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EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Patrick Arias: “Bushwig is Like a True to Life Family Reunion”

THE MIXER | EDITORIAL

BUSHWIG 2021:

PATRICK ARIAS’ FAVORITE MOMENTS

My favorite part about Bushwig is how it feels like a true to life family reunion. Every circle of NY nightlife and beyond come together to dress down and leave it all on the stage and support their friends and lovers. It moves way too fast to document all at once, it’s a total whirlwind of drag and laughs and stunts!

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Events Nightlife Timeline

Horrochata’s “Be Cute” Halloween Bash

HORROCHATA’S “BE CUTE”

HALLOWEEN

10-30-21

LITTLEFIELD, GOWANUS

8th Annual Halloween bash was held at Littlefield in Gowanus, with performances by Charlene Incarnate, Lucy Balls, C’etait BonTemps, Dèvo Monique, Tina Twirler, Angelica Sundae, Ginger Von Snap, Neon Calypso, and Horrorchata herslef. DJ sets by Tikka Masala and Hannah Lou.

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Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
EDITORIAL Timeline

Dèvo Monique: Dear White People

EDITORIAL

Dèvo Monique: Dear White People

NYC-based Black drag performer Dèvo Monique addresses Black queerness in relationship to the NYC nightlife scene, the BLM movement, and white society.

Photography: James Thompson

It’s not a surprise that many New Yorkers fled the city as soon as they got a whiff of the looming pandemic and the stay-at-home orders that followed. Many creatives and people working in the nightlife industry opted to stay with their families in other states while coronavirus ravaged The Big Apple. It’s still uncertain how many people will be able to return and resume their home and work lives, even as NYC cases have significantly slowed and the city is in the fourth phase of its reopening. At this point it’s anyone’s guess what the landscape of nightlife and freelance work will look like in the future, even after a vaccine becomes available and New York City’s economy returns to “normal.” 

One of those creatives is NYC’s drag artist Eugene, who prefers to go by her drag moniker Dèvo Monique. Dèvo has been waiting out the pandemic with her family in Virginia. Even though she wasn’t physically present in NYC when the unrest over George Floyd’s murder started erupting, she and fellow activist Ickarus served as organizing and guiding voices for those who were on the ground, Sidewalkkilla included. Within a matter of a day after the first protests, the duo organized a chat group that enlisted over 100 people exchanging tips and information on the events happening in the city. A few days later Dèvo reached out to let us know that she had partnered up with RuPaul’s Drag Race season 11 alumni Honey Davenport and drag artist and political figure Marti Gould Cummings to change the whitewashed landscape of New York City’s nightlife for good.

Drag Saved My Life

Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, Dèvo never really felt like she belonged: “I grew up as a dancer and I was dancing professionally until 21. I grew up combating the world of Virginia which on one side was very forward-thinking and very artistically forward, but then you had people who were throwing textbooks at you every other day and calling you a fag.”

Dèvo Monique was born in the local Richmond drag scene, but yet she also felt like she didn’t belong. As a drag performer, Dèvo always felt the pressure of presenting something she was not,

“I was never going to be a Virginia pageantry queen, and not that I don’t respect those queens or love that kind of drag, I was just never that girl that they were trying to make me out to be.”

When Dèvo made a debut in the NYC drag scene, she claims that it saved her art, and drag itself saved her life. When Dèvo’s career as a professional dancer ended and she felt that she was hung up in the space of not knowing what the future held. Upon moving to NYC in 2017, Dèvo was approached by a drag queen named Heaven-Leigh Kennedy, after dancing her heart out at a local bar.

“She was like, you’re really good and she would not take no for an answer. I tell you, I turned her down seven times and she was like, just let me know when you want to perform and I sat on it for about a week and then I messaged her and I was like, I’m going to come in. I went to sort of like an amateur competition show and I won and that was it. That checkmarked everything. It brought everything together and it just made sense. I finally started to make sense and I made sense most when I’m in drag, that’s what I mean when I say drag saved my life.”

