by David Watkins
at 10:50 AM | Permalink
Local LGBTQ news and views
After almost seven successful seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag has been infused
into mainstream popular culture more than ever before. Drag, once thought taboo
by many, is now becoming widely accepted as an art form. The show produces an
ensemble of drag queens, each with their own fan base, that go out and tour all
over the world post-show. The RuPaul’s
Drag Race queens, unofficially coined “Ru Girls” by season five runner-up
Alaska 5000, fill up queer night clubs and bars with fans of all ages dying for
a picture or even just acknowledgement from their favorite star. It has even
been suggested that Drag Race and Ru
Girls have saved or rejuvenated the queer club scene after a stagnant period of
time. The show has given a group of historically unappreciated performers a
platform to make music, act, promote philanthropic issues, make a living and
share their art with the world.
But, of course, not everyone is cast in the 14-member
ensemble — and some do not want to be. Some queens cite Drag Race as a misrepresentation of drag and reject even a
conversation about the show. Others, mostly younger queens known as the “Drag Race Generation,” swear by it so
religiously that their concept of drag is considered unrealistic or naïve.
Whether performing on TV or in local clubs, drag queens have
become queer Rock stars. Being a hardcore Drag
Race fan and drag culture enthusiast, I am left wondering why I have to
travel to Louisville, Ky., or Columbus, Ohio to see my favorite Ru Girl and
experience the best venues. What needs to happen to make the scene more
engaging? Was Cincinnati ever a destination for queer nightlife? Will more
big-name Ru Girls come to the local clubs or bars in the future? I asked
Cincinnati alternative-camp queen Judith Iscariot to weigh in on the current
state of the queer nightlife scene, the queer movement and drag culture in
How did you create the name Judith
Judith Iscariot: Judas [from the Bible] is
considered the number one traitor — the worst person in history. But if you
delve into other stuff like in the gospel of Judas — which a lot of Christians
ignore but a lot of scholars say there is just as much merit as in the other
books of the Bible — Judas actually volunteered to be the betrayer. Jesus
approached the apostles and said, “I am going to be betrayed by one of you,”
and Judas was like, “I’ll do it,” knowing full well that he would take the
blame and he would be scorned and possibly go to hell. I think he gets a bad
rep because everyone sees him as this villain when in reality he’s kind of this
tragic hero, and I think he is ostracized, villainized for all the wrong
things. He’s misunderstood, and — not to sound like some grand character —
that’s how I felt at the time in my relationship. That my ex-boyfriend and his
friends and stuff made me out to be the bad guy but, in reality, I was just
trying to do the best I could. I felt completely betrayed in the way I feel Judas
was betrayed by his own God, rather than the way Jesus was betrayed by Judas.
You have to get both sides of the story to see who the real monster is. I then
came up with the character of Judith Iscariot, and I was like, “That’s genius.” Judith Iscariot performing at The Cabaret
CB: Could you survey Cincinnati’s drag scene?
JI: The drag is very Midwestern. They all want to do
the big hair, big padding, the outfits made by fellow queens of stretch fabric
and spandex materials. Most people glue down their brows and draw them on and
do really hardcore shading. It’s of course very different in the big cities
like New York. New York definitely celebrates the club kid scene [NYC club
personalities who wore elaborate and outrageous costumes in the late ‘80s and
early ‘90s] where things are just really wild — bearded drag and all that
stuff. L.A. is about glamour and — I hate the term — “fishy” queens [a widely
used but recently controversial term describing a drag queen that looks
extremely feminine or could pass as a cisgender woman]. In Cincinnati, it’s
just kind of stagnant here, and the scene itself is very separated. It’s ruled
by two different entities — The Cabaret [in Below Zero Lounge on Walnut Street]
and The Dock [a dance club downtown]. The Dock is more of a young, hip scene
and The Cabaret is more older clientele. I love The Cabaret because the
demographic is more open to appreciate camp [an over-the-top, exaggerated style
usually meant to be comedic] and not just glamour.
CB: It seems like the drag scenes in Louisville
and Columbus have better opportunities for queens and clubgoers. Why do I have
to travel to another city — that isn’t much different from Cincy — to see a Ru
Girl, for example? What kind of club or change would you like to see in
JI: We used to have Adonis the Nightclub, which was
like our Play or Axis [popular dance clubs in Louisville and Columbus] — huge
front video bar, huge dance floor, separate room with a big stage. The only
reason it didn’t dominate the scene is because it was kind of a far drive away.
