya, who is struggling with tremendous grief after the deaths of her parents, and the self-harm coping mechanism she’s developed in the aftermath, is sometimes, understandably, a jerk to people; it’s a behaviour that is not magically and immediately solved the moment she makes one friend. I love fluff and romance, but Boteju does something different, letting Daya be conflicted and challenging and sad and also sexy and joyful and connected as she navigates her new life options. Boteju is also clearly a derby fan and it shows; the descriptions of the sport are vivid and interesting whether you read them and think “that’s exactly what it’s like” or “I want to watch this happen!” This isn’t necessarily an easy book, but it’s very, very satisfying, and on the strength of how I felt when I turned the final page, I recommend it to you.
Goodnight, Dear Heart: Songs for Parting by Transcend transgender/gender-expansive singing ensemble
Can I be honest? I love a trans choir. I love listening to voices like mine and those of my friends and loved ones, making beautiful music from baroque to, er, extremely modern. New York City now has a new trans chorus, Transcend, and I am in favour. Have I heard them sing live? No. Am I familiar with the Byzantine chants with which they plan to open their show? Also no. I have this one muddy, off-the-floor, probably-an-iPhone-recording of them singing one song at a Nativity play, and that is enough. On May 13, at 8 p.m. EDT, I will be in my seat and ready to listen to their streaming, pay-what-you-can concert because I know for sure that I am ready to hear trans people elevating beauty wherever they find it, and because, in my line of work, you never know when a good chant might come in handy (though they are also singing a selection of traditional choral music and modern art songs, in case you work in a different industry).
There you go, sweetest pies, a list of excitements for your various face holes to enjoy in the moment when they’re not occupied with anything else (like ice cream, you degenerates). One last thing: if you wanted to maybe make a little art yourself, there’s Queer Life Drawing to check out, hosted and organized by Callen McKeon, Sundays at 10 a.m. EDT (it’s a U.K. event, but what a fun brunch activity). Or you can simply perfect your winged eyeliner, your basement re-organization, your cocktail skills or whatever else you’re working on and call it queer culture (I will write you a permission slip and/or a recommendation for your grant if need be). Be well and safe, be joyful and kind and I’ll see you soon. As always, if you’re making something new and queer, drop me an email or DM—I’d love to hear your news.
Correction: May 3, 2022 10:02 amA previous version of this story misspelt Tanya Boteju’s name.