Blackness Does Not Look Better on a White Person

Even though Dèvo was well on her way to finding her voice and aesthetics as a drag performer, it turned out to be a little harder to carve out a space in Manhattan’s gay nightlife, where white queens ruled. “So I was working this party as a host at this bar and I was really excited because it was my night and they put my name on a poster. But I got inside and I was like, oh, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that, and they were like, no you can’t do any of that. They said, you can’t perform this kind of song, you have to perform top 40 songs and if you are not going to wear this next week, you are not going to be able to do this party again. They tokenized me as just having a Black queen and didn’t give me any right to really perform what I wanted to perform. It really irked me because I really thought I was making it through and I really thought a lot was changing for me, but it didn’t. And they told my DJ, ‘Can you play something more top 40?’ And I was like, ‘You mean white music?’ And the bartender just laughed and shook his head and I was like, why is that normalized?”

“What’s really wild to me is I will never understand how a bar will have a happy-hour show and have a night show and that happy-hour show will have all white queens and that night show will have all white queens and then that bar will only have a Black queen that works there once a month,”

Dèvo continues,

“And then she does it once a month and the day she works is not a Saturday or a Friday.”

Dèvo feels that Manhattan’s gay nightlife has been appropriating Black culture and being celebrated for it for way too long. “White people really think Blackness looks better on them. It really kind of irks me when I see white queens getting tipped all this fucking money because they do a Nicki Minaj or a Doja Cat song and a Black girl does it and does it 20 million times better and they’re like, oh but you’re expected to do that because you’re Black. Blackness does not look better on a white person. It does not exist. You can’t tell me that what I invented myself and what my ancestors invented will literally look better on you, because you want to try it on.”

Dear White People

Within the first week of the NYC protests, Dèvo partnered up with drag personas Honey Davenport, and Marti Gould Cummings, to have every New York bar take the pledge to be truly inclusive in their staffing. “I would literally like every single bar to have at least someone Black who is producing or putting a show cast together. Every bar needs to have a Black bartender. Every bar needs to book multiple Black DJs, multiple people of color working. That’s what I want to see. I want to see true inclusion. I want to see true accountability, because white people, as much as they want to believe it, as much as they are learning and watching Pose or whatever documentary on Netflix, to learn, they are never going to have the knowledge to understand what it takes to be a Black person, so hire a Black person.”

“When you don’t

invest in the people that are making up

the world around you, you are

silencing voices”

“I got really good advice from a queen once – she told me, it’s your job to know who everybody is. It’s your job to know what girls in Manhattan and what girls in Queens are working and how to know what they’re doing and I feel like bartenders and bar managers and producers are not taking that job as seriously as people of color are taking that job, because I know damn well, there are a lot of Black queens that know the bars just as well as I do. I can tell you what is happening on Sunday at every single bar. It’s important to know, so you can know who’s in your community, so you can have access to the full array of what your community can offer and so you can build a better community for everyone and for everyone to not only feel included but to feel accepted and to feel like their lives really do matter and their voice really matters. Because when you don’t invest in the people that are making up the world around you, you are silencing voices. How are you going to listen to something that you don’t know exists? How are you going to speak up for it? How are you going to integrate it and make sure it’s executed properly? How are you going to book it in your bar? It’s a trickle-down effect.”

Black Trans Lives Matter

In the midst of the national protests over the strangulation video of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, another video surfaced from the same city, only of a different nature. A mob of Black people attacked Iyanna Dior, a 21-year-old Black trans woman, at a Twin Cities gas station. The video sparked nationwide debates over the inclusion of Black trans and Black LGBTQ lives into the Black Lives Matter movement. Less than two weeks later, around 15,000 people showed up in solidarity with Black trans lives at a Brooklyn Liberation March

In a short video posted on Twitter, trans entertainer and LGBT activist Ts Madison voices her concerns over the lack of support for Black trans people within the cis Black community: “With me even not feeling included, I know it is my duty still to stand up for Black lives, Black lives protests and movements because I’m Black first. Now the thing that hurts me the most is, I gotta face white supremacy from the white man, then I gotta turn around and face hatred from my own Black. I think what people don’t understand with trans women is that it’s hard and it gets more and more difficult when each year two, three, four of us are being killed in one year and no one is really speaking up for us, or standing up for us, or protesting for us the way that they are. You know, cuz when Trayvon Martin died, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, I’m forward, using my voice to talk about this stuff you know, but if the tables were turned, there is that question, would they do this for me?”