It was a 15-minute drive east [from downtown], which isn’t bad, but a lot of
people want to stay right in the city. I would love to see something like
Adonis transplanted right into the city. We still don’t really have that in
Cincinnati, but it would really thrive from a large, accessible dance club that
features drag. That would be amazing.
CB: These days you cannot talk about drag
culture without talking about RuPaul’s Drag Race. What are your thoughts about the show and how it translates from
television to everyday drag scenes on a local level?
JI: I think it’s been both good and bad because the
queens that really look up to Drag Race
really kind of have to check themselves and realize that it’s just a television
show. It’s meant to be entertaining. It’s not the 13 best drag queens in the
country; it’s 13 different characters that they think would make an interesting
cast. A lot of the older queens complain about Drag Race because they say it makes, you know, drag look awful, and
it’s not what drag is really like. I would argue that because it kind of is
[what drag is like] because it’s this fake, campy, larger-than-life mockery of,
you know, womankind and reality television. A lot of bitterness just comes from
queens who know they could never get on Drag
Race. That doesn’t mean that they are any less talented than [the queens on
the show] are. It just depends on what [RuPaul is] looking for in terms of
creating a cast. I think everyone is just trying to jump on board right now
when it’s really popular, but they don’t realize that the fact that Drag Race is on television — that’s
revolutionizing drag, and drag will only continue to get more recognized.
CB: Do you think the success of Drag Race and Ru Girls touring has saved or improved
the queer club scene? If so, what can be done or is being done to get more Drag
Race girls to make a stop in Cincinnati?
JI: When I saw Raven [a fan favorite Ru Girl] at The
Cabaret, I saw people there that I have never seen out before. It’s all these
people that pay their $15+ to see Raven — I was just like, “Oh, cool!” It’s
definitely filling up the clubs because when these Ru Girls come to clubs like
during their season and right after, people go crazy for them. And they will
pay whatever it takes to get in there and it’s just madness. Every time [a Ru
Girl] comes to a club, that club is guaranteed to do well. Cincinnati isn’t a
major destination for them. It’s Penny [Traition, a Ru Girl from Cincinnati who
was a contestant on Season Five] at The Cabaret and, obviously, she knows a lot
of the queens. She’s kind of the one who will bring them in most times … Cincinnati
is not really on the radar or on the map. It’s Penny who [will use her
connections] since they are already in Louisville or Columbus. Cincinnati is
like a side project right now.
Until Cincinnati goes from side project to recognized city
with a strong drag presence and scene, go see a show. Being on RuPaul’s Drag Race does not make you the
best queen. Cincinnati has numerous talented queens at The Cabaret, (Ru Girl Detox performs June 24 during Cincinnati Pride), The Dock Complex and Club Glitter. Check them out and support your local queens! Bring dollar bills!
Rupaul’s Drag Race crowns the winner of Season Seven Monday night at 9 p.m. on Logo.
by David Watkins
at 04:00 PM | Permalink
Local LGBTQ news and views
Disclaimer: Although Jenner gave
ABC, some news outlets and Jenner’s family permission to use "he," "him" and "his"
pronouns until people become comfortable with the change, I am using gender neutral
pronouns "they," "them" and "their "and dropping Jenner’s first name out of respect to
an individual that has dealt being misgendered for a large portion of their
life. Jenner also has not released their preferred name.
and white photo
showed what appeared to be a twentysomething with a shaggy bowl-cut. The person
was smiling, mouth open, revealing his probably perfect pearly whites as he
looked off camera. Who is he looking at?
Is he in mid-laugh or mid-sentence? What made the old photo interesting,
despite it being posted on Instagram by Kylie Jenner in the first place, was
how the person’s chiseled muscles and hairy abs contrasted with the tight
clothes that concealed body parts our society likes to label “vulgar” and
“inappropriate”. The last place I looked was in the eyes. I had noticed they
were looking away, but I never really looked in their eyes and tried to read
them. The eyes in the photograph read as distant, unfocused, not fully engaged.
