Episode 1: Jimmy botches Valentine’s

Think you’re awkward on Valentine’s Day? Well Jimmy botched it way worse than you, while trying to be a “good radical queer” – check out episode 1 of 3 of Jimmy does dating, in the lead up to a theatre show “No Strings (Attached)” by Sunny Drake. Please share widely.

Femme Resources

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It took me a long time to understand myself as femme because I’m a man, and to understand myself as a man, because of my femininity. Misogyny, being the fear or hatred of women or femininity, can manifest in many different ways. I can perpetuate sexism myself, and also I am the recipient of misogyny because I’m effeminate. I’m so grateful for fabulous femmes and women and their powerful resistance to misogyny and sexism. I hope to keep learning how to unpack sexism in my own behaviour and learning how to be ally to women and other femme folks, as well as increasingly unleash my effeminate fabulousness. Here are some great reads as well as some useful ally stuff.

I’ll add new things as I come across them – my website (Sunny Drake www.sunnydrake.com ) will the most up-to-date place.

ONLINE ARTICLES & VIDEOS

 – Femme Invisibility: On Passing Right by Your People and Not Being Recognized

It’s so important to unlearn misogyny/ sexism in queer communities.

–  4 ways to support queer femmes

Good article on how to be an ally and challenge misogyny/ sexism, or at least how not to be an asshole.

 – Powerful Photos Fearlessly Redefine What It Means to Be LGBTQIA+

I love these images showing how wide ranging queer identities are.

Femme Lesbian invisibility Video

BLOGS & BOOKS

– Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity, edited by Chloe (with 2 dots above the e) Brushwood Rose and Anna Camilleri

– Piece of my Heart, anthologized by Makeda Silvera

– Dirty River by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

– Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities by Ulrika Dahl

– Femme: feminist lesbians & bad girls by Laura Harris & Elizabeth Crocker

– The Persistence of Desire by Joan Nestle

– Persistence edited by Zena Sharman & Ivan E. Coyote

– Heels on Wheels Roadshow http://www.heelsonwheelsroadshow.com/

MY BLOG ARTICLES:

I’ve also authored some relevant blog articles:

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

This is a conversation starter (continuer?) on how to be ally and challenge misogyny/ sexism, aimed primarily at trans-masculine, trans-male and masculine of centre peoples. It is equally application to other cis men unpacking misogyny/ sexism and working on ally skills.

And So Shall Our Heels Till the Earth

My Boyfriend is a Lady

About my experiences a queer effeminate man who is partnered to a woman and how people are constantly confused about my sexuality because of my effeminacy

the Boy T*t Finale Summer Collection

A series of photos celebrating my beautiful chest before I had top surgery through adorning it with fabulous outfits.

femme, ally, conversation starter, fabulous, queer, pansy, trans, misogyny, misog, sexism, sunnydrake, sunny drake, sunny, drake, queer, transgender, transgender artist, trans artist, queer artist, trans performer, queer performer, transgender performer, trans writer, transgender writer, queer writer, transgender theatre, trans theatre, queer theatre, theater, LGBT education, trans education, queer politics, trans politics, transgender politics, LGBT politics, toronto, canada, australia, tumblr, sexual, sex, sexuality, assault, sexual assault, anti-racism, violence, dude, ally, misogyny, sobriety, contact, articles, authored, responsible, feedback, profile, link, posted, author

Photo by Tania Anderson

Sexual Assault Resources

Sexual assault is a very real issue in our communities. Dominant narratives are that strangers are mostly responsible, but many of us also experience sexual assault, violence and other abusive acts from lovers, partners and family. The times I’ve been sexually assaulted, I felt like I was responsible for what happened to me and felt so much shame that I found it difficult to talk with people. It’s had a huge effect on my health, sex and life. I wished I’d at least had some things to read. So, here are links to resources I’ve found useful particularly for femme, queer and trans survivors (and ally articles too). Please take care of yourself when reading.

I’ve also included some ally resources for working with those who have abused others. I believe our communities need to work together to deal with each other in responsible ways to unlearn abusive patterns, rather than isolating and shaming people, whilst centering both survivors and the overall well-being of our communities.

I’ll add new things as I come across them –my website (Sunny Drake www.sunnydrake.com ) will the most up-to-date place for resources, as well as other resources such as trans, femme, sexuality, queer stuff, anti-racism etc.