Hate towards the most marginalized groups of people doesn’t only happen from outside of its community, but also within. It’s not a secret that there has always been a lot of tension between white gay men and trans women of color. Didn’t trans women of color birth the gay scene? So where is that disrespect coming from? “Entitlement and privilege,” Dèvo says, ”We would be nothing without Sylvia Rivera, we would be nothing without Marsha P Johnson. There would literally not be any of these bars and establishments to go to. There’s just so much disdain and disrespect when it comes to trans people and trans lives that I’m really kind of disheartened and always mind-boggled by the way that hate is executed out in such a free manner.”

So how can we change that? Dèvo thinks that the answer is simple: we can change by educating and listening, “I think people think it’s such a huge math equation they need to figure out and you just need to listen to trans people and just listen to what they want. For a long time trans women, trans men, and trans individuals have been seen as crazy or have been seen as ‘you just got here, you just came here’ and it’s like, girl, they’ve been here as long as you’ve been here. And also the inventions that trans women have created are always undercut by their white counterparts of either gay men or cis people who take it over because they want to feel entitled. Like the Ballroom culture, has hugely, hugely been infiltrated by white people now to the point where gay white men are at the club trying to do hand performance to a fucking Lady Gaga track and act like they invented that shit and it’s like, no, that’s not the tea.”

Do You Have Real Black Friends?

Dèvo believes that Blackness and queerness shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, “My drag is very queer and I don’t think the references like that are afforded to Black queers or are necessarily based on the idea of queerness, it’s more based on the idea of Blackness, and I think sometimes Blackness can be very anti-queer and we don’t realize it because it’s also just so angry. But I’m a queen who mixes Blackness and queerness. And people don’t always really want to fuck with a queer part of it… I love Being black. I love my Blackness, I really discovered my Blackness heavy in the last seven years of my life by really recognizing what my culture means and what it really represents in me, but in that it was so tensed up and unhinged, because there was a lot of anti-queerness in it. And it gave me a lot of mixed emotions. So relating that to drag, where white people have a view of one drag queen and they want that one drag queen to be the same because that’s the only way they can relate to you and relate to your art, because if they don’t they would have to combat the ideas inside themselves of why they can’t relate to your art and what they’re actually exposed to and wonder if they’re exposed to it enough. And they would really have to do their homework to understand it. And white people never want to do their homework to understand anyone besides themselves. That’s something that goes into all cultures and all art forms and that’s wild.”

“There are coons who get next to white people to kind of bleed off the access or the accessibility of what they can acquire for them,” Dèvo continues, “and I think there’s a lot of white people who feed off that energy and feel good about themselves because, ‘I’m not racist. I have one Black friend and he tells me I’m great.’ And I’m like, yeah, but do you have real Black friends who are really into Black culture and speak their Black culture on a daily basis that you’re not listening to? … And I think it’s also a thing where they don’t know how to relate to Black people because they choose the kind of Black people they want to be friends with because it’s only palatable enough for them to understand. And they don’t want to hear it, because if it’s not palatable enough to hear, they’re not interested. If they don’t get it, they can remove themselves from it. And that’s the beauty of their privilege, and they fully access it when and however they want to.”

“Freedom” Music Video Premiere (SWK Exclusive)

Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Activisim EDITORIAL Events Nightlife Timeline

Opinion: What Is Your Responsibility When Representing Your Community?

EVENTS | ACTIVISM


Opinion: What Is Your Responsibility When Representing Your Community?