Was I just looking at it in a different light because my prior knowledge and
context changed? The Instagram post read, “daddy throwback. #Tonight
#DianeSawyer #ABC #love”.
I had a lot
of positive and negative anxiety about the Bruce
Jenner Interview with Diane Sawyer. My two biggest passions — the queer
rights movement and popular culture — were center stage, about to sing a
dynamic duet under a hot spotlight. The iconic event would change my view on
the direction of the trans* movement, how I view the Kardashian family — a
guilty pleasure turned complete obsession, especially with Kim K. — and how the
public views a community they have little knowledge about. Waiting for the
interview to start, I was clueless as to what was in store. I only knew the
duration of the interview and sneak peeks I viewed online. While I was
confident I knew Jenner’s announcement after viewing the illegal paparazzi
shots published by the New York Daily News
of Jenner in a dress, I refused to give into the stereotypes I made based on
photographs. Jenner was the only reliable source. I did not think it was a
public relations scheme to promote a new reality show, but I wondered how it
could last two hours. What are we in
store for — two hours of ignorance and the same pictures on rotation from the
1976 Summer Olympics?
interview began and progressed, I was pleasantly surprised with Jenner’s
well-informed, genuine responses and the educational presence of the interview.
I appreciated the inclusion of newsworthy events from the past couple of years,
interviews from other transgender figures and the visual approach the interview
took in terms of explaining and comparing terminology. Here are the good and
bad moments before, during and after the interview that I found the most
interesting:Morning talk show host and
personality Wendy Williams has made controversial comments about Jenner for
years and received flack again the morning of the interview. Then on Monday,
she repeated that Jenner was “deceptive and really fame hungry like the rest of
the family.” Here is my take on this: Even if the interview was a publicity
stunt (which I do not believe it was), it almost does not matter. It educated a
record 17 million people Friday about gender and sexuality. For many viewers,
it was their first time hearing specifics about the subject. Jenner’s
documentary series — premiering on E! this summer — was not mentioned until the
last half-hour of the interview, and according to E! Online, writers will consult with GLAAD, The Kinsey Institute
and other Ph.Ds. This makes me think the docu-series will have the same
educationally driven tone the interview attained.
Diane Sawyer played the part of
uninformed mainstream America perfectly as she struggled to grasp the
difference between gender identity and sexuality, changing her wording but
essentially bringing up the same theme multiple times and asking the same
questions about gender identity versus sexuality throughout the interview. I
thought it was quite comical in the moment, but in retrospect — if Sawyer was
playing the part of “at-home-viewer” — it showed society’s inability to grasp
nonbinary ideals and accept an individual’s state of unknowing.
Jenner shades the Kardashians. Being
the Kardashian fanatic I am, I was shocked to realize 30 minutes went by without even mentioning Kim K!
Jenner proved critics wrong in a tasteful, informative program without typical
Kardashian sensationalism and not many people on social media noticed the
family’s absence — proving Jenner really did have the only real story all
along. Gasp! *cries in corner* Kim K is
still American royalty to me!
Kim K is the most accepting? Khloe
is having the hardest time?! Jenner explained that Khloe has experienced a lot
of heartache with the loss of her father, Robert Kardashian Sr., at an early
age and then alluded to her ex-husband Lamar Odom’s downward spiral toward the
end of their marriage. Jenner says Kim, on the other hand, is the easiest to
talk to about the transition. One of the lighter moments was when Jenner quoted
Kim saying, “Girl, you got to rock it, baby. You got to look good! If you’re
doing this, I’m helping you. You’re representing the family. You got to look
Jenner’s four children from his
first two marriages — Brandon and Brody, who we occasionally see on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and
Burt and Casey (Jenner has another
daughter?! Literally, how did I not know this?) displayed unconditional love.
It’s always special when former The Hills
star Brody Jenner reappears on television, but his brother Brandon had me
swooning as he and his man bun sat by Jenner’s side in full support. But where
were Kendall and Kylie?
When a big televised event is on,
social media goes wild with Vines, Tumblr gifs and tweets making fun of
highlights from the show. When I scanned social media during commercial breaks,
I saw inconsiderate and transphobic content, of course, but positive responses
outweighed the negative drastically according to my newsfeeds.