ONLINE RESOURCES

– 4 Ways to Overcome Self-Blame After Sexual Assault

Yup this is real. Many of us know on an intellectual level that we are not responsible for the acts of violence we receive, but how do we actually get ourselves to really shift that toxic self-blame and insidious internal dialogue? Some useful suggestions in this article. Authored by Sian Ferguson.

 – 11 Truths Every Survivor of Intimate Partner Violence Needs to Know

This link covers a lot of myths about violence and acts of abuse and how equally valid different survivor responses can be. This is essential in learning how to be a responsible ally too. Authored by Kai Cheng Thom, who’s writing I love.

– 6 Ways to Confront Your Friend Who’s Abusing their Partner

Good ally article, authored by the fabulous Kai Cheng Thom.

– 5 Common Ways Our Communities Fail to Address Intimate Partner Violence

Remembering that we all are collectively responsible for creating change and have the power to transform cultures of violence. Also authored by Kai Cheng Thom.

– Gaslighting

A useful resource on gaslighting –when someone acts to manipulate another into questioning their own sanity. It can be used to make people who are experiencing abuse doubt their own experiences and often end up feeling responsible and blaming themselves or even thinking they are the ones being abusive. Good ally article as well in terms of skilling up on gaslighting. Authored by Shea Emma Fett.

– 6 Ways to Have a Healthy and Enjoyable Sex Life After Surviving Sexual Trauma

The article also acknowledges the different ways that we can reclaim our sexuality. Particularly helpful for was the section on how we might act when we are triggered during sex – it doesn’t always look like disassociation or curling up in a ball. Sometimes I’ve struggled to understand when I’m triggered during sex  because a big part of my coping with sexual assault has been to minimise my own experiences and try to pretend to myself (and others) that nothing was wrong. Knowing when I am triggered can help me take power back to be able to be responsible for creating my own healthy sexuality. There are so many ways we can reclaim sexuality and have awesome sex lives.

– Your Child Should Never Be Forced to Hug Anyone (Yes, Including a Relative) – Here Are 7 Reasons Why

– Love letters for survivors

This was just what I needed to hear. Authored by many different survivors

Consent skills video

– Campaign resources

* Consent campaign images

* Poster series – no-one is entitled to your body

* Barriers to reporting acts of sexual assault

* Article about campus sexual assault – mainly I like the “40 powerful images of survivors” at the bottom of link.

BOOKS & BLOGS

The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence In Activist Communities, Both a book and a blog, authored by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Everyday Feminism has lots of great articles on a wide range or relevant topics authored by fabulous people.

MY BLOG ARTICLES:

Here’s some relevant blog articles authored by me:

– Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Whilst this is not primarily about sexual assault, I include this link because of the disproportionate amount of abuse and other shitty behaviour and acts of abuse that femme folks receive.

2 articles about drinking/sobriety – which are relevant given that alcohol (and other substances) can often be involved in acts of unconsensual sex, and abusive behaviour

Wet >< Dry

The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

– When a Man & a Woman Love Each Other Very Much

Looks at teenage sex and sexuality and how we don’t prepare young people for either staying safe or actually having fun. Many educational programs have finally started acknowledging that teenagers have sex, but an exclusive focus on STIs and birth control doesn’t prepare young people to enjoy their sexy times, have consensual sex and prevent sexual assault.

If you have any other resource suggestions, particularly ones that are femme, queer, sexuality and trans positive, please email me (Sunny Drake) at sunny@sunnydrake.com

 

http://www.sunnydrake.com/#!__sexual-assault

http://sunnydrake.tumblr.com/tagged/sexual-assault

https://sunnydrake.wordpress.com/resources-links/sexual-assault/

sunny drake, trans, transgender, trans, transgender artist, trans artist, queer artist, trans performer, queer performer, transgender performer, trans writer, transgender writer, queer writer, transgender theatre, trans theatre, queer theater, theater, LGBT education, trans education, queer politics, trans politics, transgender politics, LGBT politics, toronto, canada, australia, tumblr, anti-racism, femme ally conversation, femme ally conversation starter, dude, sobriety, hand puppet, acts, contact, articles, authored, committed, responsible, feedback, reputation, sunny drake, sexual, sexuality, sexual assault, sexual violence, femme, sex, assault, healing, violence, survivor, trauma, ally, femme ally, sexism, misogyny, misog

Breaking News: Gender Identification Disorder Pandemic

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Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Boy Tits in the Locker-room

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

 

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

5 many ways to fight v2 FOR WEB

Dear Boy Tits,

I love you dearly and yet it’s time for us to part. These outfits are my dedication to you: fashioned from thrift store tugs of war with old ladies, raiding my partner’s closet and crossing back and forth between gender segregated clothing aisles.