A non-binary drag fixture in the Brooklyn queer community, Thee Suburbia, held a fundraiser for the Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC), a nonprofit organization based out of Washington, DC, and helmed by black trans activist Dr. Lourdes Ashley Hunter. What was meant to be a supportive and uplifting event took a sudden turn due to unexpected hostility and verbal abuse directed towards the attendees by Dr. Hunter throughout most of the night. 

Thee Suburbia living for one of the performers

The fundraiser’s lineup included over 30 performers, most of whom were trans women of color. Thee Suburbia had the idea of starting The PoC Drag Art Collective for a while, and it took  physical shape in Suburbia’s home, during Thanksgiving dinner, when she invited fellow queer creatives and announced her intention of holding the first PoC Drag Art Collective. “She just kind of posted up a sign-up sheet and told us to sign our names if we wanted to perform,” one of the night’s performers J Rosa reminisced about that evening. 

Before we even figured out who we wanted to give money to, we were already creating awareness to support trans women of color, hence why the event’s lineup was mostly comprised of trans women,” Thee Suburbia stated in explaining the importance of creating this project. “We wanted to show how much we cared about people who might need more help; we also wanted people to experience the connection we are creating for each other.”

The event was held at a DIY space called Hartstop, located in the Bed-Stuy (short for Bedford-Stuyvesant) neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn queer community is not new in creating DIY spaces to hold events – those are the spaces where everyone feels the safest, it seems: the Casa Diva party that used to be held at Charlene Incarnate’s industrial loft has achieved almost legendary status, while the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards 2019 winner for “Best Party,” Oops!, takes over The Rosemont bar every Wednesday to do whatever the creators Juku, West Dakota, and Magenta desire. 

Thee Suburbia reached out a week prior to the event, asking me to attend her first fundraiser she worked so hard to arrange. It took me over an hour to get to Bed-Stuy from Harlem, but I didn’t dare miss an event with such an amazing lineup that also was supporting a good cause. The performances were scheduled to start at 6 pm and go on until 12 am. 

I was about an hour late, but I got there just in time to catch a few performers from the earlier lineup. Dr. Lourdes Ashley Hunter showed up just a few moments after me, wearing a yellow African print dress. Soon after that, Suburbia invited Dr. Hunter to the microphone to introduce herself. Dr. Hunter started off her speech by advertising a book that was made for her by “a white woman” who wanted all of the proceeds from the book’s sales to benefit the TWOCC. “I got books for sale and I am not taking any of them home with me, so all of you hoes will purchase a book tonight…” Dr. Hunter proclaimed to the crowd’s cheers and laughter. She wrapped up her speech by noting that a black trans woman was murdered in DC “three days ago,” and that on the way to New York she learned that another trans woman had been murdered two days ago “three miles away from here.” “And it’s a bit much,” she continued, “so we are here to celebrate black trans women.”

During the first break between the performances, I wandered over to the side of the room where Dr. Hunter had set up a poster with photos and a quote that read, “I don’t want to be visible because I am trans. I want to be seen, affirmed and celebrated as a whole damn person… I want to wake up without a threat of violence! I want to fall in love, raise a family and pass down traditions my grandma and mom passed to me. I want to thrive without fear! I don’t want to have to tell you all about my pain for you to then journey towards an understanding that trans folk deserve to breathe, to live and thrive in a world that celebrates all of who we are… Humans.”

Dr. Lourdes Ashley Hunter

Moved by the inspiring quote, I turned around to find Dr. Hunter standing right in front of me. “Are you buying the book?” she inquired, to which I replied: “Sure, but I will get it a little bit later.” 

Dr. Hunter looked me dead in the eye and said, “So you are not buying the book?

I will, but I wanted to ask you a couple of questions first about the work that you do.” I perceived an immediate shift in her attitude the moment I said I wasn’t going to buy the book on the spot.

Why are you asking me this, do you wanna date me?” – which she didn’t say in a funny way; it felt like I had asked someone a question that I had no business asking. 

No… I just wanted to find out a bit more about your work,” I proceeded cautiously. 