Jenner clarified they are not a
spokesperson for the transgender community, but mentioned daily struggles the
community goes through. “The suicide rates, the murder rates, the difficulty
for especially black female women” were issues Jenner shed light on.
One of my only complaints is Jenner
answering Sawyer’s questions about their political views. We learned from the
interview that everyone deserves to live an honest, authentic life. Individuals
are entitled to support the political party of their choice. It just bothered
me that someone in a newfound position of power to be a role model, which they
are and will continue to be, would publically associate with a traditionally
anti-queer political party. Jenner lost some clout and credibility I gave them —
after an emotional, informative interview — when they said they thought
Republicans Mitch McConnell and John Boehner would be receptive to a
conversation about trans* rights… Newsweek
reached out to both individuals. No comment. Shocker.
Jenner’s mom got me choked up again
at the end. Eighty-eight-year-old Esther Jenner, who was described as “rather
conservative,” sent in a video message from her home to tell Jenner how proud
she was. “I was very proud of you when you stood on that podium in Montreal,”
she said. “I never thought that I could be more proud of you, but I’m learning
I can be.” *chills*
After an iconic, progressive and
informative two hours spent challenging gender roles and learning about gender
identity, Diane Sawyer feels the need to close on a sexist joke made by the
Soviet athlete Jenner defeated at the Olympics. He asks, “How could I have lost
to a woman?” Really?
“I’m saying goodbye to people’s
perception of me,” said Jenner. “I’m not saying goodbye to me because this has
always been me.” Enough said. Respect.
was not the only one making national headlines that day. Cincinnati received
coverage, but not for anything noteworthy. Senate, a gastropub in OTR that occasionally
picks a celebrity or current event as inspiration to name and create the Dog of
the Day, featured the “Bruce Jenner 2.0” Friday. The dish, described as “part
hot dog part taco,” had a beef frank sliced in half and filled with taco
toppings. After experiencing outrage on social media, Senate issued an apology
and donated the proceeds to The Heartland Trans Wellness Fund. This whole
situation is wrong for multiple reasons.
transgender folks received an unprecedented amount of media attention. Actress
Laverne Cox, model Carmen Carrera and author Janet Mock reestablished how
reporters and talk show hosts speak to trans* individuals by speaking out when
they felt uncomfortable or triggered in interviews and making it an on-air
educational opportunity. One of the main themes in these interviews was America’s
fascination with transgender genitalia instead creating conversation about the
trans* suicide rate or homeless queer youth. The bottom line was that trans* public
figures wanted to be valued for more than what is in their pants. Sexual
reassignment surgery is typically the final stage of the transformation, but
not required or done by everyone. It is a monumental and hyper-personal moment
for individuals that continue on in that journey. The “Bruce Jenner 2.0” was a
symbol of how privileged individuals and businesses appropriate minority groups,
even for just one day of media buzz, and increased revenue. Senate’s actions
were regressive to the strides Cox and others made in regards to how we speak
to trans* people.
interview was unprecedented and a major success for trans* visibility, but it
does not change the suicide rate or the fact that seven trans* women of color
were murdered the first eight weeks of 2015. Visibility in the media and
educating the masses is crucial to the movement, but it must translate to
policies and how mainstream society treats transgender people. Jenner is not
the first to show public displays of bravery. As the trans* rights movement
continues on and we meet new faces, let us not forget the historical events
like the Stonewall riots and the unspoken queer heroes that paved the way for
Jenner to come out and educate the nation on primetime television.
you always hear that eyes are windows to the soul. If that is true, why is it
the last place we truly look? Why is it so romantic and out of the ordinary
when you are on a date and the other person describes your eyes in great detail,
as opposed to generalizations like, “You’re beautiful,” and “You look so hot in
that”? During Jenner interview, I saw it all in their eyes — the pain, the
relief, “her”. I saw it again as they replayed scenes from Keeping Up with the Kardashians. When now-ex-wife Kris made fun of
Jenner’s clothing and style, what I perceived as annoyance when I watched the
episode years ago I now perceived as hurt and pain in Jenner’s eyes. In the flashback
scene of Khloe referring to Jenner as a strong male presence in her life,
Jenner looks deep in thought and distant.
changes a viewer’s perception, and we need to start paying attention.