15 you are beautiful FOR WEB

Every single moment of the last thirty seven years you’ve stayed loyally by my side (or at my front, as it were). You’ve cushioned my heart from many blows and boyantly helped me stay afloat through stormy years. We’ve played many a silly game together, like pretending you’re puppets talking with each other, or bouncing you up and down until you slap each other on the back like old men at the bar.

8 make your own party FOR WEB

I know it’s not your fault that this gender confused world has mis-read me as a woman because of you. There’s actually nothing about you that means girl or boy or anything in particular. It’s just that I feel like I’m wearing someone else’s chest, and even though it’s a gorgeous chest, it’s doesn’t feel like mine.

20 wear it however you want FOR WEBSo, it’s time for us to part, but please know that you are stunning and sexy and loveable. Many another boy or girl or genderqueer would be lucky to have you that close to their heart.

All my love, Sunny

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320 Sunny (6595) Small Edited VersionLike Sunny on Facebook

Follow Sunny on Twitter and Instagram

Check out Sunny’s theatre work on his website

Thanks to Tania Anderson, the incredible photographer, Janet Vu for the David Bowie makeup, (m)-elly niotakis for being the first to suggest a David Bowie concept and Chanelle Gallant and Afi Browne for letting me raid their closets for accessories & those stunning zebra print boots, and Leanne for use of her space.

—  A retrospective of other Boy Tit related posts: —

boy tits photo B&WBoy Tits in the Locker-room

I’ve recently started taking my shirt and binder/sports bra off in the men’s locker room. It didn’t begin from a desire to flash my boy tits around, rather that I was fed up with the incredibly awkward configurations I used to twist my clothes in to hide these bouncy little babies. Moreover, I was incredibly bored by transphobia and cis-sexism*. Read more…

boy muff photo b&wBoy Muff in the Public Pool: this budgie will not be smuggled

I’m busy preparing my boy-muff for a swim in the local public pool after I was inspired by a letter I received from a trans woman in response to my recent article… Read More

 

article-1166157-0433AC7F000005DC-43_634x357National Security Threat: Boy Tits at the Airport

The sagging sagas of the boy tits continue… I’m on tour in the USA and it seems the new body scan machine has replaced the old metal detector Xray machine in most US airports. For the second time this week, my boy tits raised the alarm on the body scanner. Read more…

Fur edited Sunny2Boy Tits take on the Summer

With the change of seasons I noticed myself starting to angst over the thought of another summer wearing a sweaty binder[1]. A titillating thought: as this will be the last summer I have boy tits before chest surgery in October, why not bust out of the binary and give them the flamboyant good-boobye they deserve?! They are, after all, a beautiful part of my body that I love and want to celebrate. Read more…

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

 

Boy Tits take on the Summer

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With the change of seasons I noticed myself starting to angst over the thought of another summer wearing a sweaty binder[1]. A titillating thought: as this will be the last summer I have boy tits before chest surgery in October, why not bust out of the binary and give them the flamboyant good-boobye they deserve?! They are, after all, a beautiful part of my body that I love and want to celebrate.

So if I love my boy tits, why chop them off?

The easiest way I can explain is to tell you about the turquoise green corduroy pants that I wore ever day in my early 20s. I don’t even remember where I found them. Certainly not in a shop, I used to hate shopping. The clothes I liked never fit my body shape. Plus the shop assistants used to be weird with me because I was frequently shopping in the “wrong” gender section. Clothes just sort of found me and I’d wear them day in, day out, until I stumbled upon the next outfit. So, the corduroy pants lived on me for several years. First they were a little too long. I was terrible at sewing so after I tried taking them up, they became a little too short. They had 2 pleats at the top which looked awful (it was no longer the 80s) so I used to wear long shirts over the top to hide them.

I didn’t particularly like the pants, but they worked. They clothed me and kept me warm. The pockets fit a lot of handy things. We went on adventures and had the best and worst times together. We climbed trees together. Wrote poetry. Rode across Australia on a bicycle. Protested uranium mines and logging of old growth forests. They comforted me through the heartbreak of being secretly in love with my best friend (actually, three best friends in a row!). With all this history and familiarity I was very fond of the pants, even though they didn’t fit me very well.

