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Archive: Queer Politics


How can we be a community if we exploit each other? In this wonderfully cynical, yet melancholic and passionate performance / lecture / reading, Berlin based artist and performer Mysti reflects on self-employment and exploitation in the field of cultural production and questions the notion of a queer community by revealing its underlying power-structures in terms of race, class and gender. The lecture mixes performative elements with (queer-)feminist theory and personal anecdotes and was recorded on June 10 at Raumererweiterungshalle Berlin. A text version can be found on Mysti’s blog Fuck Me While I’m Gorgeous.


If you happen to be in Berlin in the next weeks and months, I warmly recommend the exhibition “What is Queer Today is Not Queer Tomorrow”, which opens tomorrow evening at 7 at the art space nGbK in Berlin-Kreuzberg with a performance by Pakistani artist Eshan Rafi and a party with DJ’s Svetlana Pall Mall & FordKelly und VJ Black Cracker. The exhibition will run until August 10 and feature works of wonderful artists from Berlin and around the world. Here’s the official announcement text:

“Queer Today is Not Queer Tomorrow explores the theme of queer temporality. The project responds to debates within queer milieus (lesbian, gay, trans*, intersex-, etc.) and to the increasing integration of queer ways of life into the political mainstream. The nGbK becomes an explicit venue of experience, confrontation, reflection, lingering, exchange and departure.

What is ‘queer?’ What was perhaps once queer – and what has been omitted from this framework? What could queer be? The exhibition raises questions about community, identity, visibility and sex; it opens up postcolonial perspectives and tales of lesbian-gay-trans*-bi-inter-queer stories, hair, bodies, porn and capitalism. During the eight-week exhibition, artists will intervene in the white cube of the nGbK. Selected works will enter the space over time or be developed in an ongoing process that visitors can accompany.

Performances will take place at weekly intervals, the documentations of which will also become part of the exhibition space.

What is Queer Today is Not Queer Tomorrow has been conceived and organised by the (heidy) collective, an nGbK project group, which consists of persons working with performance, theory video, text and images – some are people of color, some are identified as cis- or trans-, some are gay or lesbian, some are not.”

More information and the full program on the nGbK website, on heidy’s blog and the exhibition’s Facebook page.
Photo: Florian Ashka, untitled, 2013


“Queer, Ill, & Okay” is an experimental performance series started by Joseph Varisco, founder of the Chicago-based multimedia production collective JRV MAJESTY. The collective has done wonderful and impressive community work over the past 3 years by building platforms for queer artists to connect and express themselves through various forms of performance art. Check out their Vimeo account to get a better idea of what I’m talking about.

Varisco, who is also responsible for ongoing performance events such as the oral history series Queer Lexicon, the queer performance series LEX·IC·A and the hip hop concert series Queer Cypher (see Vimeo), has initiated “Queer, Ill, & Okay” in 2012 after being diagnosed with HIV. His attempt was to initiate a performative space in order explores the intersections between queerness and living with chronic illness from different perspectives. A space, which allows queer identified people living with HIV and other forms of chronic illness to share their experiences with their community and celebrate their live in all its varieties.

You can now contribute to improve ”Queer, Ill, & Okay” by supporting this Kickstarter campaign, which raises money in order to pay the artists performing at upcoming events of the series, as well as to compensate the people who are professionally documenting them (free online streaming!). Please donate here, only 500$ more dollars are missing. And if you still aren’t convinced, here is the official campaign video, which also features artists of the upcoming events:

The next “Queer, Ill, & Okay” events will take place on Saturday, July 5th (see poster on top) and Sunday, July 6th at 7PM located at Defibrillator Performing Arts Gallery in Wicker Park.


To state the obvious: this is not a review. I have no taste in music and I have no desire to cultivate a viable critical voice regarding musical authenticity, innovation or their less appreciated opposites. Planningtorock is always seductive and I am always easy. Instead, this is first a brief review of some the reviews of All Love’s Legal followed by a series of questions activated by the new subject, Jam, within the larger project of Planningtorock.

Samuel Tolzmann of Pretty Much Amazing manages to reduce the album to: “45 minutes of ‘Born This Way,’ only it’s also not very catchy.” Fair is fair. Jam borders an excessive amount of sloganeering within the album. Tolzmann grieves her inability to sell him the appeal of ending patriarchy (Trigger Warning: Total Dude Review). But I must say that thoughtful politics rarely stem from music. Emotional politics however, are fed by song and let us for a minute not value former or the latter, instead allowing them to simply be.