Reflecting back on Kylie’s Instagram photo of a young Jenner, I realized that I
had to get past the short jean shorts and cut-off tee to truly see the
photograph. You never really know someone’s life or the journeys they are on. Here
was the model “masculine figure,” but inside Jenner was filled with emotions
and feelings most people cannot begin to understand. Like society’s fascination
with what transgender folks have below the waist, we could not see that Jenner
had a lot more depth to him that we presumed. Jenner’s closing advice for
people was to “have an open mind and have an open heart.” This ideology can be
translated to different aspects of our life and the relationships with others,
especially those we do not know. Together we are all connected, making up
collective humanity. We are one.
full interview with Jenner and Diane Sawyer here.
by David Watkins
at 04:44 PM | Permalink
Local LGBTQ news and views
Louisville and Columbus receive more national recognition for a growing queer
community, especially when it comes to nightlife, it made me think: Where is
Cincinnati’s place in all of this? What burgeoning queer organizations or
popular queer spots in town are making their mark and promoting education,
change and the values that make up the queer movement?
First on my
list is Queen City Queer Theatre Collective. Conceived by actor and director
combo Linnea Bond and Lindsey Augusta Mercer, this uprising theater company
presents play readings that speak to the queer experience. The goal: Create
conversation, challenge social norms and ideals, and enjoy moving plays in a
relaxed environment. With assistance from Below Zero owner Nigel Cotterill and
sponsor Absolut Vodka, the group of artists performs readings once a month for
free at Below Zero’s Cabaret Lounge. I caught up with Bond to learn more about
QCQTC and why it is important to Cincinnati.
CityBeat: What inspired you to start
Linnea Bond: I wanted to, first, work more. I’m
an actor, and I wanted to do more work. And I wanted to do more work that
mattered to me. I saw a hole in Cincinnati. Cincinnati kind of fell behind, but
there’s also a lot of people who are interested in talking about their
experience and there’s a lot of people experiencing life as a queer person who
don’t have that kind of outlet to talk about it and are not seeing their
stories onstage. And as a queer person myself, it was a part of my life that I
didn’t get to experience that much before. I grew up Evangelical and pretty
much as an adult came to terms with the fact that I was allowed to explore that
part of myself. So it was something I’d been thinking about — how to explore
parts of art that I wanted to address, and also be working more. So I decided
to start this group and I found a space — I talked to Nigel. A friend of mine
from high school helped me make that connection, and I knew that her finance
was a director. I’d seen some of her work and I sought her out and talked to
her about maybe being a consistent director and working on this project. And
she was really excited about it, so she came on and we moved forward together
as co-founders and got other people involved. I got together a cast for the
first show — of people who were really excited to do this — and we moved
forward from there. It’s just really evolved. The community has really come out
to support us, and it’s been a really exciting and rewarding process.
CB: What was is it like working with
Below Zero Cabaret Lounge owner Nigel Cotterill?
LB: Nigel actually was so excited about
the first reading. He really wanted to support us and I was putting forth money
on my own for the rights of the first show. He volunteered to take care of
those for us, which was fantastic. And he offered to broker that relationship
with Absolut Vodka, so now they sponsor us for rights for every show. That is
something we are also so grateful for. And we’re grateful for [Nigel] to be extending
that space to us, and it’s been a really positive relationship for the bar, I
think, so it’s just wonderful overall. His bar is a huge cornerstone for queer
culture in Cincinnati. It’s a place where not only queer people feel
comfortable, but I know a lot of not queer people who go there and love the
culture and experience. I think it is a really wonderful, inviting,
nonjudgmental, celebratory place. I think that it’s really cool that we get to
partner with him in that space.
CB: What is your view on the queer
movement in Cincinnati? Why are organizations like yours important to the city
and queer community?
LB: From my perspective as an artist, I
think that art and artists are the soul of a society. I think that if we aren’t
doing things, society will often close up and become cold towards whatever we
are not talking about. Especially in Cincinnati, where there is a thriving
queer culture, that there still is not legalized gay marriage. There are
certain parts of town I’ve worked in before where I’ve received
closed-mindedness toward queer rights and the queer experience. I think there
are a lot of forward-minded people and there’s a lot of backward-minded people.