A few years later, for the first time instead of battling the stores or the whims of the clothes that found me, I saved up and had a friend custom make me a pair of pants. They were brown pin striped pants fitted at the top and slightly belled at the bottom with very cute quirky pockets. I LOVED them! I felt so good in them! They fit me perfectly. I felt like me in them. (Well “me” back then – how my fashion has changed – femme transformation!). So I lovingly gave away the corduroy pants to someone who liked them better than I had. I didn’t feel any malice towards them, even though I wish I’d realised sooner I could have the pin striped pants.

Similarly, it’s not that I hate my boy tits. They’ve given me a lot of pleasure. We’ve had some great times together. They’ve cushioned my heart from many blows. They’ve buoyantly helped me stay afloat when I may otherwise have drowned. I love playing silly games with them like pretending they’re puppets talking with each other, or bouncing them up and down until they slap each other on the back like old men at the bar. Every single moment of the last 37 years they’ve stayed loyally by my side (or at my front as it were).

And so I love them. Yet I don’t particularly like them. I feel self conscious about them, although more so in clothing than naked. I’ve felt betrayed by them on many occasions, although I know it’s not their fault that this gender confused world mis-read me because of them. Some days it’s like I’m wearing someone else’s chest, and even though it’s a gorgeous chest, it’s doesn’t really feel like mine.

This sense of loving and not liking my chest may seem like a contradiction, but only if viewed through a cisgendered (non-trans) lens. From a trans* perspective, it’s very normal (and not necessarily even a bad thing) to have conflicting feelings about my body. And in fact many non-trans people have differing feelings about their bodies too, it’s just they’re not accused of being confused or gender dysphoric as a result.

Like the pin striped pants, there’s a chest that would fit me better, and that’s the one I will co-create with the surgeon in October. If I could give away my boy tits like I did my corduroy pants, I would, because I’m sure they’d look lovely on some other boy or girl or genderqueer.

(Please note: just because I have a less-commonly-told relationship with my chest, it doesn’t mean that I am more radical or evolved than trans people who have more animosity towards their bodies. EVERY way a trans* person feels about their body is totally valid. I’m sharing my experience to expand the array of ideas about trans* bodies.)

So, this summer is my boy tits’ farewell tour and I intend on giving them the decadent finale they deserve. I’m in the process of designing my BTFSC (Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection). I’ve been experimenting with outfits fashioned from raiding my partner’s closet and thrift store tugs of war with old ladies. At the heart of the collection will be a sumptuous assortment of open blouses crafted to showcase slithers of sexy boy tit hugged to my heart with belts, stockings or colourful duct tape (folded over so I don’t get an accidental waxing). Yes, summer be warned: these boy tits are intent on causing a total eclipse this season.

Outfit in Photo: thanks to Chanelle for letting me raid her closet for this fur shrug and polka dot belt.

[1] For those of you not familiar with trans* stuff, a binder is something that hugs my boy tits to my chest so they are a little flatter.

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Boy Tits in the Locker-room

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

National Security Threat: Boy Tits at the Airport

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The sagging sagas of the boy tits continue… I’m on tour in the USA and it seems the new body scan machine has replaced the old metal detector Xray machine in most US airports. For the second time this week, my boy tits raised the alarm on the body scanner.

Security guy:      “Sir, I’m going to need to pat down your chest. Arms up.” (Pat. Pat pat pat…. Pat pat pat… pat pat pat) Sir, what’s this at your chest? Are you wearing a jacket or something under your shirt?”

Me:                  “no.”

Security guy:    “arms back up” (pat pat pat pat pat PAT PAT PAT PAAAAAAATTTTTTTTT).

Me:                  “look, I’m transgender (insert basic transgender 101 definition using cis-sexist language I would NEVER use to describe my body).

Security guy:    “oh”  (literally leaps back, says hurredly to security lady) “maybe you should get this one”

Security lady: “but….”

The security lady and guy do perfectly synchronised head movements as they stare first at my face, then at my chest, then back at my face, followed by matching drop of their jaws, then coordinated nudges, each trying to push the other one forward to deal with me. They really couldn’t have choreographed this better if they’d had months to train. Not since I told my male gym teacher in high school that I had my period have I seen such confusion and discomfort on the face of an authority figure.

Security lady mutters to security guy:        “let’s just put… (mumbled pronoun)… back through the scanner”

Second time through the scanner, yup, these boy tits are still perilous. A scuffle ensues between the security guy and the security lady – clearly they are unsure who should give me the second pat down and finally the security guy turns to me, face bright red, and says “keep moving. Next!”.