For me, the immaturity of these lyrics reflects beautifully the unimaginative present of gay politics and it’s hijacking of human rights dialogue. Reviewers of the album link it with the Sochi Olympics, exotic counties who punish homosexuality with death, and of course the more evolved Western “shift” away from “inhumane and outdated ideas around marriage.” Released within the same year the Associated Press Style Book declared that no human is to be described as illegal, All Love’s Legal must have a more layered intention than simply gay marriage… legality and love are never comfortable in bed together.

How, within the sweeping universality of Jam’s lyrics, can we only relate one singular image of a love that’s possibly illegal? From a gay perspective alone, aren’t there multiple forms of criminalized love? Sex work? Man/Boy? CHEMSEX? Public Cruising? Sero-discordancy? Anonymous monetary domination? Polyamory? Indeed, these are disparate examples but love exists in all of these places regardless the legal positioning of the Nation/State.

Isn’t the idea of a citizen put to death for being homosexual terrifying because it reflects the infinite capacity for violence within and by the Nation/State? A nation putting any citizen to death is the real horror. Isn’t the reading of love by the Nation/State inherently violent regardless homosexual inclusion because the Nation/State requires permanent otherness by its very nature? Doesn’t legal consideration eliminate and manipulate love?

Born_This_WayWho is the ‘you’ Jam speaks to when she says “You can’t illegalize love?” I read it only as a statement to the Nation/State… it’s the only universal application of the lyric that aligns with her utopic message. Indeed the failure to hear anything but a gay agenda in this song, reiterates the lacking imagination regarding a stand against queer oppression in Russia: rather than challenging the laws of our own countries with the aim of making asylum and a path toward citizenship viable to persecuted Russians, we simply held slogan signs in our undies and staged kiss-ins. Challenging the path to citizenship works not only on behalf of queer Russians, but also Syrians and other victims of nationalist violence. Isn’t this equality our goal?

“Love is the one thing that gives life its purpose.” Planningtorock

When law and Nation fail us, love is supposed to sustain us. Are we criminal if it doesn’t? I believe many lives are given purpose outside of love. And love is a slippery slope. The struggle to cultivate, define and maintain measures of authenticity in one’s love life is its accompanying violence: She’s not in love, she’s having an affair. Look at the younger guy with his sugar daddy… he must just want his money. His wife was once a man so actually he’s gay right? Suddenly our most private ‘sustaining’ love-partner relationship brings everyone else’s private lives to be judged and labeled because our love must always be different, and better.

The globalized values of capitalism have fingerprints all over our love lives. We believe we invest in relationships, and that longevity inherently produces more. We believe our children owe us and our parents cheated us. Our friendships become banks of love to withdraw when needed, and store for later while we leave all other love transactions to clear their approval ratings.

Clearly a humanist politics of love as universal doesn’t digest well for me. And a genderless society sounds about as hopeless as believing we no longer have to ‘see race.’ But perhaps now somewhere there is a frustrated lonely teen jamming out in their room to these anthems of refusal. Gender is not just a lie in the scope of the world, gender has a very real gravity and violence in reality… but for a moment maybe our previous teen gender deviant selves would have relished such explicit and catchy belligerent refusals of reality.

Planningtorock’s “All Love’s Legal” is out via Human Level.

Denise Jolly and Sonya Renee are two champion spokenword artists and activists now visiting Europe (dates below). On Thursday 13 February in Berlin, they will have a workshop @ 1730 at Waterloo-Ufer. That same night, Lady Gaby hosts a night of spoken word and poetry with both as special guests.

WORD BANK, the spokenword performance show presents: DENISE JOLLY & SONYA RENEE
Thursday 13 February @ 21:00
Schloss Neuschweinsteiger
Emser Str. 122/123, 12051 Neukölln, Berlin

Denise Jolly Be Beautiful ProjectDenise Jolly is the founder of the Be Beautiful Project, a 30 day visual and public art project that received major international coverage including Huffington Post and Global News Canada.  She is currently the 5th ranked female performance poet worldwide. Denise has taught, performed, and hosted in a wide range of organizations including universities, community centers, and private/public schools. She has also demonstrated a passion and skill for working with student populations and was a past Executive Director of Youth Speaks Seattle. She likes doing great things with amazing people and being moved by art, community and how the two work together.

Sonya Renee The Body Is Not An ApologySonya Renee believes in the life-shifting power of art; its ability to challenge, engage, and heal the human spirit. She is an author, educator, and queer activist who has mesmerized audiences across three continents as well as in prisons, mental health treatment facilities, homeless shelters, universities, and public schools. In 2011, a terribly frightening act of posting a profile picture of herself in a saucy black corset turned into an empowering unapologetic act of self-love. This founded the international movement The Body is Not An Apology which is transforming people’s relationships with themselves worldwide and attracts attention from publications like New York Magazine.