So we are really hoping to encourage that discussion and make it a normal thing
for us to be talking about. My hope in the future is that — as we’ve seen lots
of supporters come out [to support], lots of activists, lots of people who
share our experience — I hope that it extends to people who might not be
comfortable with that conversation. I hope they feel welcome to come experience
our art, and gain something they have not experienced before. That is why
[QCQTC] thinks [performances] should be free. We want to be accessible to
everyone, no matter what their financial background is.
CB: What can an audience member
expect when attending a reading?
LB: We were wondering how it was going
to be perceived because people are used to a full presentation. We knew people
would like it, but we were surprised at how much people like having that
different format. We do it very efficiently, very quickly. We put that show up;
so we only have a couple of rehearsals. It is also up to our director, Lindsey,
on how it is going to be staged. There is sometimes movement on and off stage.
Sometimes there’s a little movement and staging in it. But ultimately, we want
to focus on the text and communicating that text and those relationships as
well as we can.
CB: Your website explains that QCTQC brings “free public
theatre to Cincinnati’s queer bar scene, giving locals the chance to celebrate
the queer experience in art while enjoying drinks and downtown nightlife.” But
what are your goals for the future? Do you ever plan on expanding to an actual
theater space or a larger venue?
LB: Anything is possible at this point.
We love our relationship with Nigel, so we appreciate the space and want to
maintain that. But we have thought about possible partnerships with churches.
GLSEN is an organization we also respect. We want places that are available to
youth. We are very limited by the fact that people who are under 21 cannot come
to our performances because it is a bar. We are hopeful for increasing
accessibility in the future. We don’t know what that is going to look like, but
that is something we think about. How can we expand? How can we reach more
CB: What is your process when
choosing from a plethora of queer plays and literature?
LB: Some of it has to do with logistical
constraints — you know how big the cast is, that stuff. We really want to do
trans* shows, but we’re really sensitive to the fact that we don’t want to put
a cis[gender] actor in the position of playing a trans* character. That is
something we have to think about in terms of casting in the best way we can. We
hope for that in the future, but it is wherever our heart leads. We have plenty
of time. We’re in a sustainable position, so if something moves us — that we
can’t do right now — we can perform it later. The first play that we did — The Beebo Brinker Chronicles is one I
found over the summer — moved me so much because it shows so many different
perspectives, especially the queer experience from the woman’s perspective.
Additionally — and some people might disagree with me on this — I think that it
is an early example of someone who wants to change their gender in a society
that doesn’t have that dialogue.
CB: The past decade has provided
entertainment through television programing like The L Word and Orange is the New Black that gives the queer woman’s perspective as
you mentioned. Now TV shows like Transparent and RuPaul’s Drag Race have entered
the mainstream, sparking a conversation about gender identity and gender roles
in society. This has not always been the case. Still, today, the entertainment industry
continues to glamorize the cisgender white male experience. Do these pop
cultural themes or the role of cisgender white males in society contribute to
the plays you choose to perform?
think of ourselves foremost as educators, but we think of ourselves, also, as
artists telling good stories that are moving. I, personally, would like to do
more shows that are about the intersectionality between the oppressive queer
experience and other experiences of oppression.
CB: In high school I read Angels
in America by Tony Kushner and it changed
the way I see the world, myself as a queer individual and the queer movement.
What was the first queer play you read that inspired you to connect your art
LB: That’s a great question! There was
certainly stuff before this, but my mind first goes to reading The Beebo Brinker Chronicles last
summer. I was able to come across a play that had characters I could really
connect to — people who didn’t think they were allowed to feel the attraction
that they felt.
can one get involved or audition for QCTQC? Is it only 21 and older?
LB: We’re working on it. We don’t have
answers yet, but we know there is that energy and we’re really trying to find
ways to serve it. The best way is to get in contact with us through our email,
which is email@example.com. We
started this through a grassroots energy effort and if people have that
excitement to join, we absolutely want to meet that energy. We feel so grateful
to the people who have supported us, who have been moved by what we are doing.
I feel so grateful.
Queen City Queer Theatre Collective
presents a reading of The Night Larry
Kramer Kissed Me by David Drake tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Below Zero Cabaret
Lounge. 1122 Walnut St.,
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Like many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, City
Councilman Chris Seelbach and his partner Craig Schultz have a skeptical
sense of optimism about the city’s changing attitudes.