Did I just find my new “get out of gym class” card?! “Mister, I have my period” doesn’t work any more since this cis-sexist world wouldn’t believe it possible that I could have or ever have had a period. It might be time for a change of tactics: “Mister, my boy tits are sore”.  In that moment when the security guy asked the first time what was under my shirt, could I have just said “boy tits, I’m a transsexual”, rather than awkwardly let him go back in for the second pat down with my futile hopes that he’d decide my chest was just gorgeously chubby?

I’m curious how the body scanner machine works. I’m assuming the security guard must press a button to get it to either scan you as a “man” or “woman”. But many cisgendered (non-trans) men have man-boobs, so do they get pulled over and patted down too? I doubt it, or there’d be long hold-ups in the security line. So I guess the machine must look decide what proportion of your body should be chest vs stomach vs thighs etc. So who decides what the right proportions are? And how do we each participate in this, even without meaning to, buying into these ideas of what a “man’s body” or a “woman’s body” should look like?

After my first year on hormones when my body shape radically altered (my ass and hips flattened and I had to start wearing a belt like for reals) I was still a little insecure about the “love handles” on my waist, thinking that they would give away my trans-ness in situations where I didn’t want to be identified in public as trans. But when I started scrutinizing cisgendered (non-trans) men’s bodies, I began to notice such a massive variation in men’s body shapes. So many men have love handles, curvy hips, chunky asses and pear shapes. How many men actually have the “normal” man’s body? I’m gonna say probably not that many, particularly considering that the “normal” body is also seen as white. In the media and dominant racist cultural narratives in Canada, the USA and Australia (and beyond), white men’s bodies are just described as “bodies” compared to other men’s being described as “Black men’s bodies” or “Asian men’s bodies”, for example.

And in what different ways are different men treated for not having the “normal” man’s body? Well, it’s likely due to my whiteness that the airport scanner situation drew out the security guards reactions of confusion, embarrassment and awkward fear, rather than the racist hostility and violent fear that may have been dished out to Black or Arab trans men, for example, in the same situation. (See a beatuiful and harrowing poem by Amir Rabiyah – Transexual Militant).

I’d love to hear people’s ideas on how we can work, from the ground up, to transform our conceptions of bodies and make more space for a whole myriad of beautiful bodies. Because someone(s) clearly just made that shit up, so surely we can make up new ways of seeing bodies for all our glorious differences and our beautiful human fleshy similarities.

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Boy Tits in the Locker-room

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

My Boyfriend is a Lady

ImageA sales assistant was trying to usher me out because the store had closed 10 minutes ago. I told her I was waiting for my partner who was using the washroom. So the sales assistant dashed over to the men’s washroom entrance and started calling out “Hello? Hello? The store is closed!” I blushed and shuffled over to the women’s washroom and softly called out to my lady partner. The sales assistant looked me up and down with that “Who are you kidding? Does your girlfriend know you’re gay?” look that I’ve become so accustomed to.

The sales assistant hadn’t even seen my partner, so it wasn’t that my partner was being misgendered as male, it’s that I was being read as gay. Sometimes I wonder how people know I’m queer. Then I look down at my outfit on any given day. It usually involves something like: pink leopard print necker-chief and matching pocket square, dangly fake pearl earring, tight shorts, bright pink socks and studded boots. Oh… that’s right, most straight people can’t differentiate between effeminate men and queer men. And mostly it’s only queer men who have the guts to express femininity in a culture like mine where femininity is punished and devalued. Patriarchy devalues both women AND femininity. I feel very sad for all those straight (and queer) pansy men who are in the closet about their love of lace, ruffles, pink and dangly earrings. For that matter, I also know a lot of women who choose not to present their feminine sides because of the harrassment they get from dudes. Ugh, more reasons why the patriarchy is not only horrible and violent, but incredibly boring as well. The world will be so much more sparkly, frilly and joyous when we throw down the racist, able-ist, colonial heteropatriarchy!

I love that people read me as gay/queer. I am queer, and that’s very important to me. I feel so grateful that I’m queer! Yet I find it incredibly awkward when they assume I have a boyfriend.  They are often being really sweet by trying to affirm to me “hey, I can see you’re gay, and that’s fine by me!”. And I want to celebrate their open-mindedness without embarrassing them, so how do I respond? My “closet” looks quite different than some other queers I know. For me, coming out of the closet involves declaring to the world, “my boyfriend is a lady!”. Sometimes I say this directly and then they assume I’m straight, or more likely closeted, and look apologetic like they’ve just insulted or outed me, when in fact, I see being read as gay or queer as a compliment. Just as commonly, they get a betrayed look on their face and say something like “but you said you were gay?” to which I’m a little baffled because generally this is people I may have known for 2 minutes or less and probably only talked about the weather. Many people are so compelled by their stereotypes that it’s as if before I even open my mouth, a loud speaker announces “this is Sunny. He’s Gay. Gay…. Gay gay gAy GAY gaaaaaaaay”. Other times I just avoid using pronouns about my partner for as long as possible and let them continue with their assumptions that I have a boyfriend. But then I feel like fraud who’ll be discovered at any moment and also I want to honour and celebrate my wonderful lady partner.

