Delicious greetings, my tender crumpets and tea cakes and gluten-free morsels of love, and welcome to another edition of Queer Culture Catch-Up, a similarly delectable buffet of queer and trans artworks and cultural happenings from which you may fill your plates, to say nothing of your hearts. In this edition, I am ranging as usual across disciplines to bring your attention to a selection of tastes that span from comfort food to exotic treats, in the hope and trust that meeting them here will embolden you to indulge in some things you forgot how much you liked and sample some new delights to expand your palate, artistically speaking.
LUGGAGE N’ UMBRAGE: The Skeebo Sides EP, COMMANDO
Queer collective COMMANDO, featuring such notables as Tribe 8 helm Lynnee Breedlove and Deep Dickollective member and Homohop festival organizer Juba Kalamka, has released a four-song EP, LUGGAGE N’ UMBRAGE: The Skeebo Sides, a collaboration featuring Kalamka and the work of his great-great uncle Ekzekiel “Skeebo” Johnson, Sr. If you’re a queer punk or metalhead (or punk lover) on the lookout for tracks that stir your soul with a fusion of punk spirit and Black political hip-hop, holy pancakes, are you in for a treat here. The driving rhythms of the tracks will short-circuit your heartbeat while the words make a place for themselves in your bones and blood. Also, do not miss out this video of another Kalamka-fronted offering, the COMMANDO song “Hotel Essex,” based on the poem “Now We Think” by the late, great writer Essex Hemphill, whose work has continued to inspire many further artworks long after his untimely death in 1995 from complications from AIDS, including this incredible letter by poet and National Book Award Danez Smith.
SAP, Mae Martin
Longtime fans of Mae Martin will probably remember the days when their comedy was a series of well-observed jokes about queer and trans life, including their infamous bit about “which one of you is the man?,” which they liken to saying “which part of this salad represents the pork chop?” The non-binary comedian and television star’s new Netflix special, SAP, isn’t as queer-specific as their earlier work, but it does do something that I have long valued—it creates the moment for people to walk into a conversation about gender where, by the time gender even begins to be a topic, they feel so at home that they don’t want to leave (though Martin does, in the latter third of the show, begin to address themself to the wonders and horrors of being a queer, non-binary comedian doing an extremely mainstream gig). Martin’s easy humour relies a certain amount on calling back to previous jokes, complicating and further interrogating them, which is one of my favourite kinds of comedy—you don’t have to be a nerd to enjoy it, but it certainly adds.
Promises Stronger Than Darkness, Charlie Jane Anders
In the two decades I have known (and, frankly, adored) Charlie Jane Anders, her work has reached incredible heights of inventiveness and lyricism. Nowhere has this been demonstrated more clearly than in her Unstoppable series, a queer space opera of love and loss that defies anything you thought you knew about sci-fi, YA fiction or gender. With Promises Stronger Than Darkness, the last (sob) book in the trilogy, Anders reaches ever greater heights of imagination and wonder. There are many difficult choices to make—both interpersonally (yes, the universe may be ending, but also why is my best friend being so weird with me right now?) and also in action and problem-solving (the universe may be ending!). One caveat: don’t jump into the third book without reading the first two if you can help it. There are some recaps, but you’ll enjoy this queerer-Firefly-meets-Douglas Adams trilogy the most if you begin at the beginning, so you know who we’re trying to resurrect and why some things simply cannot be trusted in the 300 remaining days the characters have left to solve the problem of a tyrant bent on extinction.
Leeds LGBTQ+ Community Consortium participatory events
Our community-minded friends at the Leeds LGBTQ+ Community Consortium in England have clearly understood that artistic events bring communities together during a pandemic, and have continued offering an online poetry club for queers and friends to read or listen to poets read their work, arts education (including both art appreciation and creation), songwriting and more. Have you been inspired to start creating again? Did you perhaps never stop? Would you like a small, friendly group to share your work with? These workshops are welcoming, inclusive and geared to welcome beginners—no matter how much or little practice you may have. The rotating facilitators are ready to welcome you and help you ease in or build skills. I also want to note that sometimes I hear people complain that their friend groups are alarmingly homogenous, especially in age, and nowhere are you more likely to meet a wicked old gay or a brash young queer who you otherwise might never have encountered than in LGBTQ2S+ hobby groups like these.
Kit Yan, Melissa Li and Michael R. Jackson, Next at Lincoln Center
So this is a delicious treat for springtime in New York City: the Next@LCT3 Series at Lincoln Center is hosting some of my favourite queer musical theatre powerhouses. From April 27 to 30, Michael R. Jackson (Pulitzer and Tony Award–winning writer and composer of A Strange Loop) will be presenting a concert of new and old favourites. Then, the very next week, Kit Yan and Melissa Li, who performed as musical duo Good Asian Drivers for some years before making the move offstage to create the musicals Interstate and MISS STEP, are on the same stage from May 4 to 7. If I were in NYC, I would be in the front row with a flower in my lapel and a spring in my step, but since I can’t, please go and tell me all about what these queer geniuses are cooking up (also, if you are a musical theatre superfan, this is going to be one of those times—especially with Yan and Li, who haven’t quite broken out yet—where in 10 years you’ll make everyone at Marie’s Crisis green with envy when you casually mention seeing a show like this). Worth putting on your KN95 and getting out for.
There we are, beautiful people, a whole new smorgasbord of ways you might soothe or amuse or enliven yourself through the arts in the days ahead. I hope those days are full of discovery and adventure and doughnuts, I hope you feel safe and challenged in exactly the right measure and that the person you like most to kiss kisses you extra, preferably without making you lose your place in what you’re reading but some trade-offs are worth making. In the meanwhile, if you’re making something new and queer please drop me an email or DM me all about it, I love to hear your news.