Glitter and Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy is a new anthology I co-edited, out by Publication Studio this past December 2015. You can get a copy online here, or in person on March 5th at BGSQD at our NYC book launch!
Here, I’m reading my emo and tender intro – you can watch the video below*, or read the text below that.
Because We Came From a Hungry Place
by Damien Luxe
“I never sat around waiting for permission to make my art or
live my life. Why would I start now?” — Heather María Ács
When this all started, all I wanted was to be weird, smart, queer — and not lonely.
I wanted hope and a place to put my ambition.
If we had just stayed home, watched internet TV, and waited for someone to discover us — we never would have done all the things we did. We never would have had all the good and the bad experiences.
We never would have blasted our own hearts open, cried in each other’s arms, made art, visited 34 states and three provinces, or partied as hard as we did. We never would have touched so many people, or fucked up and then challenged ourselves to do better. We never would have had people tell us we changed their lives, inspired them to femmeifest their dreams, or helped them get their ideas into the world.
I learned early on that if I wanted something, I was gonna have to work for it — ain’t no one handing you anything, girl — refrained in my head. But something about that refrain was off, and creating a multi-year art project within radical, queer, feminist, anarchist, punk, and community art spaces shifted that story. People handed me things all the time when Heels on Wheels toured and performed: places to stay, dinner, appreciation, drinks, hugs, stories, handmade tokens like pins and patches, zines, confessions, photos, shots… As it turned out, as artists bold enough to tour complex queer femme stories, our bold generosity was exactly the key to getting to share in the best parts of many fantastic people.
The truth is: you can’t buy this kind of interaction. You can’t throw a bunch of money into a void and expect authenticity to emerge. It was because we came from a hungry place that we got fed. It was because we dared to live our dreams, legitimize ourselves as artists, and dive into the communities we knew were out there, that we got to do so: no dads, no masters, no waiting for permission.
In early 2010, I roped Heather, the other co-founder of Heels on Wheels, into working late into the night with me on a tour, and we ended up laughing and dressing up late nights too. Our vision was to put our art into the world on our terms: without waiting or compromising, and with fun and adventure. I had the design skills and van: Heather had the charm and coordinating skills. In part, Heels on Wheels is the story of our friendship, one that allowed us to be the magnificent beings we could be, of shining bright because we said so, of taking our working-class hustle and applying it for queer art.
Heels on Wheels is also a story of bringing as many people along for the ride as possible both because it’s more fun that way and because broad impact, amplifying complex identities, and intersectionality all matter. Because we want a big queer family. It’s a story of deciding that our world could be bigger, of making art and sharing it outside of NYC, academic, and gallery settings because those worlds were not offering space for us and damn if we were going to wait. It’s a story of feminism, mutual aid, and solidarity in action: doing it together — DIT — instead of just doing it yourself — DIY.
Now: imagine yourself in a room full of people each with their own story of how they got there, how their ancestors got them there. The lights go down as a few queer femmes in glittering attire come into the spotlit room’s center, and your attention is taken into a story, an experience, a perspective, a surprise, a laugh: each of these a temporary walk into someone else’s world, only for that moment. What do you do after? Are you the same or different? Are you willing to remember, to see the world differently, to shift? Years spent producing politicized queer live art has fed me with so many stories. It’s led me to believe that space-making for queer voices is a daring act of persistence, and so too sharing my own stories. You never know for whom you are leaving the message: your life, too, is so valuable it deserves a stage.
I aim to inspire and encourage acts of daring self-preservation in others — I do not know another way forward, but I know this one is possible. I can say for a fact: if you believe you are of value, you will find people to agree with you. For the love of your one short life, go find those people. If you have a vision, please share it. So many people are hungry, so many of us will come.
*The beautiful videography is thanks to Emma Rock, check her out on: https://www.youtube.com/user/WildSeaRock