My partner and I get stared at a lot in public. We sometimes make a game of trying to figure out why. Maybe we make each other look trans? My partner is not trans, but she is quite tall and has a somewhat deep voice for a cisgendered woman. And I’m a short dude with some of the tell-tale signs of a trans-man (at least to the trained eye). Maybe we’re just a sight because she’s so much taller than me. Maybe it’s because we’re often both wearing dazzling, sparkly outfits. Or possibly they’re worried about my partner- “that poor woman, is she the last one to know that her boyfriend is so clearly gay?”. I feel like yelling “she knows I’m gay and she’s hella gay too!” Well, we’re both queer with an affection for the word “gay”. We’re both attracted to queers of all genders: women, men, genderqueers, including both trans and non-trans people.

Whereas my queerness is hyper-visiblised, my partner’s queerness is often invisiblized because she’s a femme cisgendered woman and therefore doesn’t fit people’s stereotype of queer women as butch. She’s only read as queer when she’s being sweet with someone who’s being read as female. Or when she’s with me–because they’re reading me as gay, they’re reading her as something-other-than-straight.

I’m considering making a t-shirt or a pamphlet entitled: “My boyfriend is a lady and we’re both hella queer!”

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Boy Tits in the Locker-room

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

Interview with Alvis Choi

Alvis Choi (aka Alvis Parsley) is an artist, curator, project manager, researcher, and an aspiring clown. Their project, Chinatown Community Think Tank, caught my eye and I was excited to find out a bunch more about Alvis and what they do.

Sunny: What was the first art or creative project you remember doing?

Alvis: I’ve been curating and programming since 2008 but the first performance that I did was in 2012 at the Radical Queer Semaine in Montreal. It was called “HOW TO DO GAY IN CANADA – A Survival Kit for Chinese Lesbian Newcomers”. I introduced a survival kit invented by my company Fantasy is Reality Unlimited (FiRU) with all the products that helped me survive during my short time in Canada. The piece talks about cultural differences, racism, my struggles as a “newcomer” and my experience in Toronto’s Chinatown as a queer person.

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 HOW TO DO GAY IN CANADA – A Survival Kit for Chinese Lesbian Newcomers, 2012, Meow Mix. Photo: viva delorme

 

Sunny: How has your approach to creating art changed over the years and why?

Alvis: My artistic practice revolves around my life experience, identity, and what I learn everyday. I came to Toronto in 2011. My identity here is very different from when I was in Hong Kong. I am a person-of-color, a temporary resident, and I’m in a different class. All these that define my marginalized identities have an impact on the content of my projects.

In terms of style, I’d like to think that my work is down-to-earth and connects with the audience in a genuine and truthful way. My performances are often witty and poignant, in a way that challenges the mind of the audience and political correctness.

 

Sunny: Tell us a bit about Chinatown Community Think Tank.

Alvis: Chinatown Community Think Tank (CCTT) is a dialogue-based neighbourhood engagement project. The aim of the project is to invite the Chinese-speaking community based in the Chinatown of downtown Toronto to collectively envision the role of art in the neighbourhood. I’m turning the storefront space of Whippersnapper Gallery into a social space for the Chinese-speaking community in Chinatown. My role is to engage community members in conversations about a wide range of social, political, and cultural issues that have an impact on their perception and definition of art. These dialogues become a bridge between contemporary art, which is often inaccessible to non-English speakers in the city, and the Chinese speaking community.

I speak both Cantonese and Mandarin and it has been a fruitful month meeting community members, getting to know them and building relationship through open dialogues. In July, we will continue these dialogues in the form of survey and conduct a series of community mapping workshops.

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Sunny: What inspired you to do the project?

Alvis: The project started with the question of “how is Whippersnapper’s programming accessible for the Chinese-speaking community in Chinatown?” As a Hongkong-Chinese who’s lived in Toronto for less than two years, I find Anglo-centrism in the city and the art world in general problematic. I wanted to share my creative practice with the Chinese-speaking community.