Denise and Sonya are additionally performing at the following cities:

  • München 10 Feb @ 20h Poetry in Motion, Lyrik Kabinett, Amalienstraße 83a
  • Hamburg 12 Feb @ 20h Best of Poetry Slam, Ernst Deutsch Theater, Friedrich-Schütter-Platz 1
  • Berlin 13 Feb workshop and performance as described above
  • Frankfurt 14 Feb @ 2030h Poetry Slam! Frankfurt, Café 1, FH Frankfurt, Nibelungenplatz 1



We’ve already featured artist, activist and filmmaker Carlos Motta here in early 2012 when we posted about his wonderful web-based project “We Who Feel Differently”. His most recent work is the “Nefandus Trilogy”, a series of short films from 2013, which reflect on the way colonialism in South American condemed and punished sexual acts that were seen as “sodomy” based on a Christian moral system. The three films entitled “Nefandus”, “Naufragios” (Shipwreck), and “La visión de los vencidos” (The Defeated) all have a very contemplative approach, combining footage recorded during a trip to the Don Diego river in Northern Colombia and to Lisbon, with spoken text based on historical documents.
Tonight and during the upcoming weekend the triology will be shown the first time as part of the short film program of the Rotterdam Film Festival and after a preview of the films I strongly recommend going there if you have the possibility. There’s no trailer for the whole project, but the festival provides an excerpt from the “Nefandus” short film, which gives a first impression of what this is all about. For more information please check out the artist’s website, the website of the IFFR, where you can also purchase tickets.


My buddy Alexander Geist and I just released our second collaboration, “A Woman’s Right to Choose”, a single / art poster with an accompanying music video, in honor of WikiLeaker Chelsea Manning, who was recently sentenced to 35 years in a men’s prison without access to hormone therapy. While preparing for the single release concert (Thursday, December 5 at Monarch, Berlin), Alexander compiled a list of his current YouTubespirations.

1. Tami Tamaki “I Never Loved This Hard This Fast Before”

“I think this record was on of the most enticing things I heard all year, it’s so tenderly raunchy and unexpected, isn’t it? I just want to roll around on that mattress with Tami, hold her to against my chest and whisper, ‘Sing to me lover.’ She can also do really cool magic tricks with coins.”

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The 16th Trans*tagung (trans*-convention) in Berlin is coming up (October 3-6). Luce deLire and Markues spoke about it:

Luce deLire_Slutwalk_ photo: Markues

Luce, you are one of the organizers of the annual Trans*tagung in Berlin. There is an inter*-Tagung as well and I was wondering how it would be to have a gay-tagung, a lesbian-tagung these days or a straight-tagung (if this isn’t the Bundestag) – tell me why do you think there is none of the latter or if there is a need for it?

You are right to pose this question, adressing the difficulties and differences among a diverse crowd which may be called “queer scene”. In the same moment, the question seems a bit weird as there is no proper distinction between those categories. It is not necessarily the case that you are either trans* or gay or inter* or lesbian or. Categories seem to cut through here. There’s room for a lot of different approaches and lived realities at the Trans*-tagung, depending on the workshops we get, responding to our call (extended until 31.08.2013). So if you read this send us stuff. In the same moment, your question also adresses the problem of “safe/r spaces”, community organizing and trans*-politics.

One overview of what trans*-politics could actually be is Dean Spades Video “Impossibility Now”. Please explain for us the specifics of the upcoming Trans*tagung in this broader context?

It’s true, trans*politics are part of broader political landscapes and movements. Spade explains the relationship between neoliberalism/ prison-industrial-compex/ homonationalism/ pink washing and trans*-politics. Important for him is the deconstitution of state power – to replace the penalty system, the police and other given transphobic institutions by collective care and strategies like “listening to each other” and “imagining another world together”. I am not saying that this is the definitive aim of this Trans*tagung – for we never talked about it. I think if trans*politics can achieve to strengthen trans* and queer communities in order to build some solidarity and bring people together so that they can imagine their lifes collectively, we may have won something.

This years motto is “Trans*, schön Fem(me)nistisch!”. How did you choose it and how is it connected to the discussions in the Berlin based scene? How is the strong critique of a group of queer people of color posted prominently around the transgenialer CSD reflected here?

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“For me, queer means radiant darkness, radical love, and a million and one ways to resist and decolonize. Queer is imbued with deep spirituality and sweetness.”