She made a frustrated puffing sound, simultaneously flipping up her hair and pointing both of her upper extremities to the poster behind me: “Well, go to my website and you can read what you need to know there.”

I prefer to hear it directly from the source…,” I continued, even though I could feel the ground was getting shaky.

Well then, you should have already known what this event was about before coming here, this event is for me!” she said, starting to lose her cool. 

I made a mental check that she emphasized that the event was for her and not for her non-profit, but I went on: “Well, I am writing an article about this, so I thought…” 

I don’t give a fuck what you do! This event is about raising money! I don’t have time to explain! Black trans women are dying! We don’t have time to explain shit!” – she went berzerk.

I started shaking. This was so unexpected and the exchange was making me feel uneasy and unwelcome, all at once.

Junior Mintt

I withdrew myself from the argument and stood to the side. One of the performers of the night, Junior Mintt, a Black trans woman known for her funny yet politically charged performances, approached Dr. Hunter at that moment to chat, only to be met with: “Tell him sis! We ain’t got time to explain shit! Black trans women are dying!” At that moment I just got really pissed off and couldn’t stay quiet. I turned to Dr. Hunter and asked her if she really thought it was wise to shut someone down when they come to her with a question about her cause, to which she became even more unravelled, screaming: “You are a cis gay man! Don’t start with me! I’m a Black trans woman!

With that statement I felt like she had just invalidated my entire existence. It made me feel small and unimportant, almost like an outsider that dared to invade a space that wasn’t built for me. At that moment I was ready to leave. I had gone to the event with the aim of uplifting the work that Suburbia and TWOCC were doing together. What was I supposed to write about the event now?

I went up to the rooftop to catch some fresh air. Thee Suburbia was standing there talking to a couple of other performers. She turned to me and asked me how I was doing. I told her what had just transpired. She showed instant concern and a flicker of a shadow appeared on her face. “I’m so sorry that happened,” she said. “It’s not your fault, maybe she is just drunk,” I responded.

After staying up on the roof for a bit, I decided to stay for the rest of the talent that was slated to perform later in the evening.

Zenobia, Charlene, Islaya, MTHR TRSA, Dai Burger

Throughout the night, over 30 queer PoC performers have taken the stage: Jayse Vegas, Dezi5, Showdolliana, Junior Mint, Robert Garcia, Xtain, La Candelaria, J Rosa, John Mateo, Zenobia, Charlene, IslayaMTHR TRSA, Senerio, Foxy Belle Afriq, Sir Charles, Juniper Juicy, Kenzi Coulee, Denime The Queen, Xunami Muse, Paris L’Hommie, Caribu Vague, DJ Hard Candy, Thee Suburba herself, Dancer On Probation, Tina Twirler, Glow Job, Onyma, Skittlez, J’Royce Jata, Dévo Monique, Jypsy Jeyfree, Marcel, B Hawk Snipes, Mojo Disco, and the headliner of the night Dai Burger.

Even though Dr. Hunter was living for everyone’s performances, she kept on sprinkling the crowd with violent verbal outbursts. At one point she snatched the mic from MTHR TRSA, the second host of the night, and asked for a chair. When the person manning the mix board moved a stool towards her, she commanded: “Bring its height up, white person!” The audience responded with uncomfortable laughter. At another point of the night, she snatched the mic from MTHR TRSA again while she was in the middle of introducing the next performer, responding to the host’s polite protest: “I don’t give a fuck about the next performance! Listen to me!

Several times throughout the night she grabbed the tip bucket and ran around the room demanding that people put money into it: “I know you got coins, cuz I see you buying drinks at the bar!,” “Come on you white motherfuckers, I know you got money!,” “If you are not donating money, then why the fuck are you here!?” The barrage of verbal abuse towards the crowd went on incessantly. Right before Charlene was about to perform, Dr. Hunter misgendered her: “You are a white cis woman, what are you doing here?” By this point, no one was trying to cover up the uncomfortable situation with laughter any more, and many people were leaving. Finally, during one of Dr. Hunter’s attempts to extort the crowd, in a sign of defeat she rested her elbow on MTHR TRSA’s shoulder and pronounced: “You know what, I don’t need this.”