The first time I worked at Whippersnapper Gallery was at Nuit Blanche 2012. I was going to invite the Chinese-speaking woman who works at the print shop on Spadina Road to come see the project that I curated, but very quickly realized how inaccessible it could be because of the language barrier and the cultural differences. Since then, I continued to reflect on the incident and the issues that come along, and eventually started a conversation with Maggie Flynn, the director of Whippersnapper, about the potential of engaging this community in a deeper level.

 

Sunny: In your wildest dreams, if money was no barrier, what would you hope to achieve with Chinatown Community Think Tank?

Alvis: I would like to see Chinatown Community Think Tank grow into an ongoing project that facilitates and supports the Chinese-speaking community to engage in the arts in the neighbourhood, not just at Whippersnapper but also in other galleries or even museums. One of my many dreams is to work with the AGO to make the Art Gallery more accessible to the Chinese-speaking community. I’ve been thinking a lot about Whippersnapper as the west end of Chinatown and the AGO as the east end of Chinatown. They are at such perfect locations to advocate for improved access to arts for the Chinese-speaking community and I’m hoping that what I’m doing this summer will build a foundation for such advocacy.

 

Sunny: What’s a terrifying or embarrassing or confusing moment you’ve faced in your creative projects and how did you get through it?

Alvis: Ha! I don’t think I’ve ever had a terrifying or embarrassing moment doing creative projects. I am always excited about trying new things and going on adventures. I feel very positive about making mistakes. I think some of the questions that I continue to ask are whom I am making art for and if it matters if what I do is being called art. I am against art elitism. But at the same time it’s challenging to strike a balance between getting resources and presenting work that is accessible.

 

Sunny: What are some things that you couldn’t make art/ creative projects without?

Alvis: A free mind and an open heart – to feel free regardless of the surroundings and difficult situations. It’s challenging but a really fun thing to practice. Hopes keep me going, love, rage, and the magical universe – chance, coincidence, and strangers – things that I couldn’t live without!

Alvis’ work sounds amazing, doesn’t it?! Here’s how you can support their project: Chinatown Community Think Tank! Any donations small or large, gratefully received. Oh, and there’s awesome perks including haircuts and tea-leaf readings and mentorships (including a 2 hour mentorship conversation with me). Click here:

http://igg.me/at/cctt/x/3467782

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Photo: Bonz Merlin

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

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Boy Tits in the Locker-room

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

Boy Muff in the Public Pool: this budgie will not be smuggled

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I’m busy preparing my boy-muff for a swim in the local public pool after I was inspired by a letter I received from a trans woman in response to my recent article Boy Tits in the Locker Room. After reading the article, she’d decided to go swimming again for the first time in a very long time. It made me realise that I stopped going swimming too. I never really consciously thought “geez, my body is kind of weird to most people, so I’m not going to do laps at the pool anymore”. I just conveniently forgot and subconsciously decided that wasn’t an option for me. Inspired by my new penpal, I decided it’s time to get back in the pool.

Part of my life’s work is around challenging cisgendered (non-trans) ideas about my body, and working with my trans siblings to generate our own language and embodied concepts of gender. In this article, I’d like to question the concept of “transition”, talk about the many shifts in the labels I’ve used for my body parts and the spaces I occupy with my body.

So, my decision to take to the pool. It’s one thing to have my boy tits in the locker room, but what about in a public pool? Should I wear a wetsuit shirt? A full length binder? What about my tiny “boy muff” underneath my swimming shorts, more conspicuous by its small, rather than large, presence? For laps as compared to leisurely swimming, I prefer to wear speedos. In Australia we call them “budgie smugglers”-as in, if your junk were a budgie and the swimming trunks are tight, they’re smuggling the budgie. My budgie, however, is too small to smuggle. Mine’s not even a sparrow or a humming bird, but more like a peach pit. But “peach-pit smuggler” doesn’t really have the same ring, does it?

