By Volodymyr Hryshchenko for Unsplash
By Volodymyr Hryshchenko for Unsplash

In-formation: Aging in the Queer Community

In-formation: Aging in the Queer Community

Author’s Memo

This piece works to contextualize aging in the queer community, the complexities of developing trends in spectacle versus intimacy, the depth and shallow natures that are found in performance, as well as the fear and hope that can be found as a queer person. This is a conversation I had, and while it is only one part and one side it is whole in its ability to convey the formation of an in-crowd. It pulls the reader into the formation of a community as they become the one who is being spoken to.

By Joshua Hoehne for Unsplash

Girl, you missed out. Last night was lit. — Hold on. I need to find a different seat. Some dude is looking at me funny. Okay, so the tea. Have you ever been to the Seymour Marine Center? — No it’s not the kiosk-sized thing near the boardwalk. It’s a whole-ass deal out on the West Side. They have big fish tanks full of jellyfish and other oddities from the bay. They have a touch pool… Sometimes they bring a shark into a larger shallow pool…

— No? Okay well… It’s not as grand as Monterey’s Aquarium, but it’s all right if you’re into fish or whatever. People have weddings and other events there, and UCSC uses it to pretend they care about the environment. — Right?! Well, the students get something out of it, I guess. It’s weird to me how quickly they turn that place into a bumpn’ dancehall though. The boom box was blasting and I always wonder how that affects the fish. — What? Shut up! I give a shit even if I’m not into aquariums generally. It’s fine, my bleeding heart is still intact.

‘This piece works to contextualize aging in the queer community, the complexities of developing trends in spectacle versus intimacy…

 So ANYWAY. I walked around the back of the building and watched the sunset while the girls begged me to let them climb in a huge whalebone arrangement. It wasn’t exactly what I would call a peaceful moment, but it was beautiful out there. Windy. Those girls, I swear. I can’t tell if they actually like each other. — Yes, I had to bring the kids. Dragon would have never forgiven me if I hadn’t brought her, and Stella is about as straight as her parents so she needs some culture. People love seeing children at events like that. It’s hopeful, you know? —

For sure. I saw a bunch of the kids from my class, and the girls got to show off their outfits to them and talk to some youngsters who were also dolled up. — Honey yes. They are kids. I’m 41 and I doubt if most of them have crested 20. The MC straight called us fucking ancestors. — Yes bitch! — Well obviously “elders” is more indicative of age and nobody wants that, but “ancestors” sounds fucking dead! — There were about 10 other people our age there, two of them were part of the event, and no one was older than us, so I’m pretty sure he was talking about me, girl. He would have been talking about you if you’d bothered to drag your ass out there. — I know love, I’m fucking with you. It’s fine, I’m sure I’ll get a chance to kiss that pretty face soon.

‘…the depth and shallow natures that are found in performance…

 It’s funny, everyone our age makes a point to acknowledge the rest of us. — Oh I don’t know… Like a nod and some really meaningful eye contact, or a wave from across the room like, Look, we’re here with all the babies. We made it, we’re still alive, you know? — Yeah. It’s kinda sweet, and also a bit… I don’t know. But the place was packed with the youth, and unless you know one of those youngsters, they avoid looking at you as if they’re going to straight catch a wrinkle or something. — HA! Yes! Exactly.

I was sitting behind this couple. We were all on those white plastic fold-out chairs places like that always have for events. Anyway, they were both bent over their phones to an uncomfortable degree looking at the five thousand pictures they’d taken of each other overlooking the bay. — Obviously. Every picture was nearly indistinguishable from the last. Like that girl… what was her name? — That’s right! Larissa… HA! She would hand me her phone and want me to take 50 shots of her in 20 seconds. She shouted at me that one night at The Blue. Remember that? I told you to just keep pressing it! Damn…

‘…as well as the fear and hope that can be found as a queer person.

Well, apparently she was ahead of her time. The place was full of people who were on their phones half the time. I thought for sure the event was entertaining enough to hold their attention. — Yeah, I get socially awkward too. That’s true. It just feels like they’re… hold on, speaking of escape. That creeper moved seats. Why is he looking at me like that?! Ugh — No! I don’t want to leave. I’m still drinking my Golden Chai, and I like it here. Fuck that. I’m not letting him push me out.

So anyway. The actual show. Not only did the MC do an Indigenous land acknowledgment but an African diaspora acknowledgment. It was deep. And he was all about educating us on the efforts that some of the performers have been about and the efforts of actual ancestors. — Yeah. The actual dead ones from the civil rights era and shit. He was not your average drag MC that’s for sure. — Yeah, they can be. For me it can anyway. Land acknowledgments are usually a little hollow. They’re just regurgitating what UCSC came up with a couple years back. They read it like they’re checking a box and then going out after to buy some fast fashion that’ll for sure be in the dumpster before the year is out. Fake ass. But, I don’t know, this MC seemed to really care. Like, he was really trying to impart some knowledge.

This is a conversation I had, and while it is only one part and one side it is whole in its ability to convey the formation of an in-crowd.

But that’s not what made the event feel weird. — I’m not exactly sure. I’m not one to simply observe without thought and consideration, I do try to cultivate my attention; I analyze things that are going on culturally, historically, and I ask myself how the event affects me… and I was there because I wanted to be, but I was also there because of the assignment, you know? Like, there was this paper we read for class that talked about Paris is Burning, — I know, classic. Anyway, this paper talked about how the filmmakers and the cameramen kinda took the power away from the queens.