Eventually Suburbia came up to me and told me that she and a group of other people staged an intervention and asked Dr. Hunter to leave. The atmosphere significantly lightened up after that, and the people who showed up after this point were clueless about the night’s earlier episode.

Suburbia said: ”We just told her that this is the party we are putting together, we don’t know how many people were going to come or what it was going to look like, we just knew that we wanted to give her something and quickly it turned into her saying that we agreed to pay her.” I asked why the PoC Drag Art Collective chose this specific organization as a beneficiary. “I looked her up,” Suburbia responded, “I read about things she was doing, I read a lot about her collective. That night, a lot of people came because of her workshops. It really looked great on paper. In the beginning a part of me wanted to give to the Ali Forney Center, The Trevor Project, Audre Lorde, something like that, but I wanted to do something for someone that’s smaller, someone who could actually appreciate that we do something for them.”

It didn’t feel like Dr. Hunter was appreciative of anything. She treated the entire event with a palpable sense of entitlement, like everyone in attendance owed her something and was supposed to shower her with money at the ready. For her, if you were not a trans woman of color, you didn’t exist.

The insensitive and hurtful approach exhibited by Dr. Lourdes Hunter, regarded as a representative of Black trans women, raises many questions and concerns. Should we be more mindful of people that we invite into the safety of our communities? Should people that represent a certain group be accountable for their actions? Just because someone is passionate about an issue, does that mean they are properly equipped with the right tools to represent their community?

Glow Job

As one of the night’s performers Glow Job perfectly summed it up: “I was giving Suburbia a pep talk upstairs cause she was pretty devastated. But we all still showed up, and we were all there because we wanted to be a part of this and do some good, so that when we do it again and then again, it’ll get bigger and better and we’ll look back on this first one that started it all, and reflect on its craziness. It’s epicness in a way. There is an opportunity to grow and to come together stronger as a group that really drives that conversation even within the community. There was a lot of energy, attention, and time that people put into this night, and I personally hope it could keep going and should only be bigger and better from this point on. If anything, there is more drive to protect this group and make it something worth fighting for for next time.

It’s almost impossible not to compare the two completely opposite approaches taken by Dr. Hunter and by Thee Suburbia. At the end of the day, we have to be accountable for our actions when we take on the responsibility of representing a group or a community, and we must make sure that our approach doesn’t hurt the message. The wrong delivery can push people further away or tune them off completely, even possibly perpetuating stigmas about your community.

No one wants to be belittled or made to feel bad based on ignorant assumptions that you’ve had it so much better based on your race, sexual preference, experience, or gender. Love, kindness, openness, and willingness to educate will always be the only right approach to getting your message across and drawing people in to care about it. Thee Suburbia exhibited all these qualities masterfully, and I cannot wait for the next PoC Drag Art Collective gathering and to support her in her incredible work. 

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Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Events Festivals The Mixer Timeline

Bushwig 2019: Portraits And Performances With Slayyyter, Aja, Florida Maniac And More

THE MIXER | EVENTS


Bushwig 2019: Portraits And Performances

Bushwig festival has celebrated eight years! This was only our second year even knowing about it. Kind of sucks, because we’ve missed so many years of awesomeness. 

It was first started in 2012 by two local drag queens- Horrorchata and Babe Trust. Now, it has gone international. Berlin is the other hosting city at the moment. We are sure it will only keep growing.

There were many incredible performers this year. Lady BunnySlayyyter, Nina West, Scarlet Envy and Tammie Brown– just to name a few. One of the best things that happened this year was Serena Tea’s performance. She transformed into a human from a car on stage. An amazing homage to Bumblebee from the “Transformers” movie franchise.

Another notable moment of the night was Serena Tea’s crowning as the new Mx. Bushwig. Two previously reigning queens Charlene and Juku oversaw the ceremony. To sum it up, we can’t wait for the next year’s Bushwig festival already. Furthermore, we can’t wait to attend it in Berlin.

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