Adam Ross AKA Gaystrychef Celebrates

1 Year In NYC, 2019

Whenever I used to think about living in New York, it was Manhattan that I imagined. I would picture myself working some job in one of the many buildings that line the claustrophobic streets of the city, going home to my partner of many years in our midtown apartment, raising a family of our own; it was the very heteronormative fantasy that I had been told was the life I should plan for. Funny how quickly things can change.

It was after my husband and I had separated (yes, I was married) that I found myself living in Provincetown, aimless but happy. That little town by the sea is a beautiful escapist dream from real life. It’s easy to live there and work like crazy during the summer, and relax all winter with the other year-rounders. It is much harder, though, to find a stable living situation, and a job with growth potential; the best thing about living in Provincetown though, wasn’t the busy summer or the downtime of winter, but the strong sense of queerness that is ever-present there, and the way that the people who live there support one another and form a small, tight-knit community. When I made the decision to leave town and move to New York, it was this sense of community that I feared losing most. 

Adam with Gizmo

I had been to Bushwick once before moving here; I only knew one person who lived there (we had become close friends over the summer in Ptown) and they had invited me to come visit Brooklyn for my birthday. Over that weekend, I met the people who would become my family here, and they introduced me to queer spaces that opened my eyes to what a queer community looks like that wasn’t insulated, as Ptown is, from the real world but rather flaunts its queerness and loudly dares the world to question it. I danced all night at Spectrum, I sat on the Rosemont patio quietly observing the interactions, I walked the streets in a look and felt safe stomping down Wyckoff in heels – and I was welcomed warmly by everyone I met. I felt a need to live and immerse myself in Bushwick, and more importantly to me, to document the queer scene and culture that is so wonderfully present. I moved here two months later with my dog, my camera, and my desire to dive headfirst into the community comprised of performers, artists, queers, faeries, sex workers, and nightlife organizers that called out to me so strongly.

Since moving here I have become (what I see as affectionately) known as “You with the camera.” I bring my camera with me everywhere, and it feels like there is always some aspect of queer life that justifies documentation; nightlife, specifically, has been my focus. The drag scene in Bushwick is unique and weird and alive in a way that drag never has been to my eyes… it’s more than a solid lip-sync, but the way the performers here fully embody the art of drag. 

I was lucky enough to be at the last party hosted by Casa Diva (yes, I know it wasn’t technically in Bushwick) at which performers owned the floor passionately with reverence for the space that was apparent to me even without knowing them, the crowd emotionally responsive. Boy Radio gave me life as Jack Skellington in his shadowcast of Nightmare Before Christmas (earlier in the year, his Rocky Horror Picture Show party Frank II was one of the first shows I attended, and it was revelatory… I even joined the cast as Eddie for Frank III recently). I was introduced to Oops! (my favorite Wednesday night party, hands down), where Juku, Magenta, and West Dakota shine a light on what drag can be in its most giddily stripped-down (in Juku’s case, usually in a literal sense) form. Sad Songs, hosted by Patti Spliff and her iconic braids, is an outlet for drag performers who embrace the emotion and ennui that is often lacking in nightlife. Untitled Queen is another performer who emotes completely in their art, whether on stage or on paper, and uses their platform to highlight others who might not have a stage (they use ASL in many of their performances, for one example). At Unforgivable Emotional Carnivore, Menthol, Pinwheel, God Complex, and a rotating cast of guest performers do what seems to be stream-of-consciousness drag… it’s disjointed, weird, and utterly captivating.

Mary Con at Dragnet

Tiny Tiger at The Violators Exhibition

Dynasty at Bushwig

Gemma and Lauren at Riis Beach

Serena Tea at Dragnet

Willie Norris

Events such as Dragnet and, on a much larger scale, Bushwig, give performers a chance to showcase their own style of drag. One of my favorite pictures of Serena Tea, who would go on to snatch both the Dragnet and Bushwig crowns, is of her quietly smoking a cigarette before performing at Dragnet, surrounded by the bustling crowd oblivious to the fact that she would burst out shortly in a skintight body suit with the head of a velociraptor. The community goes beyond nightlife and performing though. One of the first exhibits I attended was The Violators, which showcased queer art that had been banned from Instagram (a platform on which queer censorship has been an increasingly noticeable and disheartening reality). During summer, Riis Beach is a safe haven for scantily clad queers of all shapes, sizes, bodies, genders, and colors; the sense of community there is intense and palpable. I found that same community strongly present at the debut runway for designer Willie Norris, who cast his show entirely with queer bodies; the show was uproariously celebratory, and left Norris (snapped here looking tense minutes before opening the doors to the public) emotional and overjoyed.

Patti Spliff

There is so much magic in Bushwick that it’s hard to pin down one aspect that has been the most meaningful to me. It makes me so proud – and so happy – to be a member of the community here and to get to observe, document, and preserve it from behind the lens of my camera; I am continuously overwhelmed by the artistry on display, and by the way the community constantly comes together to support and uplift each other.

I cannot wait to see what the next year living here will bring.

Adam Ross