And for me to be at the event for this class, it was like… like I was a whole lens unto myself. I felt like I needed to take notes in order to remember things that had to go into this thing… this assignment. — Shut your face! I’m old, but I will still come after you. Pshhh. Girl, you are so extra. But seriously, I was there to enjoy the event, and for my kid n’ her friend, and to show the youth that they too can survive… but I was also there because I had to be.

It’s a self-involved goal. Getting this grade and passing a class to hopefully get a better job than the one I might have gotten without the BA. I don’t know. It just felt like it added… or maybe took something away from it all. — Oy! I know. I just keep getting distracted. I’m a horrible storyteller. —

‘It pulls the reader into the formation of a community as they become the one who is being spoken to.

My favorite bit? I kinda had two, but I’ll tell you about one of them because I might have to bounce out of here after all. That guy… — No, it’s fine. SOOOOOO! There were only three official performers who showed up. — Yeah. For whatever reason, I guess a bunch didn’t show. So they had an intermission and a bunch of people signed up to perform impromptu. — Me? Hell no girl. My performing days are over. Plus this is drag. My thing was burlesque and there is a — Yes! The difference is major. Dragon wanted to get up there. — HA, you know it! But she thought about it and knew she didn’t have the right makeup to pull off what she wanted to do. But a bunch of the youth got up to strut their stuff, and it was the best thing that could have happened.

Drag is classic, and it has its deep roots, but everything changes. — No, I’m not going to go on another rant about change. But it does. And this generation is all about their micro stardom. Social media, and constant self-expression. There were people at the event who were dressed to the nines, but they always rock that gear, you know? Like, they are on all the time. And the majority of the people who went up on that runway rocked it so hard. It was as if they had been doing their bit in front of their phones for weeks in preparation. And who knows, they might have been doing just that without knowing they would have the chance to do it on stage.

‘Drag is classic, and it has its deep roots, but everything changes. — No, I’m not going to go on another rant about change. But it does.

This one person got up there. They were a fem-leaning thick little cutie. They had on this baby blue spaghetti dress covered in butterflies, looking like stationery from the 90s, feel me? — HA, yes, very Lisa Frank adjacent. And they were wearing highlighter green furry ears, and homemade cardboard-cutout butterfly or fairy wings- whatever. Aaaand … baby. blue. Uggs! — No, for real. I’ve never seen Uggs that color but she was rocking them. — Sorry, they, yeah. They went by Ducky. — Yep super cute. — Bad Romance?

— Yeah. Lady Gaga, for sure. I know the song too, and I like it and everything. But Oh Em Gee. That shit was the audience’s anthem or something. — Right? It never struck me as a queer song either. Even the music video is all about dying for the male gaze. — I don’t know if babies watch music videos these days, but I still do.

— Whatever. Everything is gay if we want it to be I guess. But this kid got up there and the audience. fucking. exploded. It was insane. They were singing along and rocking back and forth as if everyone’s heart was broken together. Ducky did a pretty haughty stomp march and had every word of the song down, even the French bit. They got down on the floor and crawled the catwalk, and I thought the audience was going to completely melt into those shitty plastic chairs.

‘— Whatever. Everything is gay if we want it to be I guess.

I think what I liked about it the most is that this kid was not your average superstar, you know? They were straight-up average. And it was fucking beautiful. Ducky got up there and everyone in the audience became a star through them. They crawled around on their hands and knees, let their heart break with Gaga, and smiled so big when the audience ate it up. It felt like a community.

As if we were all part of the same social consciousness. It didn’t exactly feel like drag, but it felt like… like the product of all the work drag has been doing for all these years. Blazing across the stage saying, Look! I am here, and I can be you better than you ever could, and I’m with my people, and we are fuckin’ hot shit baby. What are you going to do about it? And all that fear, all that righteous anger, all that love, and sorrow… Even if they were doing it for themselves to survive, they did it for this generation and the next too. And there was Ducky, they didn’t have to be the skinny perfect thing on the strip fulfilling every capitalistic dream, they didn’t have to be overtly boy or girl.

‘As if we were all part of the same social consciousness.

Even as fem-leaning as they were, those furry ears signaled a defiance of gender normality through their association with the animal nature of humanity. Those wings signified the becoming that this youthful generation is still fighting for today. They were alive with Earth-Day energy, both human and animal queendom. Their wings and ears and their average body, serving gender-neutral magic for everyone to enjoy without shade. It was fucking empowering. — No I’m not crying in public, you are.

You know what? I think I’m going to ask that guy what he’s looking at. Please hold. —Dude, you will never guess. He wanted to know where I got my LGBTQ Milk sweater… Maybe the world is getting better. — I know, we’re in a bubble. But sometimes things feel… possible. Hey, I gotta go write this thing. — I love you too. — Yeah, next time, for sure. — We will. Soon bitch.— Okay, love you.




Image by Joshua Hoehne for Unsplash

Featured image by Volodymyr Hryshchenko for Unsplash

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At UCSC, Ann Niland’s research works through the Feminist lens to consider the intersections of literature, politics, neuroscience, film, digital media, and the ever-liminal space of what is considered mainstream. Creative writing is where they go to come back to themself.