I re-posted Mx Justin Vivian Bond’s open missive to their community about Tranny Pride on this blog and I quickly got a call from TBB.
“Did you write that?” she asked, “because it’s so good that I thought you may have written it.”
I agree with her sentiment; it is a fabulous piece, standing up for proud, boldly individual connective queerness against the tropes of coercive, shaming and separating identity politics.
That’s why I did repost it, with links and notes to make the authorship clear, though I did add a lot of paragraph breaks to make it more easily readable to me than the original Facebook version. I often find that actually touching narratives lets me get closer to them, lets me understand more clearly the point of view.
It’s clear, though, that it is not in my voice, or at least in the earnest, pedantic voice I use on this blog.
Speaking in different voices, though is something that I do and I respect. I first came to know Mx Bond when they spoke in the voice of Miss Kiki DuRane, an old and brilliant outsider, whose drunk and passionate energy spoke a lifetime of intense and magical stories. I have often written of them on this blog.
I remember being at Southern Comfort Conference on Saturday night, noting how it used to be queer at the core and crossdresser at the edges but then appeared to be crossdresser at the core and queer at the edges, but Kiki & Herb Will Die For You at Carnegie Hall was playing in my ears, boosting the queer level to a delightful and nourishing buzz.
Kiki is gone now, but Mx Bond now is speaking in their own voice, recounting a lifetime of their own queer and performative life with a certain wiggle and often after appearing to have a drink or two.
The voice of Mx. Bond, or that of her previous incarnation as Kiki is not my voice, but it is a voice I recognize as incredibly affirming of the beauty of the distinctively original, dancing the line between crackpot and brilliant. I understand how much skill and energy it takes to create and invoke those magical worlds just through performance.
One of my quick codes for community is wanting to be around people who get the joke. There is no enlightenment or mindfulness without laughter; we need the lubrication that comes from the recognition of the absurd to easily cut away the rationalization callouses we have grown over our own twists.
I’m not the only one who wants this; I know of improv performers, for example, who know that they are more present when they know there is someone in the audience who will see, hear and get even the bravest marks.
“You do those voices on the phone,” ShamanGal told me, “and all of a sudden I can really hear how other people sound, how I sound. You play seem to back the tape and so much comes clear about the emotions of the moment, the meanings behind the rationalizations.”
The limits on my voice do tend to vex me. Between my own attenuation, the limits of text and the absence of an audience that gets the jokes, I know that I have become earnest and dry, without glitter or dance.
My having the fun of play is cut back to a solitary pursuit, as it has been for the vast majority of my life. I learned early how to play alone and when I tried to invite people into my world to help make it real, but was often told that it was too whatever and I should find my way to their world rather than they having to come into mine.
I understand why TBB responds so quickly to the sparkle and vitality of Mx. Bond’s letter and my my own earnest plodding seems so much harder to engage, so much more dense and dry. I have more voices in me, but the echo of them lies in my dreams and not my presence, maybe one reason the fortune cookie from my difficult Monday lunch with my sister said that my dreams would be where any future lies.
I have the sense that I cannot afford a knee-jerk, can’t just pop out with wit and energy, but rather have to modulate so much that my voice becomes dull and raspy. That ain’t pretty.
The other voices may be inside of me, someday to come out in stories that currently only inhabit my dreams, but for now, it seems, this drone that appears to keep any potential audience at arm’s length, with nuggets of my own play, the jewels of my experience mounted in a plain and earnest setting.
But when I see the queer jewels shining, like I do in Mx Justin Vivian Bond’s work, when I hear the voice with a vibrant and respectful narrative, well, I do still smile.