Edward (Eddie) Ndopu is a dis/abled queer Afro-politan activist, writer, community organizer and scholar based in Ottawa, Ontario. His work is focussed on topics such as disability justice, queer subjectivities, trans embodiment, black consciousness and anti-colonialism. He first caught my attention with his article “On Azealia Banks and White Gay Cis Male Privilege” (published on the Crunk Feminist Collective blog earlier this year) in which he critically analyzed the power dynamics of the Twitter battle between Azealia Banks and Perez Hilton. To get to know his work better I further recommend:

You can also follow him on Twitter and check out his web presentation “Re-imagining Resistance: Deconstructing Disability Oppression within Social Justice Work” + his video comment on female representation in media to the Represent. project.

<queerocracyThe latest episode of the queer web documentary series Signified features the work of the New York City based queer activist group Queerocracy, which fights agains the criminalization and stigmatization of HIV/Aids. Learn more about the work of Queerocracy on their website, they are also on tumblrFacebook and Twitter.


By prosecuting Russian LGTBI organizations under the new “foreign agent law” and with the recent introduction of a Russia-wide law that bans “propaganda of homosexualism”, the Russian goverment has not only made clear that it perceives the country’s queer community as one of its biggest enemies. It has also created an even stronger anti-gay and anti-trans climate in the country by giving homo- and transphobia a legal fundament, which especially hits younger queers and queers that aren’t part of a helping community hard.
I personally don’t believe in stuff like Vodka boycotts or political pressure in conjunction with Olympia 2014 as ways to change the political situation in the country – I have a feeling that these kinds of actions might target the wrong people. I’m also kind of fed up with all the petitions that reach me every day, I have a hard time believing that they will really change the mind of the people they’re addressing.

In my opinion the only way to help the Russian LGTBI community from outside the country and to enable Russian queers to still be able to raise their voice is to support their organizations and the individuals who run them directly. Financially.
Two Russian NGOs especially currently need a lot of money: Coming Out St. Petersburg and the Russian LGTB Network, both based in St. Petersburg. Coming Out especially needs financial support because they just recently have been found “guilty” before a court in St. Petersburg of operating as a “foreign agent” and were fined 500.000 rubles (which is around 15.000 dollars/12.500 Euro). They are now collecting money on their website to pay the fine, the account details can be found here (the link on the website is unforunately broke). To find out more anout this case you can read an interview I did with the organisation’s head of communications on the website of the German Heinrich Böll Foundation.

UPDATE (July 27): Coming Out have announced on Facebook that they have managed to raise enough funds to cover the fines.  

The Russian LGTB Network also faces the thread of being sued under the same law, so they are already collecting money for this likely case. On their Facebook site they also state that donated money will be used to provide activists with judicial aid at court and to keep the organization running. Their acount details aren’t published online, but you can write them an email ( and they will send it to you.

If you don’t have the financial resources to donate right now you can also help in other ways: In another Facebook posting the Russian LGTB Network has made just recently, they emphasize that they also appreciate all sorts of supporting letters and videos:

“Letters of support are also always welcome! Especially when thinking about our activists, some of which are very young, lively and warm letters and video greetings would do wonders. We can share your greetings to our regional divisions and other LGBT organisations in Russia! Especially all video greetings that are easy to forward to the activists and ordinary Russian gays are needed. If possible, please translate the letters and subtitles in Russian.”

They are also looking for people who send them articles and videos from abroad, in which the organisation and its chairperson Igor Kochetkov are mentioned, because they are not able to keep track of everything and in all languages.

Both organizations are really doing a good job in regularly posting the latest news on their websites and Facebook sites. It’s the best alternative to the sensationalist and sometimes degrading stuff especially “Western” newspapers and blogs are publishing on the web right now.

Picture on top: Activist at the gay pride in St. Petersburg, Photo: Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality / Coming Out St. Petersburg


In November 2011, Shelley “Treasure” Hilliard, a 19-year-old trans girl from Detroit, was brutally murdered. A new film project directed by feminist writer and filmmaker dream hampton entitled TransParent – A Story of Loss in a Community Misunderstood now takes a closer look at the still unsolved case, portraying both the individuals behind it and the community in which it took place. A huge part of the project produced by Detroid based poet and queer activist T Miller will be dedicated to Treasure’s mother, who still tries to deal with with the unimaginable loss and shares her own story and the story of her daughter in front of the camera.
hampton, who has had a long career as a successful writer and essayist about hip hop (she was the first female editor at The Source and co-wrote Jay-Z‘s autobiography Decoded) has announced on her tumblr last year that she is “done with hip hop” because of its misogyny. The TransParent project shows that she now focusses more one the perspective of those marginalized by patriarchical structures than on “the power itself” – which is something she just recently did in a very brilliant way with her beautiful video for THEEsatisfaction’s Queens released last year. To support the film project please watch the trailer below and donate on the TransParent Kickstarter page. The campain runs until July 31. Photo on top by Kenny Corbin.