I’m already somewhat accustomed to working through my complicated feelings around the public display of my junk through my clothing. I’m about to do a new show, “Transgender Seeking…” in Toronto on June 19, ahead of touring it the USA and Europe later this year. The costume is no pants, just a pair of tighty-whiteys, aka, men’s white undies. In the show, I intentionally choose not to pack (ie, I don’t put a sock or a packer in my undies), because I want to use my time on stage to create more space for some of the many ways that trans bodies look. I’m not assuming this means I’m making space for trans women’s bodies – the type of transphobia women who are trans face is very different to men who are trans. In my personal life I may not be super comfortable going about in public with just undies, no packer, but when I’m on stage, it’s less important to be authentic to my own personal experience and more important to carefully consider the political & aesthetic choices I make. I already play a whole host of different characters, and likewise I make intentional choices about how to present my body. Sometimes I also choose not to bind so that there is a hint of boy tit beneath my costumes. It’s sort of uncomfortable but whatever, so is transphobia period (see Boy Tits in the Locker Room for my thoughts on discomfort as a white trans man).

I have a complicated relationship with both loving AND not liking my body. As much as I hate to discuss these complexities publicly with non-trans people (see my article “Dear trans people and genderqueers”), the truth is that sometimes I find it difficult to tell how I really feel about my body. I’m so used to simplifying things so that cisgendered (non-trans) people will understand. So that I can be validated by the gatekeepers (like doctors) as a “real trans person”. Sometimes I wish I had a different sort of junk, one like the wide array of cisgendered men’s junk. But other times I love the bits that I have. Either way, I’m grateful for how much pleasure I get from my bits, even though my sexual experiences are sometimes complicated because of other people’s reactions.

Certainly a big turning point for me in how I feel about my body has been reclaiming labels and terminology that feel good. About 5 or 6 years ago, I started calling my existing junk my penis or dick along with my “inny hole” or “boy hole”. My tits became simply “my chest”. It felt liberating to claim these words for my body. To unsubscribe from the anatomy books.  To mix and match the anatomical diagrams and their labels.

Now I’m at yet another shifting point. I’m going from needing very clear traditionally “male” gendered language around my body to a more playful approach with the words I use. In certain contexts, I’m starting to enjoy playing around with re-labeling my body parts traditionally “female” gendered names like tits and muff and redefining what that means in terms of also being a dude. At first, I just shamelessly tricked you into reading the article through using the words “boy muff” in title when that’s not really how I relate to my junk. But now that I wrote it, I’m like, yeah “boy muff”! I kind of like that! Who says boys can’t have muffs and tits? How boring to think only one gender owns any particular body anatomy. Yawn. It’s exciting to discover words that feel good in different contexts. At this stage, probably heavy breathing in my ear about my boy muff and boy tits is not really going to do it for me in a sexual way. But I find it entertaining to use these terms outside of the bedroom.

For me, this playfulness is only possible with getting more comfortable and confident with who I am as well as challenging cisgendered (non-trans) understandings of bodies and the singular acceptable “trans story” that doesn’t quite fit for so many of us. Working with my trans siblings to generate our own nuanced language and understandings of our bodies and the ways we live inside (and outside) of them is an ongoing source of healing, inspiration and strength for me. I’m grateful to my trans experience which leads me to constantly question assumptions around my own and other people’s genders. My years have been marked by so many amazing transitions and transformations.

This is one of the many reasons why I don’t use the word “transition” in relation to the process I underwent of taking hormones, changing my pronoun etc. To single out this one particular part of my gender journey (or indeed, my life journey) and call that the point when I was “transitioning” negates the lifelong growth process I’ve been through and will continue to go through. I’m totally supportive of other trans people using the word “transition” for themselves. I don’t use the word “transition” because it reeks of the medical system which considers that I was a “girl” and then transitioned to become a “boy”. It insinuates that my validity as a boy or man only began after I got the stamp of approval from the doctors. Facial hair? Check. Flattened hips? Check. Deep voice? Check. Thick set jaw? Check. Congratulations, now you’re a dude. Yawn.

Yes, taking hormones was a major deal and a big marker for me. But it marked no more of a “transition” than when I insisted on being in the boy gymnastics class when I was 8. Or tried to get into the boy scouts three years in a row, until they finally changed the rules in Australia and let “girls” into boy scouts. Or had my first trans lover. Or told my family that I was trans when I was 31.

What the medical system and their beloved concept of “transition” can’t quite grasp is that I was already a dude long before that needle jammed full of testosterone went anywhere near my butt cheeks. I already experienced my chest as a boy chest. Now it’s a saggy boy chest. My face was a man face. Now it’s a hairy man face. And my junk was already a dick. Now it’s a penis one day and a boy muff the next.

So, stay tuned to your local public pool, where my boy muff will be diving and proudly doing laps up and down the pool. That’s right, this is one little budgie that will not be smuggled.

Thanks to the amazing Chanelle for editing and feedback!

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Boy Tits in the Locker-room

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website